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Introduction to PowerApps: What is PowerApps and How to Get Started

2019-10-01

What is PowerApps?


PowerApps is a service for creating business apps across platforms quickly and easily.

Let's face it the business word no longer relies on one application to complete their business needs. The days of working in silo or relying on a single platform for completing tasks are over. PowerApps allows you to take your business collaboration to the next level. You can interact with data from any and all data sources. Furthermore, it allows you to loop in your field workers. Data can be reported to and from field workers and desktop users in real time via apps.

To accommodate this, business would traditionally need to create custom coded apps. Creating custom mobile apps from scratch is expensive and most business don't have the IT resources to dedicate to it. In addition, the return on investment is not great when the time and cost is so high.

PowerApps takes that all away by enabling power users and developers to quickly create apps in hours instead of months.

How do end users' access PowerApps?


In the apps store, users can download PowerApps and log in using their Office 365 account. Once logged in, all apps shared with that user will be listed.

PowerApps illustration 01

PowerApps as a replacement for InfoPath


For those organizations coming from earlier versions of SharePoint, you may have used InfoPath for creating custom SharePoint forms. Microsoft has announced that InfoPath will no longer be supported in 2026 and PowerApps is the official replacement for InfoPath. But it is NOT a one for one replacement. InfoPath and PowerApps both allow you to create custom SharePoint forms but that is where their similarities end.

InfoPath is a third-party product for SharePoint that allows you to customize forms. PowerApps is not exclusive to SharePoint. Data can be stored anywhere. You can connect data from anywhere. It can be used as a standalone app or as a custom form.

Unfortunately, you cannot automatically convert your old InfoPath solutions to PowerApps. The solutions will have to be rebuilt with PowerApps.

So how do you get started?


PowerApps designer studio is used to create apps. This can be downloaded from the app stored or you can use the online version. Currently, the online version has the same features and capabilities as the application, so I use the online studio.
Link to PowerApps Studio: https://create.powerapps.com/studio/

PowerApp Templates


PowerApps come with multiple templates that you can use as a starting point. This will allow you to explore the different components and formulas in an existing, functional app. It will give you a feel for what you can do and how you can leverage PowerApps. You can customize the templates further or use them as is.

PowerApps illustration 02

Creating a New App


There are 2 options / starting points for PowerApps. You can create a standalone app or customize an existing SharePoint list form. If you choose to customize a list form, this will replace the default edit/new item forms with your app.

In order to customize a list form, navigate to the SharePoint list and select the dropdown for PowerApps. Select customize forms from the dropdown. (The other 2 options will take you to the PowerApps studio.)

creating a new app illustration

Otherwise, if you are starting an app from another data source or from scratch, navigate to the PowerApps studio.
Link to PowerApps Studio: https://create.powerapps.com/studio/

There are 3 basic steps for creating your app:



    1. Connect to data

        1. You can connect to any data source that is accessible to the cloud. That includes and is not limited to SharePoint, SQL, Excel, Salesforce etc

        1. If you do not have a place for your data, you can store it in PowerApps.



    1. Create your app.

    1. Finally deploy the app and grant access to users so they can access the app on their devices.


PowerApps Designer Components


These are the main components for your PowerApp:


    • Screens is a page in your app. You can have multiple pages in your app.

    • Data Sources - Creating connections to your data and flow. (Flow will allow you to complete secondary actions based on the data in your app)

    • Forms - New/Edit/Display Forms for your content. Adding a form makes it simpler to submit data to your data source.

    • Controls - The basic controls are fields to hold or input your data. Example: text field, dropdown menu, radio buttons etc. More complex controls include Camera, Galleries, Charts etc.

    • Variables - Variables allow you to manipulate data values based on user input or changes in the app.

    • Collections - Create or edit a group of items


PowerApps illustration 03

Every app will contain at least 1 Screen and controls to input or display data. Most of the designing in your app is through the control properties. The control properties can be set to actual values or you can set it to values based on other values using formulas.

The formulas used in PowerApps are based on an excel-like inspired language also known as declarative logic. The app is constantly recalculating values based on the current input or state of the controls on the form. For example, in excel if you want to calculate the total value of a row, you would add a formula to a cell that will add up all the cells in that rows value. PowerApps works the same way. However, instead of calculating values based on other cells, it calculates values based on other controls (other text boxes, dropdown menus, galleries, etc).

And of course, the best way to learn is to get started and try it out!

Do you want to learn more about SharePoint and Office 365? Join a SharePoint Learning Tree course!
Malka Pesach

Written by Malka Pesach

In honor of Women’s History Month we are going to showcase some of our incredible female instructors through a series of blogs! Tell us a little bit about yourself: I am a hardworking mom of 2 beautiful girls who likes a good challenge and a glass of wine every now and then. Professionally, I started in the medical field as a phlebotomist for a cardiologist with hopes of pursuing a career in the medical field. But man plans and god laughs. After leaving my job at the cardiologist office, I ended taking a job at Shell to help with their SharePoint environment as a temporary job. I stayed at Shell for 6 years developing, deploying and customizing their SharePoint Environment. More recently, two years ago, I opened my own business, servicing a wide array of clients in their Office 365 and SharePoint deployments. In addition, I got introduced to Learning Tree and started teaching classes. With my new business and Learning Tree, I get to meet new people and get introduced to different work models and environments. The variety and constant change make everyday a new challenge and keeps things interesting. What do you love most about being an instructor? I love working with Learning Tree, the staff and other instructors. After I left Shell, a Learning Tree instructor reached out to me on LinkedIn to help with a large project he was working on. Working on the project, I was introduced to other Learning Tree instructors and got recruited to the Learning Tree family. And yes, Learning Tree is very much a warm, inviting family. In addition, Learning Tree’s working environment is very flexible. The work schedule, location, accommodations are all different per gig. Instructors are sent worldwide to teach. We are put in foreign situations. I believe that’s what makes learning Tree such a great environment, it’s part of the training and cultures to be more accepting and tolerant to other cultures and practices. What attributes do you take with you every day to work, and find the most important in succeeding? I would say confidence and being true to who you are. Everyone has their own unique experiences and perspectives. Bring that to the table makes you unique, special and an invaluable asset. You just need to be willing to put yourself out there. What is your biggest motivator? My kids. I want my girls to be confident and love themselves. They should know that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to and always be grateful for the small things in life. We all know actions speak louder than words. The only way to really teach my kids is by modelling that behavior. So, I push myself hard and hope the message seeps through. Who has been the biggest influence of your success? My mother. My mother is a hardworking, determined and persistent. She taught me what it means to go after what you want and never give up. In addition, behind every woman is a man cheering her on. My husband is my cheerleader, encouraging me to push past my fears and go ahead and succeed. Who are/have been your female icons and role models? Recently, my family celebrated Purim. The holiday celebrates a woman, Queen Esther, who is the heroine that saves the day. The tale opens with Queen Esther as a beautiful and obedient, but also a relatively passive figure. During the story, she evolves into someone who takes a decisive role in her own future and that of her people. Standing up for yourself and your beliefs is something that really resonated with me What does Women’s History Month mean to you? Is it important that we celebrate have one? We need to celebrate women! Women are the backbone of society and many times unseen and underappreciated for all their hard work. Who else is going to remind to wash your hands while the Coronavirus rages? What advice would you give to any young woman today? Be confident and communicate your needs clearly. Don’t avoid problems, face them head on even if it is uncomfortable. In the long run it will save you a lot of heart ache. Also, know your worth and don’t be shy to ask for it. And lastly, aim the stars, its closer than you think Thank you so much Malka for your insight, and all you do for Learning Tree and your attendees!