In previous iterations of SharePoint, InfoPath was the tool of choice in the Microsoft stack for creating interactive forms and modifying SharePoint list and library dialogs. While InfoPath will still be supported until April of 2023 for legacy systems, it has been replaced with PowerApps in Microsoft 365. PowerApps isn't just for SharePoint, however. It supports stand-alone mobile applications, can connect to many different data sources, and is tightly integrated with Dynamics 365.
There are a few edge cases where InfoPath may still be useful, such as for anonymously collecting information or when a printable form is required. In terms of digital data collection, however, PowerApps has it all. While PowerApps is constantly getting new features, the core functionality of building responsive, user-friendly forms is rock solid. PowerApps also provides the keen developer with ways to optimize their apps to reduce network traffic required and improve performance on a variety of devices; a capability that InfoPath does not have. Another key advantage that PowerApps has is that it can interact with data from a wide variety of sources and isn't as limited as InfoPath. Making changes to a PowerApp form is a much more seamless experience for end users as PowerApps are centrally managed and updates are automatically available within minutes of publication. The biggest limiting factor with PowerApps is that they are only accessible by regular users in your tenant. Guest user access is not yet available but is on the Microsoft roadmap. While it may take time up front to convert InfoPath forms to PowerApps, the overall savings in long term maintenance are too good to pass up.
Simple Yet Powerful
The PowerApps editor is a WYSIWYG tool. Controls like text boxes, labels, and buttons are easily added to the application canvas and can be modified with a few mouse clicks.
PowerApps features an Excel-style formulaic language for adding dynamic capability to your app. Microsoft provides a PowerApp player that is available in the iOS, Android, and Microsoft App Stores. This means that your PowerApps do not need to be added to the app store directly; they are published in your tenant and accessible through the PowerApps player. PowerApps can also be embedded in SharePoint and PowerBI dashboards and reports.
Making The Magic Happen
There are several different ways to create new PowerApps. One way is to navigate to Office365.com and click on the PowerApps icon in the list of applications. This redirects you to PowerApps.com and presents you with several options for creating Apps. In many cases, PowerApps can automatically create an App for you based on your data. For example, if you want to connect to a SharePoint list, PowerApps can create a default app with three screens; one to see all the records in the list, one to see the details of a selected record, and one to add or modify records. This template app can then be modified to include your branding, change the look and feel, or add more functionality. Alternatively, you can create a blank app and build it from the ground up to meet your specifications.
PowerApps is also useful in modifying dialogs in both Dynamics 365 and SharePoint Online. To customize a list form, it is as simple as navigating to the list in SharePoint, clicking on the PowerApps option, and selecting "Customize Forms." The form is opened in the PowerApps editor where you can make any changes you want. This is helpful for creating dynamic list forms that greatly improve the user experience. In Dynamics 365, you can edit entity forms by navigating to the entity in the solution explorer. A light version of PowerApps Studio is launched within the context of Dynamics that allows you to show and hide fields and reorder them.
The Functionality Keeps Coming
Microsoft is constantly adding to and improving the feature set of PowerApps giving you access to new data sources, adding new visual elements, and making it easier to connect to services like Azure. The base version of PowerApps is included in all licenses from Office 365 Business Essentials and up. To use Premium Connectors, connections to external services like Salesforce, DocuSign, or Jira, PowerApps Plan 1 or 2 are required for the account being used to make the connection.
PowerApps was developed with non-developer Power Users in mind. The philosophy is to enable users to improve their everyday business processes, connect data sources, and create rich applications with little to no code. Developers can take PowerApps to the next level by creating responsive, complex applications that leverage multiple data sources and interactions.
While PowerApps is still maturing and adding functionality it is ready to replace InfoPath as the tool you turn to for creating interactive forms and modifying SharePoint list and library dialogs, and it can do so much more. We can't wait to show you what this tool can do.
Did you know that Pivotal Consulting is one of only a few local Certified Microsoft Partners for PowerApps? Our team can help you build applications in a fraction of the time it would take for custom app development and transform your manual business processes into digital automated processes.
Request a free demo of PowerApps and see how you can connect and share your data across your organization, improve communication and promote collaboration.
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