UPDATE 2020-01-28: The original article has been updated also adding performance considerations.
UPDATE 2022-06-11: Added considerations to use alternatives to SELECTEDVALUE when using Fields Parameters in Power BI.

The DAX language grows over time thanks to the monthly updates of Power BI, which gradually introduce new features later made available also in Analysis Services and Power Pivot. The SELECTEDVALUE function has been introduced in July 2017 and it is available in Power BI Desktop and Analysis Services, but not in Power Pivot for Excel. The SELECTEDVALUE function did not introduce a new feature – it just simplifies the syntax required in common coding patterns, as you will see in a few of the possible uses presented after the description of the SELECTEDVALUE syntax.

SELECTEDVALUE syntax

The function SELECTEDVALUE returns the value of the column reference passed as first argument if it is the only value available in the filter context, otherwise it returns blank or the default value passed as the second argument. Here are a few examples of possible syntax.

SELECTEDVALUE ( Table[column] )
SELECTEDVALUE ( Table[column], "default value" )
SELECTEDVALUE ( Table[column], 0 )

Internally, SELECTEDVALUE is just syntax sugar generating the following corresponding syntaxes:

IF ( HASONEVALUE ( Table[column] ), VALUES ( Table[column] ) )
IF ( HASONEVALUE ( Table[column] ), VALUES ( Table[column] ), "default value" )
IF ( HASONEVALUE ( Table[column] ), VALUES ( Table[column] ), 0 )

You should use SELECTEDVALUE in all those cases when you need to read a single value selected in the filter context, obtaining blank or another default value in all other cases.

It is important to remember that:

  • The SELECTEDVALUE and VALUES functions read the current filter context, not the row context;
  • When you have a row context, just use a column reference (within RELATED in case it is in a lookup table);
  • If the filter context returns zero rows for the referenced column, then SELECTEDVALUE returns the second argument – do not assume that the second argument is returned only when two or more values are selected;
  • If you use a version of DAX that does not have SELECTEDVALUE, you can use the same pattern as that described in this article, replacing SELECTEDVALUE with the corresponding syntax using HASONEVALUE / VALUES.

Sample uses of SELECTEDVALUE

This section describes several use cases for SELECTEDVALUE. The Power BI file you can download contains all the examples described in this section.

Retrieving a column from the same table

You can retrieve the attribute of an entity (e.g. the current class of a product) displayed in a matrix, making sure you are not going to duplicate the rows in case there are more attribute values available for that same selection.

Product Class := SELECTEDVALUE ( 'Product'[Class] )

This measure is useful when you navigate using a Matrix or a PivotTable. However, the measure displays data even for products that have no sales. This does not happen when you use a Table visual in Power BI.

If you want to show the class of a product only when there is another measure returning data, you should add a condition as in one of the two following examples:

Product Class v1 := 
IF ( 
    NOT ISBLANK ( [Sales Amount] ), 
    SELECTEDVALUE ( 'Product'[Class] ) 
)

Product Class v2 := 
IF ( 
    NOT ISEMPTY ( Sales ), 
    SELECTEDVALUE ( 'Product'[Class] ) 
)

Retrieving a column from a lookup table

If you want to retrieve the corresponding attribute in a lookup table, you probably need to modify the propagation of the filter context through relationships. When you have a row context you would use a single RELATED function to retrieve the corresponding row context in a lookup table, regardless of the number of relationships to travel. For example, consider the case of a snowflake dimension featuring the Product, Product Subcategory, and Product Category tables. If you want to get the current category of a product in a Matrix or in a PivotTable, you need the following code:

Product Category := 
CALCULATE ( 
    SELECTEDVALUE ( 'Product Category'[Category] ), 
    CROSSFILTER (
        'Product'[ProductSubcategoryKey], 
        'Product Subcategory'[ProductSubcategoryKey], 
        Both 
    ),
    CROSSFILTER ( 
        'Product Subcategory'[ProductCategoryKey], 
        'Product Category'[ProductCategoryKey], 
        Both 
    )
)

In this case, a simpler syntax could be the one provided by the expanded table:

Product Category exp.table := 
CALCULATE ( 
    SELECTEDVALUE ( 'Product Category'[Category] ), 
    'Product'
)

However, remember that the expanded table might have undesired side effects in complex data models, so the CROSSFILTER solution should be preferred. Both measures return the same result.

Using a numeric column in a calculation

The SELECTEDVALUE function simplifies the syntax required when you use a numeric column of an entity as a parameter in a calculation. For example, the following measure calculates the quantity by dividing the existing Sales Amount measure by the Unit Price value of the selected product. In case more products are selected, the blank result of SELECTEDVALUE automatically propagates into the result of Calc Quantity.

Calc Quantity := 
DIVIDE ( 
    [Sales Amount], 
    SELECTEDVALUE ( 'Product'[Unit Price] ) 
)

Parameter table pattern

If you consider the parameter table pattern, you can implement a measure using a parameter by using SELECTEDVALUE writing this:

Sales by Scale := 
DIVIDE ( 
    [Sales Amount],
    SELECTEDVALUE ( 'Scale'[Scale], 1 )
)

Instead of that:

Sales by Scale := 
DIVIDE ( 
    [Sales Amount],
    IF ( HASONEVALUE ( Scale[Scale] ), VALUES ( Scale[Scale] ), 1 )
)

The result is the same, you just simplify your code.

If you want to avoid a multiple selection, you could use the ERROR function, so the visual displays a proper error message (even if the reference to MdxScript seems like nonsense in a DAX client such as Power BI Desktop).

Sales by Scale Checked := 
DIVIDE ( 
    [Sales Amount],
    SELECTEDVALUE ( 'Scale'[Scale], ERROR ( "Single selection required" ) )
)

SELECTEDVALUE with Fields Parameters in Power BI

The Fields Parameters feature in Power BI generates a slicer that cannot be read by using SELECTEDVALUE because internally the table uses the “Group By Columns” feature of the Tabular model (more details in the Grouping Columns section of the Tabular Presentation Layer in Mastering Tabular video course).
SELECTEDVALUE does not support retrieving data from a column that is grouped by other columns because all the columns involved must be included in the same DAX grouping operation (such as SUMMARIZE or SUMMARIZECOLUMNS).
The code required to replace SELECTEDVALUE for the column visible in the table generated by Fields Parameter is the following:

VAR __SelectedValue = 
    SELECTCOLUMNS (
        SUMMARIZE ( Parameter, Parameter[Parameter], Parameter[Parameter Fields] ),
        Parameter[Parameter]
    )
RETURN IF ( COUNTROWS ( __SelectedValue ), __SelectedValue )

Performance considerations

The SELECTEDVALUE function does not produce a different query plan compared to the extended syntax using HASONEVALUE and VALUES. Both HASONEVALUE and SELECTEDVALUE internally introduce a behavior similar to the request of DISTINCT or DISTINCTCOUNT: all these functions might inflate the number of storage engine requests when they are invoked for multiple cells computed in a filter context propagated through limited relationships rather than regular relationships. For this reason, it is important to use SELECTEDVALUE or an equivalent syntax only in the high-level calculation, and not in measures that are evaluated often inside large iterations.

Conclusion

The SELECTEDVALUE function simplifies the syntax of a common pattern involving two functions (HASONEVALUE and VALUES) to retrieve a value from the filter context. Just remember that this technique is not required when you have a row context, because you can simply use a column reference and the RELATED function when a lookup table is involved.

SELECTEDVALUE

Returns the value when there’s only one value in the specified column, otherwise returns the alternate result.

SELECTEDVALUE ( <ColumnName> [, <AlternateResult>] )

VALUES

When a column name is given, returns a single column table of unique values. When a table name is given, returns a table with the same columns and all the rows of the table (including duplicates) with the additional blank row if present.

VALUES ( <TableNameOrColumnName> )

HASONEVALUE

Returns true when there’s only one value in the specified column.

HASONEVALUE ( <ColumnName> )

CROSSFILTER
CALCULATE modifier

Specifies cross filtering direction to be used in the evaluation of a DAX expression. The relationship is defined by naming, as arguments, the two columns that serve as endpoints.

CROSSFILTER ( <LeftColumnName>, <RightColumnName>, <CrossFilterType> )

ERROR

Raises a user specified error.

ERROR ( <ErrorText> )

SUMMARIZE

Creates a summary of the input table grouped by the specified columns.

SUMMARIZE ( <Table> [, <GroupBy_ColumnName> [, [<Name>] [, [<Expression>] [, <GroupBy_ColumnName> [, [<Name>] [, [<Expression>] [, … ] ] ] ] ] ] ] )

SUMMARIZECOLUMNS

Create a summary table for the requested totals over set of groups.

SUMMARIZECOLUMNS ( [<GroupBy_ColumnName> [, [<FilterTable>] [, [<Name>] [, [<Expression>] [, <GroupBy_ColumnName> [, [<FilterTable>] [, [<Name>] [, [<Expression>] [, … ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] )

DISTINCT

Returns a one column table that contains the distinct (unique) values in a column, for a column argument. Or multiple columns with distinct (unique) combination of values, for a table expression argument.

DISTINCT ( <ColumnNameOrTableExpr> )

DISTINCTCOUNT

Counts the number of distinct values in a column.

DISTINCTCOUNT ( <ColumnName> )