PowerApps for the Uninitiated

PowerApps is a platform that seeks to help power users (not programmers per se) bridge gaps and create workable solutions for day-to-day business needs. From a productivity standpoint, it’s a dream come true. It can be used to better organize information and communicate it to others in your organization in a digestable way. It can connect to Office 365 and associated systems so you can leverage the information and tools there, versus reinventing the wheel. And, it can be used with existing data sources - including SQL databases - if you’re already up-and-running with other systems and applications.

PowerApps has become the go-to solution for much of my own work in higher education. The fact that it is part of an enterprise Office 365 solution, where I can securely connect and share information and tools with select campus users, makes it a virtual no-brainer when considering options for developing a workflow or application. In addition, the seamless integration with other tools like SharePoint, Microsoft Flow and other Azure tools mean that many different types of applications can be developed with virtually any data source.

PowerApps 101

Microsoft and other Power Users have provided some excellent tools for PowerApps beginners. The sheer volume of tutorials, glossary entries, and forums can be daunting, so here are some recommendations for users who are just getting started.

  1. Overview of Creating Apps in PowerApps (Microsoft)
    This documentation entry provides you with an overview of the structure of the application, and describes the various components of the platform.

  2. Creating Apps Using the AppDesigner (Microsoft)
    This tutorial walks you through each step of the application development process.

  3. PowerApps Live Events and Webinars (PowerApps Community)
    Access a whole host of webinars, tutorials and live event recordings. The collection includes Microsoft’s “Getting Started With….” series for PowerApps and Dynamics 365. Also check out the PowerApps Community Gallery which features user-created videos that can be absolute life-savers.

  4. Create an App in PowerApps (Microsoft)
    Microsoft’s multi-step tutorial shows you how to get started by creating a simple, first PowerApp

  5. How to Create Your First PowerApp (Collab 365)
    The Collab365 team will show you how to sign up for PowerApps in addition to teaching you how to build your first application. In addition, they provide some expert commentary which makes a strong argument for the value of PowerApps.

  6. Channel 9 PowerApps and Flow Training: Hands On Lab (Channel 9, MSDN)
    An older, but very useful tutorial and discussion about PowerApps, featuring Pratap Ladhani, Principal Program Manager, Customer & Partner Success.

Documentation Resources

Of course, you can (and should) access the main Microsoft PowerApps Documentation page. Below, however, are some of the key items that you should bookmark and refer to when developing you first applications.

  1. PowerApps Formula Reference
    This provides quick access to the various formulas you will use when developing your application. Formulas combine multiple elements to start an action, return a value, define behaviors and more. This reference will help you quickly access needed information about formulas and their elements.

  2. Tables and Records
    To make a functional application, you should have a good command of data structures. PowerApps lets you connect to various data sources, including sources that reside within the application (such as collections). This guide will help you get your arms around all of the options.

  3. Controls Reference

  4. Share an App

  5. Troubleshooting: System Requirements, Limits, and Configuration

Launching in November 2018

The Productivity Garage and its related sites exist as a personal endeavor to hone skills, share ideas and help others achieve balance in work, personal or family life and avocations. The Garage will address topics such as workflow productive habit building, efficiencies in work and productivity in general.

I will use this space to share practical advice, tools, programs or workflows surrounding productivity. I chose the name The Garage because much of the information I endeavor to share and explore here will be focused on practical approaches to work and projects. The posts and articles will aim to use principled productivity in an applied way.

This is a new venture, starting in November 2018. I’m grateful for your support and attention as I grow the project!