5 Tips for Getting Started with Microsoft PowerApps

Are you getting started with Office 365 Microsoft PowerApps or considering replacing a third-party application with a Power Platform solution? Well here are 5 useful tips related to “Canvas” PowerApps that you should be aware of to help you along the way of becoming a PowerApps guru.

1.     Mobile vs Tablet PowerApps

There are two fundamental types of layout for a Canvas PowerApp. You have an option for a mobile phone layout (Portrait) and you have a Tablet layout (Landscape).

Mobile layouts provide much better usability on a mobile phone. Although you get less space on the screen it means mobile phone users do not need to flip their devices on their side to be able to use the app.

Tablet layouts can be used for tablets, laptops and desktop computers. With the Tablet layout you’ll get a lot more space for functionality in your PowerApp. If however you also intend users to access your PowerApp on a mobile device, the Tablet layout could appear small and cramped.

It is possible to use either sort of layout on any of the device types. In practice this means you could open a Tablet layout (landscape) Canvas PowerApp on a mobile phone, but it would be cramped and vice versa a Mobile Phone layout (Portrait) opened on a tablet device would display with extra space.

2.     Free PowerApps Templates

Like many people, I learn best by getting my hands dirty and having a go. Therefore, I would recommend to all my customers getting started with PowerApps, they should look over the templates Microsoft offer out of the box.

The free templates will help you understand how a solution is built and you might even find something that meets your requirements out of the box.

To view the templates, navigate to the PowerApps portal, then click on “Create” – on the left-hand side you will see there is an option to select “Templates”

The templates give a great understanding of what Apps you could build and what connectors/controls you can use to create solutions.

You can often find ideas of how to achieve something such as a navigation bar or dashboard for example. They can often provide a great starting point for you to then customise to your requirements or if you just want to steal a line of formula to achieve something in your existing app.

3.     Third Party Connectors

PowerApps not only provides an easy way to integrate multiple Microsoft Office 365 products it also connects with third party products also. This means you can use the features of other services without having to build it all yourself.

It also means you can integrate with systems you are already using such as twitter, mail chimp, Google drive and so much more!

You can find more information about connectors here.

4.     Choosing a Database

There are several places you can store your PowerApps data. This can range from as small as an excel document all the way to common data service or SQL.

The way I would explain to a customer how to choose an appropriate database for their PowerApp would be to use one of three choices – depending on how much data you predict the app will need to store.

  1. Excel File – This is the smallest scale area to store data. It is fine as a location for a small Team and could be stored in OneDrive or SharePoint. If you are dealing with hundreds or thousands this could be an option. However, this choice is not very scalable. I have been involved in several projects that have used this model but when the PowerApp expanded from being used by a couple of developers to a wider organization it can run into issues.
  1. SharePoint – This is the most common place that we store data. It is perfect for tens of thousands of bits of data. It can handle smaller sets of data and is scalable up to around 100k bits of data. For help with SharePoint Online click here.
  2. Common Data Service – This would allow you to store millions of bits of data. It is for very large enterprise level PowerApps and has multiple other benefits such as prebuilt entities/tables that can have relationships. However, the downside is that this will incur additional license costs.

5.     Export a PowerApps

When you are first starting off, you may have built a development Office 365 tenant that gives you the ability to develop your apps in a controlled area without the risk of interfering with live data.

Once you have built you PowerApp in your development tenant it is also possible to export your PowerApp and import it into your production Office 365 tenant.

To do this simply go to the PowerApps portal in your development Office365 tenant, then click on “Apps” on the left hand side, find your app in the list of apps, click the more options three dots, then click “Export Package” at the bottom of the drop down. (as shown below)

The next page will ask you to provide a name and other basic information for your PowerApp package. You will the click on Export at the bottom right of the screen.

Once you have your PowerApp zip file downloaded ensure it is saved in a safe location. You do not need to unzip the file, ensure it stays zipped in the original way it was downloaded.

Then navigate to your PowerApps portal in your production Office 365 tenant. Click on “Apps” on the left-hand side, then click “Import canvas app” on the top bar.

The next screen will ask you to upload your zip file. Ensure you upload the originally downloaded file that has not been extracted etc.

Remember to change the import type from “Update” to “Create as new” the first time you upload your app. In the future you can use the “Update” feature to roll out updates to your PowerApp from the app in your development environment using the exact same method.

Once you have ensured all the connections are correct click the “Import” button at the bottom right of the screen. This will complete the import process of your new application.

I hope you found these five tips useful to help you get started using Microsoft PowerApps. If you have any questions or would like to discuss getting support with an upcoming PowerApps project, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Author


Valto
Dougie Wood
Dougie@valto.co.uk
10 Watergate Row
Chester, CH1 2LD