PowerApps – More Than a Business Tool
Have you ever thought, wouldn’t it be great if there was an app that could do X (insert your idea here)? Or maybe, I really love this one app but if I could just add this functionality then it would be really useful. Thousands of people each day have brilliant ideas for applications but fail to act on them because of the lack of computer programming skills. PowerApps gives you the power to build out your app ideas with no coding knowledge required.
PowerApps is not a tool that will enable you to create a consumer-facing app that you can sell on the Apple or Android app store. Applications that you build in PowerApps are confined to your Office 365 environment and reside with the PowerApps application itself. But it is still a powerful tool if you want to create an application for your personal use or create a quick proof of concept.
To get started with PowerApps, the first thing you need is an Office 365 subscription. There are a wide range of subscriptions options that are very reasonable. The cheapest subscription option starts around $7 per user per month. You can find more details on the pricing here: https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/
While you don’t have to know how to code to build an app in PowerApps, there is a learning curve. Generally, if you are pretty good with Excel formulas then getting used to PowerApps shouldn’t be too difficult. Most of the logic to create the app revolves around using functions so getting familiar with those will be the biggest piece to learn.
Extending Your Apps
One of the most impressive things about PowerApps is the ability to extend your apps with custom connectors. PowerApps already has over 100 connectors that you can utilize out-of-the-box: Twitter, YouTube, MailChimp, Office Apps, GSuite to name a few. If you need something beyond what is offered out-of-the-box, you can create a custom connector to virtually any API out there.
An API is an acronym for Application Programming Interface (API). In layman’s terms, API’s provide a way to send requests and receive responses from an application. Most modern websites offer API’s to receive information from their system and use API’s to consume information themselves. For example, when you’re on a social media site and you see the weather listed, they are calling an API from some weather site to retrieve that information.
As a consultant, I focus on using PowerApps to create business applications for my clients. In my spare time, I like to create applications for personal use. If you check out the videos section on my blog you’ll see I’ve created some fun apps like Appy Bird and Magic 8 Ball.
Another use case that I came up with recently is an app called Lawn Buddy. Lawn Buddy is an app I created for my husband to help him track when he’s mowed the long . The app is modeled after my favorite weather app, What the Forecast. On the landing screen of the app, I am using the MSN Weather API to pull in the current weather conditions. I added some logic to check the weather and provide a suggestion on if I should mow today. For example, if it’s raining or there is a chance of rain, I wouldn’t suggest mowing. I also have the ability to log the date/time when I’ve mowed and I am pulling that info to tell how many days it’s been since I’ve mowed.
Check it out in action:
There are a ton of resources to learn how to build PowerApps. Here are a few to get you started:
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powerapps/maker/canvas-apps/formula-reference – This is a great resource that lists and explains all of the available functions in PowerApps.
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powerapps/guided-learning/ – If you want more structured learning then this guided learning from Microsoft is a good start.
https://powerusers.microsoft.com/t5/PowerApps-Community/ct-p/PowerApps1 – The Power Users Community is a great place to go if you have a specific question or issue. There is a message board where you can get answers from PowerApps experts and read blog posts from experts as well.
The PowerApps community is full of enthusiast who put out great content to help you learn the tool. In addition to myself, here are some PowerApps experts that I reccomend following on Twitter and YouTube. These individuals put out some great content :