Report by: Joshua Trupin

Posted: April 23, 2018

  • A new PowerApps Studio for the Web, which will replace the Windows-based version, is available for production use.
  • PowerApps is receiving new programming capabilities and a new data-driven application style.
  • Dynamics 365 will adopt PowerApps as a customization engine.
  • Licensing per user could be expensive and may keep some from using PowerApps in production.

PowerApps is a graphical application development environment that lets users with all levels of programming expertise create Azure-hosted applications that can present data for viewing and editing. Sample applications perform tasks such as budget tracking and cost estimation. Several recent announcements could position PowerApps as a standard for the creation of simple line-of-business applications as well as the preferred customization engine for SharePoint Online, where it succeeds the deprecated InfoPath, and for Dynamics 365.

Developers can create new applications through the PowerApps Studio designer, currently available in Windows desktop and Web versions. Users who are not licensed for PowerApps development can still run the resulting stand-alone applications through a mobile application that's available for Android and iOS, or through a Web browser.

PowerApps Studio for the Web

PowerApps Studio for the Web, a Microsoft-hosted browser interface for PowerApps application development, has been released for production use.

Microsoft states that the Web studio is the preferred way to build PowerApps applications, and that it will receive future features and improvements not available to the Windows desktop version of the designer. To underscore this, PowerApps for Windows authoring capabilities will be deprecated on June 1, 2018; after that time, new downloads of PowerApps Studio for Windows will support execution of PowerApps applications but not new development, much like the Android and iOS versions.

New Capabilities in PowerApps

The Common Data Service for Apps (CDS for Apps), a Microsoft-hosted database service that provides standard data schemas (such as "sales order," "account contact," and "product category") and access to data for development tools, underlies PowerApps data-driven applications. (See "Common Data Service Expands Reach" of the June 2018 Update.)

Microsoft recently announced that the Common Data Service will receive additional server-side processing capabilities that were first designed for the Dynamics xRM SDK. This combination provides new features, such as server-side logic for field validation, to all PowerApps applications that connect to CDS for Apps, and could make it easier to create new applications with advanced features.

PowerApps will also supplement its traditional "canvas-based" design method, in which developers design screens on a virtual canvas by adding standard fields such as text boxes and buttons, and then link data fields to them through properties or code. A new model-driven application design will allow developers to select a data source (such as tables within an Excel file in OneDrive) and apply a style of application chosen from a gallery. The designer will then automatically generate application screens with appropriate data fields already prepopulated, and logic for data operations such as adding and updating fields already built in, which could make it far easier for nonprogrammers to create polished applications.

Dynamics 365 Customizations with PowerApps

Dynamics 365 will offer PowerApps as the default way to write customized applications within the service. The ability to create applications using the xRM SDK with Solution Explorer will remain available for developers, at least in the short term, and existing Dynamics 365 applications will continue to work without modification.

When a user or developer upgrades their Dynamics 365 apps to version 9.0, they will gain the ability to access their Dynamics 365 data within PowerApps. For developers, Dynamics 365 will appear as one of the built-in data connectors available to create new applications.

Developers will also be able to utilize prebuilt applications for Dynamics 365, which will be made available through a collection called the AppSource.

The new Dynamics 365 capabilities will be available in May 2018.

Licensing and Resources

Development features of PowerApps are available to users who own PowerApps Plan 2 licenses; users require at least Plan 1 to access data-driven applications that use CDS for Apps. PowerApps Plan 2 costs US$40 per month per user, which could limit the appeal of some new features.

PowerApps changes were announced in an update at https://powerapps.microsoft.com/blog/powerapps-spring-announce/.

PowerApps Studio for the Web was announced for production use at https://powerapps.microsoft.com/blog/powerapps-studio-for-the-web-is-generally-available-for-production-use.

PowerApps pricing is at https://powerapps.microsoft.com/pricing.

Report by: Joshua Trupin

Posted: April 23, 2018