How to Create and Format Custom Tooltips in Power BI

Creating custom tooltips are a great way to give Power BI report viewers a way to get additional insights into a report without having to drill through to another page. Tooltips are unique in Power BI in that they allow you to show custom sets of information when someone mouses over an existing visual.

Power BI custom tooltips are a great way to provide popup information when report viewers mouse over a visual

Tooltips can be highly customized, ranging from simple formatting and font changes to creating completely custom tooltips based on other pages of a Power BI report.

Microsoft has also announced a modern tooltip experience that promises to take tooltips to the next level.

Let’s jump in!

What are Power BI Tooltips?

Tooltips in Power BI are an interactive feature that enables report viewers to hover over a visual and see additional information. By default, it only shows information that’s mostly already available in the visual itself, but you can make the text larger and pop-out which can help people see the data easier.

The screenshot below is an example tooltip using a Matrix visual and the modern tooltip experience.

Screenshot of a Power BI tooltip enabled using the newest version of tooltips when hovering over a visual in Power BI

Power BI Tooltips are not just limited to basic information. They are highly customizable. Power BI Developers can create custom tooltips that go beyond displaying figures and can include combinations of different visuals, and additional fields that are not immediately visible on an existing visualization.

For instance, hovering over a sales figure could bring up a tooltip with a breakdown of sales by region, or a mini-trend line showing sales over time. The possibilities are almost endless.

How to Enable Tooltips on a Power BI Visual

To enable, or disable, tooltips for a Power BI visual, select the visual then navigate to the Format Visual section of the Visualizations panel on the right side of the screen as indicated by the bar chart with a paint brush icon. Then go to General, and toggle tooltips on or off.

The screenshot below shows where you can find tooltip options under the format visual pane.

Screenshot of the toggle tooltips on and off option in Power BI Desktop

Tooltips can be set to default, or pointed at a different page of your Power BI report for a more custom view.

How to Adjust Power BI Tooltip Formatting

To adjust formatting of a Power BI tooltip, select a Power BI visual, then navigate to the Format Visual options on the Visualizations panel, and go to the General section. Expand the Tooltips options towards the bottom of the page and basic options such as background, and text formatting can be adjusted. The exact options may differ depending on whether you are using classic or modern visual tooltip settings.

How to Create a Custom Tooltip in Power BI

To create a custom tooltip in Power BI, create a new tab, change the canvas settings to a Tooltip canvas type and then drag and drop visuals onto the canvas to format them like you would any other visual. Once they’re setup, select a visual, turn on tooltips, select the Report Page Type, and define the desired tooltip page.

Here’s how to set it up in more detail.

Step 1.) Create a Tooltip Page

To create a tooltip page, first add a new page in Power BI by clicking the plus sign at the bottom of Power BI desktop. Then without adding any visuals, click on the blank canvas.

Without any visuals, a button will be available on the Visualizations panel called “Format Page’. Select this and expand the Page Information tab and enable Allow use as tooltip.

This setting tells Power BI that this new page should be available to select when turning tool tips on different visuals in your report.

Creating a new tooltip page in Power BI

Once the Allow use as tooltip is enabled, the canvas will automatically resize to 240 x 320px making it a more suitable size to pop up when being used on mouse over.

Step 2.) Assign Visuals and Customize the Tooltip Page

You can add as many or as few visuals as you want to the tooltip canvas. This part works similar to building any other report pages in Power BI, you can mix and match different visuals, create custom DAX formulas, adjust background colors, etc.

Adding visuals to a tooltip page and showing options of how to adjust tooltip canvas settings and size

Note: Even though the default tooltip size is 240px x 320px, you can change the Canvas Settings Type from Tooltip to Custom and adjust the height and width of the tooltip page to fit your specific needs.

Step 3.) Hide the Tooltip Page

To prevent report viewers from being able to view the new tooltip tab without hovering their mouse over a visual, you will need to toggle the page visibility to Hide. Do this by right clicking on the newly created Tooltip tab and select “Hide”.

How to hide a page in Power BI so viewers can't see the tooltip page in the navigation pane

This function only hides the page from report viewers, as a Power BI developer, you will still be able to see it and make adjustments to the visual as needed.

Step 4.) Enable Tooltips and Assign the Tooltip Page

After setting up the tooltip page, you can go back to the original visual, and under the Tooltips section enable Tooltips and change the Type to Report Page. This disables the default tooltip. The box below it allows you to define which page becomes the tooltip page that populates the custom tooltip.

Screenshot of assigning tooltips to a visual

After the tooltip is assigned a page, you can test the custom tooltip by hovering your mouse over the original visual and it will automatically populate based on the data in the first visual.

Example of a working custom tooltip when hovering over a visual

When working with data spread across multiple tables, don’t forget that a relationship must exist between the tables for Power BI to appropriately know which values correspond to the initial date being presented in the first visual.

How to Enable Power BI Modern Visual Tooltips

One of the best parts of Power BI is how often updates are released. Microsoft has recently been releasing new features on a monthly basis and updates can range from small to fairly extensive major releases. One of the more recent releases was a modern visual tooltip experience that among other features allows you to drill through when left clicking instead of having report viewers right click to do so.

To enable Modern Visual Tooltips, you can go to File, Options and Settings, Preview features and enable it. You will have to close out of Power BI Desktop and re-open it for the change to take effect. You will also have to go into report settings under the same screen to enable it for reports that were created prior to the global option being turned on.

Screenshot of preview features to enable Modern visual tooltips experience

If you want to learn more about preview features and when new features are released, we recommend checking out the Power BI Blog—Updates and News | Microsoft Power BI and signing up for their newsletter.

Enabling Power BI Tooltip Auto Scaling

As people use Power BI across different device platforms, and screen sizes the scale of Power BI tooltips can become a nuisance. Sometimes tooltips are too big and overlap too much of the report page. Currently a preview feature, you can enable tooltip auto scaling to automatically adjust the size when it’s too big to fit on a page or the screen resolution changes.

The video below from Adam at Guy in a Cube highlights how this new feature works.

Troubleshooting Power BI Tooltip Scroll Bars

Power BI does not provide a way to disable scroll bars on visuals, but there are some methods to avoid scroll bars on tooltips. First, you could limit the visual to only display the Top N records using a filter, ensuring maximum number of rows. Alternatively, you can layer a shape of same color as the background to hide them from view.

Example of tooltip scrollbars

The following article goes into more detail about workarounds to hide scrollbars on Power BI visuals that’s worth checking out. How to Hide Power BI Scroll Bars on Tables and Graphs

Conclusion

Custom tooltips in Power BI are a powerful way to give people the ability to get more information about a visual without having to navigate away from the page they are on. They can be setup to have as much or as little information as you want, and you can even include several different visual types on a page. The primary limitation is having enough space on your tooltip canvas to present information while not being overwhelming.

Recent feature additions, such as modern tool tips and auto-scaling tool tips fix some of the pain points historically associated with adding them to reports, and while there’s no way to hide scroll bars on a tooltip or visual there are several workarounds to avoid having them appear to the end user.

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