Home > Blog > What is Microsoft PowerApps: A Complete PowerApps Guide

Microsoft PowerApps is part of the Microsoft Power Platform and businesses use them for creating their own unique applications

If you’re a business owner that’s looking to create a unique app to support functions at your company, PowerApps allow you to create custom apps by using drag and drop features available with canvas apps.

For those of you reading who are just getting started in PowerApps, it’s only fair that we offer an early warning…

While it is true that PowerApps allows users to build their own custom business apps, there is a caveat. Depending on the complexity of the business process you are looking to build, PowerApps can become overwhelming quickly.

Inexperienced users can quickly build apps which can effectively increase productivity and improve business, but ultimately, a full-scale solution may require outside expertise.

In this PowerApps guide, we’re going to show you how to create your first basic application with the Microsoft PowerApps app.

If you’re looking to build a custom business app for your organization, we’ve created this step-by-step guide that’ll get your first PowerApps app built within minutes.

Let’s get started!

How Do You Go About Developing a PowerApps App?

You can begin development in your browser with PowerApps Studio for web. Using PowerApps Studio for the web ensures you are always working with the latest experiences and functionality. It also allows you to work in PowerApps whether you’re at work or at home.

What is PowerApps?

PowerApps is part of the Office 365 collection and provides users with the ability to create and develop business applications. With the help of PowerApps, users can get a simple business app up and running within a few hours.

Step-by-Step PowerApps Guide

Our team previously put together a detailed PowerApps Tutorial for creating a custom list form in SharePoint but if you’re looking to start developing your own PowerApp we’ve got a step-by-step guide for you here:

Pick a Template

Since this is your very first time creating a PowerApps app, we recommend creating your app from one of the templates that’s provided to you. When you’re first starting off, you shouldn’t worry too much about the end appearance of how your PowerApps app is going to look. Start off by clicking the ‘create’ button, which can be found on the start screen of PowerApps. Once you’ve clicked the ‘create’ button, you’ll need to select a template that you’d like to use for your business. While you may be starting off with the creation of your first PowerApps app as a test-run, this is a great way for you to learn about the entire process, and share any ideas that you come up with, while reviewing this guide with the rest of your team.

Building for Mobile Devices

You may have noticed that some of the applications that are available for selection in the templates section have different design modes. For example, if you look at the Estimator Pro PowerApps template, there are two different design modes that you can choose from: the tablet factor and the phone factor. If you’ve selected the phone factor, it doesn’t mean that your PowerApps won’t be able to be displayed on a tablet or a desktop. Rather simply, it just means that this version will work best on a phone or any other device that has a rectangular design. It’s entirely up to you to choose the design mode, as well as the orientation of the PowerApps (portrait vs landscape). You also have complete control over deciding whether the orientation should be locked and if the aspect ratio should be locked. You can also control the sizing of the target device by clicking on the button next to the “orientation” button.

PowerApps User Interface: First Half

The top section of the PowerApps app is easy to explain, mainly because it’s the one that most people are familiar with. If you look at the ribbon, you’ll most likely recognize it because Microsoft added it into Office 2007. The ribbon is now available to users designing PowerApps and allows users to experience the same level of functionality that they’re used to in Word or Excel. Some examples of this functionality are allowing designers to aligning content, underline text, and set formulas on certain objects, such as you’re able to add a formula on cells in the Excel program. If you’re someone who’s used to working with Microsoft InfoPath, you may have a bit of difficulty going through and creating a mobile app instead of developing views in InfoPath. The biggest difference you’re likely to experience is that you’re going to have to start focusing your mind on “screens”. These “screens” are shown in the second section, on the bottom left. The first screen acts are your starting screen, with successive screens shown in order underneath. For you to change up the order of the screens, you can easily drag them down or up to your desired location. This is very similar to the slide sorter in Microsoft PowerPoint.

PowerApps User Interface: Second Half

The third section, located in the bottom middle is where the screens of your PowerApps are displayed. This section can be used to set formulas, select your controls, or to drag objects to a new location. Lastly, the fourth section, located on the bottom right, allows you to define the attributes for the control that you’ve selected. In a very similar process to the formula bar, you may notice overlap between the two sections. Keep in mind that only a handful of attributes are only able to be selected in this section. As an example, you’re only able to pick the correct data layout template and connect your data in this section.

PowerApps Branding

One of the easiest ways to keep your PowerApps branded is by sticking to a consistent color scheme. You can set your color choice once at the top bar on the first screen. Make sure that when you’re switching screens, that you don’t copy the color that you’ve selected. You should make sure that you copy that attribute from the top bar of the first screen by selecting ‘fill’. In order to keep up with consistent branding, make sure that you’re only using one color value throughout your entire app.

Attributes and Formulas

There are many different attributes and formulas that can be selected throughout PowerApps. As a general rule, formulas are always paired with an attribute, as attributes are entirely dependent upon whatever object you’ve chosen.

As an example, a screen will have several attributes, such as; fill, loading spinner, image position, background image, and loading spinner color. These attributes allow you to create your app based upon your own personal preferences for design.

There are some other objects that will have a selection of unique attributes, such as ‘On Select’, which is what will allow you to define what happens when an object is clicked on.

Formulas

Did you know that there are 150 different formulas that you can use when you’re creating in PowerApps? Here’s a selection of the eight most commonly used PowerApps formulas:
  • Sort By Columns – this formula will allow you to sort a table by one (or more) columns.
  • Filter – provides users with the option to filter a set of records, based upon a provided formula.
  • Lookup – this formula finds the first row in a table and matches it, based on a specific formula.
  • Clear Collect – removes all records from a collection. It also adds a different selection of records to the same collection.
  • Update If – adds an updated value, if a condition is true.
  • Sort – sorts through a table based upon a provided formula.
  • Update Context – provides users with the option to store any value that’s useful in a context variable.
  • Search – allows users to search for records after providing a search query

External Business Data

PowerApps provides users with reliable support to attach to data from other systems. With the ability to create custom connectors and more than 180 different pre-built connectors available, here’s a selection of some of the most commonly used systems:
  • OneDrive for Business
  • SharePoint
  • Common Data Service
  • Dynamics 365
  • Excel
  • Office 365 Outlook
  • Dropbox
  • Office 365 Users
  • SQL Server
  • OneDrive
  • Power BI

On-Premises Data Sources

You can also access data that’s been stored in your on-premise data stores. In order to achieve this, you must use a gateway. In order to set up a gateway, you’ll have to use data from one of the following data sources:
  • Filesystem
  • DB2
  • SharePoint
  • SQL Server
  • Informix
  • Oracle

Common Data Service

Another unique feature of Microsoft PowerApps is that it allows you to use data from a service called Common Data Service. The Common Data Service for PowerApps allows users to store and manage data that’s used for business apps securely.

Using Microsoft Flow

PowerApps also has the option for business users to create mobile apps quickly and easily. Alongside your mobile app, you’re more than likely going to need a form of automation to be completed in the background. As an example, you’ll most likely want to send an email when a user clicks on a button requesting a reservation.

Simple tasks such as the one mentioned above can be completed with PowerApps. However, if you’re looking for more complex tasks to be completed on PowerApps, you’re going to want to let the flexibility of Microsoft Flow control the automation you’re looking for.

Thankfully, PowerApps amalgamates easily with Microsoft Flow. You can connect PowerApps and Flow together via the connection button.

Mobile Devices

In order to run PowerApps on a mobile device, all you have to do is install the PowerApps application. You can find the PowerApps application on both the Apple App Store for Apple mobile devices or Google Play Store for Android mobile devices.

The first time that you access the PowerApps application, it’s going to ask for you to sign in to the organizational account that you’ve made. Once this is completed, you’ll have access to all the business apps that you’ve created and any apps that have been shared with you.

If there is a selection of apps that you’ve created that you often access, you can add these apps to your mobile device’s home screen, which will pull them out of the PowerApps application. However, only Android-powered mobile devices have the capability to do this currently.

Going Offline

A lot of users are interested in using PowerApps because of the ability to be able to work offline while they’re traveling. If you’re looking to build the option in your app to allow users to work offline, here are a few expressions that you can add into your app:
  • Load Data – allows users to load data into a collection.
  • Collect – allows users to store records in a local cache, even if there is no Internet connection.
  • Connection Connected – allows users to test if their PowerApps is connected to a data source.
  • Patch – creates a record in the data source. This especially ideal if you have access to a connection.
  • Clear – removes records from a collection.
  • Save Data – allows users to save data to a local collection.
If you don’t have a whole lot of experience with development, creating an offline mode for your PowerApps can be challenging. However, once you have a grasp of the concept, developing an offline mode for your PowerApps is very easy.

Supporting Multiple Languages

PowerApps also provides developers with the option to show text in the language of a user that’s logged in. If you’re interested in having your PowerApps show multiple languages, you first need to decide what languages you’ll be adding to your app.

After you’ve determined what languages your app will show, you can use the ‘language’ function to select ‘script’, and then ‘region’ to find the languages that you want to add.

You should always make sure that you don’t hardcode text when adding several languages into your PowerApps. Instead, you should attempt to use a function that searches the language from a local data set and then stores the key name along with the string.

Once your PowerApps know what languages you want to upload and has access to the language dictionary, all you need to do is complete a lookup and store it locally.

What is Microsoft PowerApps?

It’s the key to enabling your business to quickly automate and improve processes. Thankfully, it’s now easier than ever to build applications to help boost the productivity of your organization. We hope that this “What is Microsoft PowerApps” guide has helped you to create the perfect custom app for your business. Are you looking to learn more about the apps that Microsoft has to offer your company? Feel free to contact us today!

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