Power BI Small Multiples give users the ability to automatically generate identical charts for different groups or categories of data. They’re a massive time saver and help people replace charts without manually copying and pasting visuals over and over again.
Small multiples have the added benefit of being highly customizable to fit your own specific needs. When combined with slicers it’s an elegant way to give end users the capability to compare multiple charts side by side without the limitation of only being able to view one chart at once, or having to manually create bookmarked views of many different charts.
Let’s jump in!
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What are Power BI Small Multiples?
Power BI Small Multiples are a that enables developers to create multiple instances of the same chart, graph, or visual, each displaying a different slice of the data. This feature is particularly useful for comparing different categories over time, or simply to display large volumes of information on a single screen. Small Multiples replicate a single visual multiple times, each time filtering the data based on a particular category or dimension.
The following example is a single line chart visual with the category field assigned to the small multiple.
Power BI automatically splits the data into four separate charts, one for each category within the underlying data.
The alternative to this would be generating four different line charts, and manually applying filters to each one. It’s not that bad for 4 graphs but would be incredibly time consuming to generate 40 of them.
Power BI Small Multiple Use Cases
Small Multiples are an incredibly versatile feature, if at times underutilized. The most obvious use case is to use the feature any time you need to generate a large number of charts, or when users want extremely dynamic levels of visualization.
Here are just a few ideas of how you could deploy them within your own dashboards.
- Comparing Sales Performance Across Regions
- Tracking Inventory Levels of Different Producs
- Analyzing Website Traffic
- Comparing KPI’s Between Business Units
- Displaying Pie Charts in Small Multiples for Categorical Detail Comparisons
These visualizations become even more useful when coupled with slicers and field parameters. The field parameters enable users to custom select which fields will appear on an X or Y axis of a chart, and the slicers could be used to allow report viewers to select specific categories that they are interested in exploring side by side.
Another option that we’ll explore is how to display a large number of charts in a scrollable Power BI report to let users view dozens of charts on a single page.
But first, let’s explain how to set them up.
How to Setup Small Multiples in Power BI
To use Small Multiples in Power BI, create a visualization of a single chart or graph. Setup the X axis, Y axis, and other formatting parameters to meet your needs. Then drag a categorical field from the Data panel to the Small Multiples Section of the visualization’s applied fields. Power BI will automatically split a visual into many smaller ones based on the small multiples field applied to it.
The screenshot below shows the Category field applied to a line chart of cookie sales over time.
When using this feature, all standard formatting options are available for the specific chart or graph type that you are working with. Power BI generates multiple versions of the same chart as if it were applying a slicer for each unique categorical value applied to the Small Multiples field.
Without Small Multiples enabled, the chart will look like a standard line chart with all categories consolidated into a single line.
To setup a similar view to small multiples manually, you would have to shrink the visual down, then copy and paste while applying a categorical filter to each visual and manually adjust the title under formatting options.
Changing the Number of Rows and Columns in Small Multiples
To modify the number of rows, columns and padding (white space between visuals) in Power BI, select the visualization that has small multiples enabled. Then navigate to the Format Visual section of the Visualizations Panel, and go to the Small Multiples section.
From the Small Multiples Section, you can define a specific number of rows and columns to display.
This section also contains additional settings such as borders, titles, padding, and ability to adjust various colors related to the charts and graphs being displayed as small multiples.
Working with Large Numbers of Graphs in Power BI
If you want to view a large number of charts on a single page, or in a format that’s suitable for modern high resolution ultra wide monitors, Power BI Developers can set a custom canvas width or height. By default, Power BI sets the canvas size the 720 pixels by 1280 pixels.
Click on the canvas or white space in the report builder view. When no visuals are selected, navigate to the Format Page options, and expand the Canvas Settings.
Change the Type to “Custom” and you will be able to set a custom report height and width to fit your specific reporting needs.
Try matching the report width or height with a small multiples report that displays a single column or a single row and a large number of charts. To the end user the report will look as if it is made up of many different smaller charts, but to the developer it’s a single visualization that will dynamically update along with the underlying data.
How to Drill into Power BI Small Multiples
To explore a small multiple chart in Power BI, the same options are available as would be available in a single chart. For example, you can still right click on a chart and expand values or use the up / down arrows to navigate through different levels of the visual. You can additionally setup Power BI Drill Through reports where users can navigate to pre-filtered report pages based on the selected small multiple charts.
Small Multiples are a powerful way to quickly visualize a large number of charts and graphs. They help Power BI developers avoid having to manually generate a large number of graphs, and individually format and align them. One of the added benefits is that your data changes at some point in the future, they are dynamic enough to avoid having to go back and manually adjust the report.
Keep in mind that the many features available to format and adjust your chart or graph are still available with small multiples meaning that you can create once and re-use it many times.
You can also get creative and combine slicers, drill through, bookmarks, and field parameters to create incredibly dynamic small multiple reports that allow users to see exactly the data that they want to without manually having to generate a large number of report pages.