Getting Started with PowerApps

PowerApps, one of the Power Platform tools, is Microsoft’s version of a rapid development environment to build custom apps, which also includes a data platform called Dataverse. PowerApps helps transform business’ slow and error-prone manual operations into fast and streamlined automated processes. In this blog, we will go over a use case for PowerApps and learn how to create an app for your business. Our use case will cover creating a registration app to help event organizers document and gather data from participants to help better market future events.

What is PowerApps?

PowerApps is a rapid development environment in which a user can build custom apps for their business needs. These apps can be connected to the underlying data platform (Microsoft Dataverse) or a multitude of varying data sources such as SQL server, SharePoint, Dynamics 365, Microsoft 365. Apps built using PowerApps help transform manual and rigorous processes into efficient and automated ones, helping businesses streamline their workflows. Additionally, apps built in PowerApps provide a responsive design to help with accessibility, whether it be with a mobile device (phone or tablet) or in browser PowerApps will seamlessly integrate onto whatever device is running it. PowerApps is a powerful tool to help businesses expand their capabilities.

Why Use PowerApps Over Other Platforms?

PowerApps is a unified platform for app development. It provides a process for businesses to build custom apps and processes that suit their needs.

This tool has an easy-to-use data storage technology that is well integrated and allows for secure data retention. PowerApps is pretty cost-effective as a small company would be paying less than $100 a month to use the platform.

Moreover, PowerApps is a low-code development app that allows developers to save time by not worrying about tedious tasks like coding.

Ways to Create an App for Use Case

PowerApps features two main options to create an app: Canvas App and Model-driven App. You can also create different views for an app, including tablet, mobile, and website views. Each method offers different benefits. 

Keep in mind that Canvas Apps and Model-driven Apps are not public-facing apps that will allow external/unauthenticated users to access. These apps are intended for internal or in-person use. For example, if you need customers to sign a form at a recreational center, you could have the app open on a stationary iPad and have the customers fill out the form. 

To have external users access an app on their personal computer/devices, you would be required to create a PowerApps portal that would allow anonymous users to access it. We are using a PowerApps Portal for the interactive demo today since we will have anonymous/unauthenticated users. We will go over PowerApps portal in a more advanced blog post in the future. For now, we will go over Canvas Apps and Model Driven Apps in detail below.

three types of apps to create in PowerApps

Creating a Canvas App

Canvas apps allow users to create apps by drag and dropping elements into a canvas to create a customized experience for end users. These elements (Forms, Inputs, Buttons, Galleries, etc.) can then be connected to a table or data source. For our example of an event registration app, we’re creating pages that can be utilized by the end user. 

For this example, we would have the following pages: Home Page, New Registration page, Edit Registration page, and maybe even an analytics page to show insight into who would be attending. Each of these pages have elements that allow users to create/modify/delete the data the app is connected to and create functionality for each of the pages accordingly.

an image showing how to create a canvas app from blank
an image showing how to create a canvas app from blank

We can also create a three page starting template canvas app based on a table within Dataverse. With this option, PowerApps will create a three page template which you can build off of based on the data/table selected. Below is an example.

an image showing how to create an app from Dataverse
an image showing how to create an app from Dataverse
an image showing how to create an app from Dataverse

Creating a Model-Driven App

A Model-driven app is built based on an existing data model within Microsoft Dataverse. It is recommended that you double check your data model and relationships as the app creation is heavily dependent on those. Using the Model-Driven option for an app will have Power Apps automatically create an app based on the data that has been provided which you can then customize to fit your needs. 

For our use case, we could create a model driven app on a data model that includes only one table with multiple columns. The table would be called “Attendees” and include columns such as Name, Email, Phone, Address, Age, etc. The more columns/attributes that are added the greater the opportunity for insights into the data. We will go into more detail on Model-Driven apps in another blog post focusing on the creation of Model-Driven Apps.

an image showing how to create a model-driven app
an image showing how to create a model-driven app
an image showing how to create a model-driven app
an image showing how to create a model-driven app
an image showing how to create a model-driven app

Using PowerApps with Other Power Platform Tools

PowerApps is its most powerful when it is used in conjunction with the other tools in the Power Suite. Each of the tools provide their own benefits. 

For example, a company might use PowerApps to get information from a customer/client using an App and store it in a data model in Dataverse. They can then use that data to get insights/analytics using Power BI to create a report which can be embedded back into the app. 

Additionally, a company can have a Power Automate flow setup to allow submission confirmations (email notifications) to go to the participants whenever they sign up as well as have an email notification sent to the applicable line of business whenever a new record is created. This combination of tools allows an organization to create an intuitive ecosystem for their business. 

For our Event Registration app example, we would create the PowerApp setup as previously mentioned and connect it to the other tools in the Power Suite. We would have the app store the newly created participant records into a data model in Dataverse (like the one mentioned in the Creating a Model Driven App section). Using the data we have stored in Dataverse, we could create a Power BI report showing the demographic of the participants at the event and have it embedded into the app for the others to view. 

Additionally, we could set up a Power Automate flow for an email notification to be sent to participants when they register and/or for an email notification to be sent to the event organizer once someone signs up.

Example

Below we have created a simple PowerApps Portal to give you a feel for what you can do with these powerful tools. Click on the link below for the PowerApps Portal and fill out the form. Ignore the Search and Login functions as those will not be needed for this demo. 

Once you submit the form, close out of the window and come back and look at the Power BI report underneath to look at the different cities our viewers are from. If you do not see your State reflected right away, please wait a minute and refresh the page.

PowerApps Portal

Conclusion

We have gone through how to create a PowerApp and customize it to suit your business needs. These apps can be connected to the rest of the Power Platform suite to create a powerful ecosystem to push forward business goals/objectives. 

Microsoft PowerApps is a powerful tool to help modify data within a database and collect new information in a secure and easy manner. To learn more about Microsoft PowerApps, advanced features, and the Microsoft Power Platform please check out our other blogs.

FAQs

Microsoft Power Apps is free with an Office 365 license with limited capability. You can also purchase plans which range from $5-$20 if you do not have an Office 365 license or if you want to increase your capabilities. 

However, if you are just wanting to try out Power Apps there are two free options available to you. The first option is you can sign up for a 30-day trial which will give you the Power Apps per user plan for 30 days. This will allow you to explore the capabilities of Power Apps and its functionalities. 

The second option is signing up for a Developer Plan, with this you will be able to explore Power Apps just as you would with the trial however, you cannot use it deploy or run solutions in a production environment for production use and there are capacity limits of 750 flow runs a month and a 2GB database size. One of the benefits of the developer plan is that it does not expire if you do not reach the capacity limits and it is not used for production purposes.

Microsoft PowerApps uses a programming language called “Power Fx”. It is a general-purpose, strongly typed, declarative, and functional programming language. Power Fx helps users create canvas-based apps and allows them to customize it to fit their needs.

Anybody with a school, work, or organizational account and a license is able to use Power Apps. Every user of Power Apps needs a login to be able to access apps. However, if you make an app public and embed it into a website any user will be able to access it.

When you create a Power App and publish it to an environment, you will be able to use it both on Android and iOS. You will need to download the Microsoft Power Apps application from the respective app stores, after which you will login using your school/work organizational account and you will see all the published apps.

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