October 9, 2023

What are Field Parameters in Power BI?

By Gavin Pedersen

Field Parameters are a relatively new and effective function that allows users to toggle between what dimensions or measures a visualization is currently showing. This feature automates the creation of these types of parameters instead of requiring some of the more labor-intensive workarounds that existed in the past.

In this blog, I will walk you through what Field Parameters are and why they are important, and finally, I’ll show you how to use them with an example. By the end of this blog, you should have a decent working knowledge of how Field Parameters can make your life as a Power BI developer much easier.

What are Field Parameters?

Field Parameters are a feature that equips users with the ability to toggle between multiple dimensions or values in a data model, thereby changing what is displayed on a visualization. The idea is very simple to Numeric Range Parameters, but instead of just toggling a value, you can now toggle between fields, too. 

For example, you could create a field parameter to toggle a visualization that displays Total Profit by Product Category to Profit by Country or any other dimension. You could also create a field parameter that changes the value from Profit to Revenue and use that instead or alongside the other Field Parameter for even more customization.

Why are Field Parameters Important?

Field Parameters are an important feature for a few reasons:

  1. They provide end-users with the flexibility to easily change either the dimension or measure that a visualization is showing

  2. They provide an automatic solution to a problem that previously required an expensive workaround

  3. They are further proof that Microsoft is investing in providing a better user experience for Power BI consumers rather than just investing in backend features.

Tools such as Tableau have had this feature for a while, so this can help Power BI continue to catch up in one of the main areas that it continues to lag, which is the flexibility to customize the user experience. Again, this same functionality was achievable before, but it required the use of complex DAX functions, which took time and expertise. Now, this process is automated.

How to Create a Field Parameter

Now that we understand what Field Parameters are and why they are important, let’s run through a quick example of how to use them in Power BI.

Step 1: Enable Field Parameters in the Preview Features

To enable, click on File on the top left and select Options and Settings followed by Options. You can find the Preview features section near the bottom. Ensure Field parameters are selected, and then click the green OK button (see image below). You will need to save and reopen the Power BI workbook.

Step 2: Create a Field Parameter

Now that the feature is enabled, you can create a Field Parameter.

Navigate to the Modeling ribbon at the top of your Power BI Desktop screen. Open the New Parameter dropdown section and select Fields

A popup window will appear. Give your parameter a name (this will be the name of the table that is auto-created after this step).

Now select the fields that you would like to include in the parameter by checking the boxes next to them or by dragging them into the Add and Reorder fields window (the example below uses Category and Sub-Category) and then click the green Create button and leave the Add slicer to this page checkbox selected.

After completing the previous step, you will notice two things:

  1. A slicer with the field names has been added to the canvas

  2. A new table with the name of the Field Parameter has been added (select the field parameter to view the DAX). You can edit this DAX to add or remove fields from the parameter.

How to Use a Field Parameter

Now that you have created the Field Parameter, you are ready to use it on a visualization.

Add a new visualization to the canvas and select the measure you want to analyze (we’ll use Total Sales in the example). Now, add the Field Parameter that you created in the previous section.

After creating the visualization, you can now toggle between showing Total Sales by Category or Sub-Category using the slicer that was inserted onto the canvas at the end of the previous section (see two screenshots below).

Remember, you can use as many dimensions or measures as you want on a single Field Parameter.

Closing

Now that you know how to create and use Field Parameters in Power BI, it should make toggling between fields much easier for both developers and end-users. Feature improvements like this are an exciting sign that Microsoft is invested in making Power BI’s user experience better for all.

If you want more information about Field Parameters or help implementing them in your current reporting, reach out to our team of Power BI experts to help! 

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