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Getting started with Microsoft PowerApps

What is PowerApps?

PowerApps is part of Microsoft Power Platform (Fig 1.0) along with Power BI, Power Automate and more recently AI Builder:

  • PowerApps: Less code, great apps in no time for the web, Android & iOS devices;
  • Power BI: Real-time, interactive data visualization BI tool;
  • Power Automate (previously Microsoft Flow): Powerful workflow automation with the no-code approach and easy integration
  • AI Builder: Create and customize AI models and easily consume the results from the existing app.

Microsoft defines PowerApps as:

a suite of apps, services, connectors and data platform that provides a rapid application development environment to build custom apps for your business needs.

PowerApps can be classified as either a low-code or a no-code platform that enables a NON-DEVELOPER  to create applications and automated workflows. Hence, no need for Visual Studio or coding.

Finally, a very important part of Microsoft Power Platform is played by the Common Data Service (CDS)  which is the data platform that comes with Power Apps and allows you to store and model business data using a collection of standard entities shared across one or many applications.

Fig 1.0

Why use PowerApps?

In a world that is more and more driven by data, there is a need to quickly respond to a greater demand for actionable data. 

PowerApps, PowerBI, Power Automate, and AI Builder aim to make this data actionable very easily and cost-effective. 

What type of applications can be built with PowerApps?

Using Power Apps it is possible to create three types of apps: canvas, model-driven, and portal (Fig 2.0). 

  • Canvas apps: You choose this type of app when you want to create a highly customised application user interface. It is then possible to connect it with your choice of 200 data sources. You can build canvas apps for web, mobile, and tablet applications.
  • Model-driven apps: If you already have your own data model you can leverage the Common Data Service to model forms, views, and other components. This will automatically generate a UI that is responsive across devices.
  • Portals: You can use this type of app to publish information outside your organisation. Users can access with a wide variety of Identities such as Azure AD, Okta, Facebook, Google or LinkedIn, create and view data in Common Data Service or even browse anonymously.

Fig 2.0

How to start using PowerApps?

PowerApps provides a variety of ready to use templates (Fig. 3.0) allowing a user to quickly develop a new app. You can then connect the app with several data sources using pre-build connector components which allow the execution of CRUD operations. To create a new app just connect to make.powerapps.com.

Fig. 3.0

How to run PowerApps?

Depending on the type of app you have built, the installation of different applications is required.  

You can click here for a more comprehensive list of the supported platforms.

What is PowerApps best for, and what are the limitations? 

PowerApps is specially designed for mobile platforms such as mobile phones and tablets, although you can still run the application in a web browser.

It is a low-code, no-code development platform and everyone can easily start creating line of business (LOB) applications. In other words, applications that are meant for internal use only.

It is not possible to edit and customize any HTML or Javascript, or do anything else to interact with the underline platform (Web, Android, iOS) which is not already provided by the PowerApps platform.

You can still add custom business logic by creating a custom connector and use any external REST API.

Who is Using PowerApps?

  • Standard Bank
  • TransAlta
  • Leonardo Global Solutions
  • Autoglass
  • SNCF
  • IPS (Integrated Power Services)
  • National Trust
  • DriveTime

(Source: https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/customer-stories/)

Conclusions

In this article, we have summarised the main concepts you need to know to evaluate and eventually start using PowerApps, Microsoft solution for Rapid Application Development ( RAD ). We have seen how PowerApps is just one of the services offered by the Microsoft Power Platform and most importantly we highlighted the primary purpose of this technology. To continue learning about PowerApps visit https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powerapps/.

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