I hope everyone in the community is staying safe and their families are well. 2021 has been a year of many stops and starts, but one thing that keeps moving forward is the evolution of the Microsoft Power Platform. As we approach the midpoint of the year, I feel as though now is a good time to reflect upon the announcements made at both the Microsoft Business Applications Summit (MBAS) and Microsoft Build.
In this blog, I will quickly cover the top 6 features announced so far this year that will change the way you implement and use the Power Platform.
New Modern App Designer
Announced at MBAS, Microsoft has previewed the new Modern App Designer. The updated designer finally bridges the divide between Canvas and Model Driven apps. This means that you can develop modern apps with your choice of either Model Driven table forms/views or a pixel perfect Canvas apps that leverages any number of Canvas controls and native connectors available.
The Modern App Designer introduces this flexibility in something that is called Pages. Pages can be considered a replacement for the old site map method of adding table views, forms, reports to a Model Driven app. It is an ambitious yet well considered approach from Microsoft.
It starts with adding a New Page, where you are presented with a wizard that asks you to select the page type (table forms or views, reports, and in future templated pages), then you select the table or tables that you wish to base a view or form from, it then renders this within the same designer. From there you can choose to add Custom Canvas pages, and rather than navigating away to the Canvas app designer you remain in the same Modern App designer with the familiar tools that you would receive within the Canvas app maker portal.
Some other nice enhancements include preview on mobile devices, that enables you to specify Desktop Resolutions (1920×1080 for instance) or mobile form factors.
Ryan Cunningham posted this informative walkthrough on the Power Apps blog site.
Power Fx in Model Driven Apps – March 2021
Power Fx caters for a broad spectrum of users, with its Excel like expression language, it has been popular within Canvas apps for sometime and now it has been announced that it will be coming to Model Driven apps.
The following is an example posted by Greg Lindhorst on the Power Apps blog.
Figure – Command Tasking
Another use of Power Fx in Model is as the formula for Dataverse calculated columns. Whereby Power Fx expressions can be used to form the logic contained in calculated columns or roll up fields. You can see another example of this (temporarily the expression is currently residing in the description field) from the following screenshot.
Figure – Power Fx within Calculated Fields
Taking this further still, Microsoft has partnered with Acumatica to bring about more advanced calculations of data that resides within related tables using Low-code/No-code. Further information is available on this functionality within Greg’s blog post.
If you’re keen to hear more on this exciting development, I suggest you have a read of Jukka Niiranen analysis on what Power Fx will mean for Model Driven Power Apps and the overall direction that Power Apps will be heading with this latest shift.
Create and publish Certified Power Platform Connectors as an Independent Publisher
No longer must you own the underlying service in order to publish a certified connector. The new Independent Publisher Connector Directory is now live on the Microsoft Power Platform Connectors GitHub.
A few things you should know before you are considering adding a connector to the platform as an Independent Publisher:
- You will be releasing the connector under MIT open-source licensing, as such it will be community owned and will not have service level agreements associated.
- It is expected that connectors be application specific if possible, where the underlying service has many derivatives (e.g. Oracle CRM, Oracle EIM, Oracle Financials, Marketing etc).
- As a code owner you are expected to monitor and resolve issues when and where they arise.
- Avoid duplicating projects where there is another independent certified connector that already exists for that service to reduce confusion among users.
- If the end service owner reaches out to Microsoft or the Independent Publisher Connector Group and request ownership of the Independent Publisher connector that connects to their service, Microsoft will reserve the right to provide them with maintainer rights.
I suggest you read the full Independent Publisher Connector Group Manifesto prior to developing an independent connector. This is exciting news as we should see some new community built connectors available from within Power Automate (premium) very soon.
Canvas Source Support for Microsoft Power Platform CLI
Canvas commands have now been added to the Command Line Interface, with support for managing your Canvas Apps as source files. It also has support for Power Fx expressions, which saves to a local file (as a .fx.yaml file) within your canvas folder structure.
The following supported functions have been added:
- unpack – Unpacks the .msapp source file (to a local directory) – pac canvas unpack –msapp HelloWorld.msapp
- pack – Creates a .msapp package files from source – pac canvas pack –sources MyHelloWorldSourceFiles – msapp HelloWorld.msapp
Further documentation can be found here.
This is an important step in creating a complete end to end build pipeline for your Power App implementations.
Portals Support for Microsoft Power Platform CLI – May 2021
It is great to see first party Microsoft ALM support extend through to Power Portals. The Command Line Interface (CLI) has been updated with full support for Portals management that enable you to retrieve your portal content and upload differentially the changes to your portal deployment.
A VS Code Extension has also been made available – which even has Intellisense support for Liquid code.
The following supported functions have been added:
- list (list of all Dataverse environments) – pac paportal list
- download (download portal website content) – pac paportal download –path “C:\myportal” – webSiteId websiteguidid
- upload (upload website content to chosen dataverse environment) – pac paportal upload –path “C:\myportal”
This is an excellent update from Microsoft that now enables teams a choice between existing third party tools such as Portal Record Mover or the newly enhanced CLI portal option.
Read NFC Tags from Power Apps (Canvas) – June 2021
Larry Knibb posted recently on support for reading NFC tags directly from Power Apps on iOS and Android phone devices. The implementation is very simple with the use of the ReadNFC() function.
If( Not IsBlank( Text ),
Notify( "Read Text: " & Text ),
Not IsBlank( URI ),
Notify( "Read URI: " & URI ),
Notify( "Didn't read Text or URI" )
More documentation can be found here.
This is exciting news for implementations that require frequent scanning of warehouse inventory, or industries that typically incorporate NFC tags as part of their business workflow.
I did not expect to see any major new features in 2021 with the Power Platform, but it seems that Microsoft has not held back innovation by delivering on some solid platform enhancements through the year. As we march forward towards Release Wave 2 in October, this would be an ideal time to start trying out some of the new preview functionality before the next major drop.