With the rise of PowerApps, Microsoft continues in the evolution of bringing ICT closer to the business.
This blog post will provide you with a clear overview of what PowerApps is and what it can do for you.
- The Microsoft Business Application Platform
Before we discuss PowerApps itself, it’s important to understand where Microsoft puts this application in their product suite. Microsoft PowerApps is part of the Business Application Platform, which, alongside Powerapps, also contains Power BI & Flow. In addition, it brings organizations an Azure hosted database (the Common Data Service) and a huge set of connectors (APIs to applications such as CRM, Twitter, Facebook, …) and an on-premise gateway (in case you have local data to be used).
- Power BI is the place to perform self-service analytics.
- Flow allows you to perform automation between different applications & platforms (eg. sending an email after a file has been uploaded on Onedrive)
- PowerApps is the tool you can use to build functional business applications.
Let’s dive into PowerApps in the next section.
- Overview of Microsoft PowerApps
The Microsoft PowerApps suite contains out of 3 different environments:
- The PowerApps studio
- The PowerApps client
Below we will go through these environments and explain the most important functionalities.
In the web.powerapps.com environment you are able to perform the following actions:
- Manage your apps: have a complete overview of all your apps within your organisation. Here you are able to distribute them towards end users.
- Manage the common data service: as mentioned before, PowerApps comes with an Azure hosted database called ‘The Common Data Model’ (CDM). The CDM is accessed through the web.powerapps.com environment (Menu item: entities). In here you can see all entities, create new ones, modify existing ones, import & export data.
- Manage connections & gateways: a third important feature is the management of connections & gateways. A connection is an interface towards another application. PowerApps provides you with a lot of out-of-the-box connections, however they allow you to import custom connections too. Gateways are used to connect to on-premise sources.
- Create an app: from here you can start the initiation of a new app. PowerApps allows you to create an app from the web environment (in a browser) or from the studio (desktop installed version).
- Publish your app: when your app is ready, you can publish your app to the end users.
- In general, we can say that the web.powerapps.com environment is the starting point for everything you want to do with PowerApps. It also already has a link to Flow, which will navigate you to the Flow.microsoft.com environment.
2.2. The PowerApps studio
The PowerApps studio (or web version of the studio) is the place to build your business apps. Below you can find the most important features:
- Cross operating system: The apps you are building with PowerApps are compliant with iOS, Android & Windows. You don’t have to perform any specific parameterization!
- Any format: Apps can be built for smartphones, tablets & desktop. Just choose the format when you start creating your app and you are good to go.
- Template: you can start building an app from scratch or by using a template.
To make sure you can build a qualitative app, Microsoft has foreseen a number of functionalities:
- Screens: you can build apps that contain one or many screens. They also allow you to easily create navigation between them.
- Variables and collections: within your app you can work with variables, just like in any other app development toolkit. Variables allow you to store data that you would like to re-use somewhere else in the app.
- Media: you can upload media that can be used within your app. Media types are audio, video & images.
- Controls: PowerApps provides you with a lot of different controls such as text boxes, buttons, list & drop down boxes, sliders, timers, charts, shapes & icons. They allow you to build apps that really look good & are very functional to end users.
- Forms: With forms, you can display & edit data coming from a data source.
- Data sources: After defining the connections, you can use these connections in your apps by adding a data source.
2.3. The PowerApps client
Finally, it all comes together in the PowerApps client. This environment allows you, as an end user, to see and consume all the apps that are published to you. The client can either run on your smartphone, tablet or laptop!
- How can PowerApps help you?
As you can see, PowerApps is a very powerful tool. Building apps will become very easy, which allows organizations to take advantage of some very interesting benefits:
- Increased mobility in the organization: PowerApps will allow you to increase the amount of apps for smartphones and tablets, thus increasing mobility.
- Temporary apps: You will finally be able to build temporary apps. In the past, it used to take months of effort and high budgets to build an app which was only going to last for a small period of time.
- Apps that increase profitability & productivity. For sure you can think of a few ideas that could be translated into a business app.
If you want to know more about the benefits, you might be interested in our blog post 5 crucial benefits of Microsoft PowerApps.
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