Drilling & Filtering

February 25th 2013

Two of the design principles behind the user interface of Microsoft Power View are "Choose the right default, by default" and "Easy for the user, hard on us". There's one place where Power View falls flat on both counts.

Every chart or map in Power View is interactive. If you single-click on a particular column (e.g. Japan), the rest of the Power View will automatically filter to Japan. This sets Power View apart: it's so easy to do and very intuitive.

Charts and maps in Power View also allow you to add multiple attributes to the same axis. For example, say you add first state and then city to your axis (see right hand side of screenshot below to see how this is done). Your chart will first show you the numbers by state. You can then double-click and Power View drills in to the next level (in this case city). Again, it's a really cool feature that allows you to start looking at high level numbers and then drill up and down to explore the data and see more detail.

What is not intuitive is that, when drilling down in this way, Power View does not filter the rest of the sheet. Take a look at the example screenshot. In the column chart on the right, I have double-clicked to drill down into Oklahoma, so I'm only seeing cities in Oklahoma on my column chart. I would expect, having done this, that the chart on the left is filtered and also only includes data from Oklahoma. However, this is not the case. While the chart on the right is filtered to Oklahoma, all the other data on my Power View remains unfiltered.

A dashboard of sales in Oklahoma. Or is it?

This behavior is the same whether I'm drilling on a chart or a map. I built a dashboard of tornado touchdowns by state, with a little table underneath highlighting the deadliest tornado. If I drill into Colorado, I would expect the data in my table to change to show me the deadliest tornado in Colorado, not to continue showing me a tornado in Missouri.

A map of tornadoes in Colorado. Note that the deadliest tornado listed underneath is in Missouri (many miles away).

Even though this is not technically a bug, it isn't easy or intuitive for the end user so I hope that this gets fixed in an upcoming update.

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