November 9, 2021

Types of Apps in the Power Platform

By Brian Nielsen

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Microsoft has struggled with the ability to provide easy, customizable forms for a number of years. Once a certain level of either complexity or customization was required the form either got scrapped or was handed over to IT to build. SharePoint and InfoPath were Microsoft’s major solution to allow business users the ability to create their own forms without involving IT.  

Canvas Apps

Canvas Apps allow any level user to design forms or applications in a similar manner to creating a PowerPoint slide. It has a drag & drop interface and the ability to connect to multiple data sources. Besides basic forms, it is possible to generate complete applications that have multiple screens that allow users to Browse, View Details, and Edit information.  

The easiest way to start is to point to a SharePoint list. In the menu there is a new option called Integrate that allows you to connect to Power Platform tools. If you select Power Apps -> Customize forms.  

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A basic list will generate a basic form that allows customization. It adds in the Title field and allows the ability to upload items.  

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Adding an image and a Label, with some minor style adjustments, changes the look dramatically.  

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After saving and publishing the changes the customized Canvas form is available directly inside SharePoint. 

After saving and publishing the changes the customized Canvas form is available directly inside SharePoint. 

Alternatively, you could choose the other option and have the Power Platform generate application directly from data. Starting from a more complicated SharePoint list such as the following let’s use the Power Platform to build an entire application based off the data. 

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Choose the option to Create an app from the Integrate button 

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Then give the app a name 

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After clicking the Create button the Power Platform will open a new tab and provide a Loading screen while it generates the application. 

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The end result will be a completely interactive application that  

  • Displays a scrollable table with all the items  
  • Allows you to view details of each item listed 
  • Edit existing items 
  • Create new items 
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Model Driven Apps

Another type of app available from the Power Platform is called a Model Driven app. While the Canvas app allows very pretty interfaces and almost pixel perfect locations the Model Driven app is designed more around processes. The core difference is there has to be an existing data schema (or model) available. Then you customize forms and views to display the data. Finally, you create the Model Driven app to display the customized forms and views.  

As the name infers you need to start with some data model. I have two tables called Building and Visit. I went ahead and created customized forms and custom views. From there it is as easy as before. I create an app then use a unique feature called a Site Map to define what components are going to be included in the application and how they are navigated to. That is all that is required. This will generate an model driven app similar to the following. 

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The forms are more basic looking than a Canvas application but provide the ability to provide additional logic. 

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The real power of a Model Driven app is the ability to create Business Process Flows. These allow you to create different Stages and Steps so users have to follow a very specific set of steps while entering data. Until a previous step is completed then users cannot move forward. This is very useful to ensure that all the required data is entered through each Stage of a defined process.  

Model Driven apps do require that all data is stored inside the Dataverse.  

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Portal

The final type of application you can create in the Power Platform is a Portal. This allows you create and host web pages. The more impressive part about Portal apps is that they can either use normal Azure Active Directory authentication, Anonymous authentication, or 3rd party authentication. So it is possible to use Facebook authentication, as an example. The other consideration is that you can also re-use the existing data from the Dataverse. 

So you can publish content, images, Power BI and expose data you have created using other applications internally. Think about generating support content internally using Model Driven apps. After the content is finally approved you can share it externally in a Portal so clients. Here is a sample showing the same content from the Building table. 

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Brian Nielsen Senior Cloud Architect

Meet the author

Brian is a Senior Cloud Training Architect at Opsgility and has spent the last 11 years as a consultant with Microsoft Partners. He has worked with cloud solutions & migrations for small businesses and Fortune 1000 companies. 

Brian has 26 years of professional IT experience. He has exceptional knowledge of Microsoft Azure, Microsoft 365, and Open-Source software. As a consultant he is used to solving highly visible and complex problems.   Brian is an excellent communicator and public speaker, well-versed in current technological trends and familiar with a variety of business concepts. He can meet ever-changing technology needs with innovative and up-to-date solutions.

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