Managing layer orders is essential for working with multiple visuals efficiently in Power BI. We’ll explain how to manage layer orders by moving individual visual elements back and forward, how to group visuals together to make complex report elements made up of multiple visual elements easier to work with, and utilize the selection pane to manage all the layers and elements of a reporting dashboard.
Layer orders are traditionally a concept seen more often in graphic design tools like Figma and Photoshop but makes an appearance in Microsoft’s business intelligence tool Power BI to make working with complex dashboards easier.
Layer visuals not only save time, but they’re a great work around for some of the limitations that show up when working with different visuals.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
Why Visualization Layers in Power BI are Important
Many Power BI developers don’t take the time to manage visualization layers and opt to place individual layers on a single layer, but there are many advantages to adjusting Power BI layers and some cases its a key component to being able to work around some of the visualization limitations when building a dashboard.
- Layering Custom Graphics – Many of the best-looking Power BI dashboards utilize custom graphics, or shapes with text or other visuals layered over them.
- Hiding Scrollbars and Other Elements – Some visual elements cannot be turned off, such as scroll bars. A common workaround is to place a visual on top of another one to hide the element.
- Ease of Development – Utilize object groups to manage several pieces of a dashboard at one time. It keeps you from having to move multiple elements around a dashboard manually, saving time.
Knowing how visual layers work can be a big time saver for Power BI developers. It is also a key technique in getting Power BI reports to look just the way you want them to.
Working with the Power BI Selection Pane
To view all of the layers available on a report page in Power BI, navigate to the View tab of the Report View Ribbon, and click on the Selection Button. A new panel will show up on the right side of Power BI Desktop where you can view the current layer order of all visuals currently assigned to a page.
The Selection panel lets you perform a number of different tasks that can save you time.
- Move Layers Backwards and Forwards – Use the up down arrows to adjust visual order.
- Rename Visuals – Double click on a visual’s name to edit and rename it.
- Group Visuals – Multi-Select with Shift or Control then right click and group visuals
- Modify Visibility – Enable or disable visuals to hide them. Useful for unused visuals you don’t want to delete quite yet and creating bookmarks.
The selection panel is often underutilized but extremely useful.
Bringing Forward and Sending Back in Power BI
To move visuals forward or backwards in layer order, first select the visual. Then navigate to the Format section of the Power BI Ribbon in the Report View. There are two buttons, one to Bring Forward and another to Send Backward. You can move visuals one layer at a time, send to back, or move to front using these buttons.
This is one of the quickest ways to move layers. If you want to see the full layer order and adjust multiple layers at a time, we recommend using the Selection panel.
Grouping Visuals in Power BI
To group visuals together in Power BI, select multiple visuals in the report view by either dragging your mouse across them with the left button held down, or hold CTRL + left click on each visual to multi-select. Once selected, you can right click one and select group or assign them to a group under the Formation section of the ribbon.
The example below shows three visual elements selected.
Once they’re grouped, a box will bind all of the previous selected elements together. This allows you to move them around while maintaining the visual spacing between them.
You can still click on each visual individually and adjust formatting options, measures and fields like normal. Grouping is a useful feature to avoid having to re-adjust padding and distance between visuals. Align them once and you won’t have to work with it again.
Another use case is to group a text box with a custom title or additional information with a standard visual to provide a more custom looking to your dashboard.
Workarounds Using Power BI Layers
There is tons of advice out there on how to create effective dashboards and implementing various data visualization techniques. One of the most obvious, is to not overlap visuals. Defined white space and visuals that line up in straight lines provide for a clean presentation of your charts and graphs. However, there are a few instances where layers can be used to hide unwanted reporting elements.
Managing layer orders in Power BI dashboards can be useful for anything from a quick fix, to a massive time saver when working with complex dashboards with lots of elements. While you can quickly move visuals front and back between layers using the buttons available under the format ribbon, you can use the selection panel for greater control.
Try grouping elements together to move them between layers at one time or to more effectively manage them and move them around dashboards without having to re-sent individual visuals positioning.