Power BI slicers with multi-select features are game changers. They make data filtering fast and user-friendly. But too much user control can lead to issues. We’ll explain how to select multiple items in a slicer and how to limit the selections that report viewers are able to make.
We’ll look at the pros and cons of multi-select slicers, helping you use them effectively and explain the multiple ways developers can setup reports to enable users to select multiple items.
Let’s jump in!
Table of Contents
Considerations for Allowing Multiple Selections with Power BI Slicers
While it’s easy to enable multi-select on Power BI slicers, we want to first point out that there are also a number of different ways that you can enable multiple selections. For example, slicers can be setup to users to select multiple check boxes or check boxes can be grouped together in a hierarchy giving users a way to select a full group of options at one time.
Power BI also supports search boxes on some slicer types or a search visualization that can search for all of the values in a field and filter dashboard accordingly.
We wanted to point this out to highlight the flexibility of Power BI slicers and point out that while multi-select is possible, it’s not always the best choice for report viewers.
How to Multi-Select in a Power BI Slicer Using CTRL
To select multiple items in a Power BI slicer, hold down CTRL or Command on a Mac then left click on each item. You can select multiple items by clicking on the check box next to the item, or you can select multiple tiles on a tile slicer. To unselect multiple items, click on an unselected item, once to select it then again to de-select it and remove all slicer selections.
How to Multi-Select in a Power BI Slicer Without CTRL
To enable Multi select on a Power BI slicer, select the slicer then navigate to Format the Visual, Slicer Settings, Options, Selection and Disable the Multi-select with CTRL or Command. Format options can be updated on the visualizations panel by clicking on the paint brush icon with a chart behind it.
By disabling multi-select with CTRL, users will be presented with a slicer that allows them to check multiple boxes. Slicers can be setup to multi select with a mouse click on the following. types:
- Vertical Lists
- Dropdown Menus
The default method of Multi-Select in Power BI is to hold down CTRL or Command (on a Mac). One drawback of relying on CTRL click is that is that many business report viewers are unaware that holding CTRL will allow them to select multiple items when interacting with the report.
Tip: Add a note above your slicers explaining how to select multiple items by inserting a Text Box above your slicers. Grouping slicers into a slicer panel will make them easier to find and you can add additional notes in a single place about how to navigate the Power BI interface.
How to Clear Multiple Selections from a Power BI Slicer
Once multi-select with CTRL has been disabled, a user can left click on many different check boxes and filter their report view accordingly. To clear the selections, users can either uncheck each box or click the Clear Selections button at the top right of a visual. The Clear Sections button is hidden until you move your mouse over the visual.
Once you’ve used it a time or two it becomes second nature, for others it can be less intuitive. To make things more intuitive we recommend enabling a select all button where users can click once to select all, and then select it again to clear all of the selections previously made.
How to Enable Select All on a Power BI Slicer
To make it so you can select all values value on a Power BI Slicer, select the slicer and navigate to Format Your Visual, Visual, Slicer Settings, Selections and enable “Show Select All Button” This feature will turn select all and make it a selectable option at the top of your slicer values. It’s also possible to search the formatting options to filter the list to selection options.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can also force users to only be able to select a single value from a list with the Single Select option.
How to Enforce Single Select in a Power BI Slicer
To make it so you can only select a single value on a Power BI Slicer, select the slicer and navigate to Format Your Visual, Visual, Slicer Settings, Selections and enable “Single Selection” This feature will turn select all and make it a selectable option at the top of your slicer values.
Single select will also remove the check boxes that people could otherwise use the CTRL click and notates the change by providing radio buttons where users can select only one value.
Enabling Search to Select on Power BI Slicers
A popular feature with long lists of data is to enable slicer searching. When the feature is enabled, a search box will appear at the top of a list or drop-down menu allowing users to type in a value and automatically have the list of items in the slicer narrowed down.
To enable search boxes in slicers, click on the …button at the top right corner of a slicer visual and choose Search. The example below has the Search box turned on and as you begin typing it will pare down the list of values in the list or dropdown.
To learn more about Power BI search boxes and how to add a global search box that works across multiple visuals on a page check out our Guide to Power BI Search Box Slicers.
Creating Selection Groups in Power BI Slicers
Power BI allows developers to add multiple columns of data to a Slicer Field. The order in which they are added creates a hierarchy. Try combining specific items into logic groups that allow users to click once and select multiple items. Groups can be created by right clicking on a column in the data tab and selecting “Edit Group”
The Groups editor lets you select items on the left side of the group editor, then click the Group button to combine field values into a new grouped measure. Try holding down CTRL while left clicking on ungrouped values, and then click on a group to the right to select it. Once the selections are made, click Group and the values will move from the left to the right under a cateogry.
The new grouped measure can be moved on top of the actual slicer values to create custom hierarchies. Users will be able to select individual items or select a group of items with the push of a button!
Using Buttons Instead of Slicers in Power BI
While outside the scope of slicers, many advanced Power BI developers will use buttons to re-create the look of a slicer. They can be used to switch visuals on a page by linking to another page. They’re also useful for other custom UI elements.
The guys at Guy in a Cube do a great job of explaining buttons and how to use them in your dashboards for more custom and dynamic reports than are available with slicers.
Even if you don’t plan on using bookmarks very often, they’re a useful tool to keep in your Power BI toolbox when you can’t quite figure out how to configure a slicer in the exact way that you want to update a report layout.
Multi-select slicers are powerful tool but are not always the best solution to enable self service filtering in Power BI. They offer great flexibility but can cause confusion if users are new and unaware of how to CTRL click to multi-select. Some of these limitations can be mitigated by adding notes to dashboards and grouping slicers together.
When setting up slicers in Power BI make sure to consider the sophistication of your audience and data complexity. If users begin to get confused with different filtering options, they may not utilize the report to its full potential. Sometimes with slicers the hardest thing to do is to edit the report down to only show people specific curated options rather than overwhelming them with too many.