Getting started

Understand what PowerApps is - its software elements, and related technologies. Look at the different ways you can create apps, and generate an app from a SharePoint list.

You will learn how to...

Introducing PowerApps

Welcome to Guided Learning for Microsoft PowerApps. This self-paced online course explains PowerApps in a sequential way, so you can build your knowledge from the ground up.

This Guided Learning course contains many sections, and each section has many topics. The course is designed to provide guidance in understandable chunks, with a logical flow that helps you learn concepts, see details, and walk through examples. It includes lots of visuals to help you learn, too.

If you're a beginner with PowerApps this course gets you going, and if you're familiar with PowerApps this course ties concepts together, and fills in the gaps. We hope you enjoy the course, and we look forward to including more content in the future.

What is PowerApps?

PowerApps is a collection of software services and apps that work together to fundamentally transform and accelerate how you build and share custom line of business applications.

PowerApps animated introduction

PowerApps connects to the cloud services and data sources you're already using, giving you the ability to quickly build apps that suit specific needs - building on skills you already have. You can share apps instantly with your co-workers across the web, tablets, and mobile devices. PowerApps also integrates with Microsoft Flow, making it possible to trigger workflows from within apps. PowerApps can be simple and fast - capable of producing an app in minutes that pulls in data from Excel or a cloud service. But PowerApps is also robust and enterprise-grade, ready for complex requirements like tracking assets across a corporation and tying into your backend systems.

The Parts of PowerApps

PowerApps consists of components to create, share, and administer apps; and components to run those apps. You create apps in PowerApps Studio for web or PowerApps Studio for Windows, using the data connections that your app requires. You use web.powerapps.com to configure and manage data connections and on-premises gateways, and to work with the Common Data Service, which we will cover in a later section. After you create an app, you often share it to Microsoft AppSource, and administer it in the admin center.

You run apps in a browser from Microsoft Dynamics 365 or by using PowerApps Mobile, which is available for Windows, iOS, and Android devices.

We will follow this flow of creating, sharing, administering, and running apps as we go through the rest of PowerApps Guided Learning.

How PowerApps matches your role

PowerApps makes it easy for business analysts and other subject matter experts to create apps using the skills you already have. But this is not the only type of PowerApps user. Some people simply run apps that others create. Other people, who write code for a living (professional developers), take advantage of PowerApps to rapidly build sophisticated apps.

How you use PowerApps may depend on your role in a project or on a team, and your role can change. For example, one of your coworkers creates an app that is tied into your company-wide customer relationship management (CRM) system, and you use this app regularly to track promising sales leads. But you might also write apps yourself and share them within your workgroup because your close colleagues find those apps very useful.

Next Steps

Now that you have an overview of this course, what PowerApps is, and its main elements, in the next topic we will look more closely at each PowerApps component.

Parts of PowerApps

In the first Guided Learning topic you read about the main parts of PowerApps. Now we're going to provide a little more detail on each of the parts. PowerApps is a set of software services and apps that work together, and there are related technologies that help make this a powerful ecosystem. The PowerApps components are:

  • web.powerapps.com - manage and share the apps you build
  • PowerApps Studio - build powerful apps with easy to use visual tools
  • PowerApps Mobile - run apps on Windows, iOS, and Android devices
  • PowerApps admin center - administer PowerApps environments and other components

We don't expect you to take a ton of time just to learn what PowerApps is, but we think it's helpful to flesh things out a bit more.

web.powerapps.com

If you build apps, this is where you spend most of your time. You learn from the sample apps and templates that are available here, and see all the apps you have created. You create apps in PowerApps Studio for web or PowerApps Studio for Windows, and share those apps with individuals and organizations. You manage data: connections, gateways, and entities (all of which we'll cover shortly.) And you see all the flows created in flows.microsoft.com, which you can integrate with your apps.

The web.powerapps.com site

PowerApps Studio

PowerApps Studio is available as a web application that you can use in any modern browser, and as a Windows application. PowerApps Studio has three panes and a ribbon that make app creation feel similar to building a slide deck in PowerPoint:

  1. Left navigation bar, in which you can show a thumbnail for each screen in your app or a hierarchical view of all the controls on each screen
  2. Middle pane, which shows the screen that you're working on
  3. Right-hand pane, where you set options such as layout and data sources
  4. Property drop-down list, where you select the properties that formulas apply to
  5. Formula bar, where you add formulas (as in Excel) that define app behavior
  6. Ribbon, where you add controls and customize design elements

PowerApps Studio

PowerApps Mobile

PowerApps Mobile for Windows, iOS, and Android provides an environment where you can find and use apps. Instead of going to separate app stores, you stay in PowerApps and have access to all the apps that you've created and that others have shared with you. When you use apps in PowerApps Mobile, you get the most out of your device's capabilities like camera controls, GPS location, and more.

PowerApps Mobile

Admin center

The PowerApps admin center is the centralized place to administer PowerApps for an organization. This is where you define different environments, which house apps, data connections, and other elements. The admin center is also where you create Common Data Service databases, and manage permissions and data policies.

PowerApps admin center

In the next topic we'll learn about the set of related technologies that PowerApps works with to make a powerful ecosystem for app development.

Related technologies

The following technologies are often used with PowerApps to build and share robust apps across your organization. Your apps can integrate data from multiple sources and include workflows that automate tasks.

  • Microsoft Flow - create automated workflows between your favorite apps and services
  • Data sources, connections and connectors, and gateways - bring cloud and on-premises data into your apps
  • Common Data Services - integrate business data using the common data model
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 - run all your business apps in the web
  • Microsoft AppSource - share your apps into this centralized place for Microsoft and our many partners

Microsoft Flow

Microsoft Flow is a service for automating workflow across the growing number of apps and services that business users rely on. Microsoft Flow can accelerate your business so you spend less time on mundane, repetitive tasks, and more time on what you want to do. Use Microsoft Flow in conjunction with PowerApps to build apps that trigger and respond to workflows.

Microsoft Flow

Data sources, connections and connectors, and gateways

There are many data sources that you might care about, and PowerApps uses connectors to make connections to these data sources. Some of the most popular data sources are shown below—many of them are cloud services, like Salesforce. Connectors might not feel like the coolest part of app development, but they are essential to working with data that you, your colleagues, and your customers care about. For data that is stored on-premises rather than in the cloud, you use a gateway to provide a reliable connection between PowerApps and your data source. The gateway sits on an on-premises computer and communicates with PowerApps.

PowerApps data sources and connectors

Microsoft Common Data Service

The Common Data Service makes it easy to integrate business data from multiple sources. The service features a common data model that includes many entities common to apps and business processes: entities like Contact, Product, and Sales Order. The service stores the data in a scalable and reliable way, and makes the data available so that multiple applications can use it. The applications can be apps that you build in PowerApps, other Microsoft applications, or third party applications. The image below shows a portion of the Contact entity in web.powerapps.com.

PowerApps contact entity

Microsoft Dynamics 365

Dynamics 365 is a cloud service with purpose-built apps that enable you to address specific business needs like sales automation, operations, or customer service. In PowerApps, you share apps into AppSource, then users you share with view and run those apps in Dynamics 365, as well as on mobile devices. The advantage of having the apps in Dynamics 365 is that you have one place to run all your business apps - from creators in your organization, from Microsoft, and from third parties.

Microsoft Dynamics 365

Microsoft AppSource

AppSource is the place to easily find and evaluate apps from your colleagues, and from Microsoft and our partners. When you share an app from PowerApps, you make it available in AppSource. You can choose to make it available just for people in your organization, or you can make it available publicly.

Microsoft AppSource

Now you have a little more information about all the parts of PowerApps, and related technologies. Don't feel like you have to memorize the list, because we will continue to deepen your knowledge on each of the parts throughout this course. Next up is an introduction to the options you have for creating apps.

A quick look at creating apps

Now that you know the basics of PowerApps, let's jump into a quick tour of how to get started with apps. We'll look at sample apps, creating apps from a template, using shared apps, and creating apps from a data source. In the next topic, we will get more hands-on with app creation.

Check out some sample apps

In web.powerapps.com, you'll be greeted with several sample apps that you can use in your web browser. Explore these apps to get a quick sense of what's possible and how PowerApps can help your business.

PowerApps sample apps

Each sample app is designed for a specific purpose, such as managing a budget, inspecting a site, or tracking service tickets. These apps contain sample data to inspire your thinking. This app illustrates how a flooring company could help service representatives deliver accurate and immediate cost estimates when visiting customer locations.

PowerApps flooring sample app

Create an app from a template

Another good way to start is by building an app from a template. Templates are basically sample apps that you can open to understand how they are put together. They use sample data to help you get a sense of what's possible, and opening them in PowerApps Studio will help you see hands-on how an app is built. Note that templates are available only in PowerApps Studio for Windows at this time, not PowerApps Studio for web.

PowerApps app template

For example, with the Budget Tracker template, you can create an app that helps you track the budget for projects and events, with custom categories, easy data entry, and visuals that clearly show expenditures.

PowerApps budget tracker template

Use shared apps

If your team has started using PowerApps, people might have shared apps with you already. When people share apps with you, they show up in AppSource and also in Dynamics 365 if you choose to include them there. If you're a contributor to those apps, they also show up in web.powerapps.com.

PowerApps sharing

Create an app from a data source

Create apps in PowerApps Studio for web or PowerApps Studio for Windows. You'll be able to connect to data sources and start composing apps in a visual designer.

PowerApps app from data

A great way to get started is to generate an app from your own data. Just point PowerApps at the data source of your choice (for example, a SharePoint list) and watch as PowerApps automatically builds a three-screen app for browsing the list, viewing detailed records, and editing data. You can then start customizing this app to look and behave exactly how you want. We will see how the following app is created in the next topic.

PowerApps three screen app

You can also build applications from scratch and add all the pieces as you go, but the easiest way to learn about PowerApps is to start with a sample or a template, or connect to your data source and have PowerApps generate the app for you. Then you can branch out and let your imagination run wild—there will be plenty of that later in the course! In the next topic, you will learn how to generate an app from data.

Create your first app

You're now familiar with all the parts of PowerApps and the options for creating apps, so it's time to actually build an app. For this topic, we'll generate a phone app from a SharePoint Online list, but you could use data from lots of other sources, including Excel, cloud services like Salesforce, and on-premises sources such as SQL Server.

Connect to a data source

The first step in generating an app from data is to choose which PowerApps Studio to use, then connect to your data source. In web.powerapps.com, click or tap New app, then choose whether to use PowerApps Studio for Windows or PowerApps Studio for web.

Get started on web.powerapps.com

In PowerApps Studio you have the option of starting from data, from a template, or from scratch. We're building a phone app for a SharePoint list, so under SharePoint click or tap Phone layout.

Phone app from SharePoint list

Generated apps are always based on a single list or table (you can add more data to the app later). The next three screens take you through the process of connecting to the Flooring Estimates list in SharePoint Online.

Connect to SharePoint Online list

After you click Connect, PowerApps starts to generate the app. PowerApps makes all sorts of inferences about your data so that it generates a useful app as a starting point.

Explore the generated app

Success! Your new three screen app opens in PowerApps Studio. All apps generated from data have the same set of screens:

  • The browse screen: where you browse, sort, filter, and refresh the data pulled in from the list, as well as add items by clicking the (+) icon.
  • The details screen: where you view more detail about an item, and can choose to delete or edit the item.
  • The edit/create screen: where you edit an existing item or create a new one.

In the left navigation bar, click or tap an icon in the upper-right corner to switch to the thumbnail view.

Toggle the views

Click or tap each thumbnail to view the controls on that screen.

The generated app

Click or tap Start app preview arrow in the top right to run the app. If you navigate through the app, you see that it includes all the data from the list and provides a good default experience.

Wow, that was pretty easy! In a few minutes you learned how to connect to a data source, generate an app, and get acquainted with PowerApps Studio and the three app screens. In later sections, you'll see how to customize generated apps. In the next topic we review this section of the course and get you ready for future lessons.

Review this section

Let's do a quick review of what you learned in the first section.

PowerApps is a collection of software services and apps that work together to fundamentally transform and accelerate how you build and share custom line of business applications.

PowerApps connects to the cloud services and data sources you're already using, giving you the ability to quickly build apps that suit specific needs - building on skills you already have. You can share apps instantly with your co-workers across the web, tablets, and mobile devices. PowerApps also integrates with Microsoft Flow, making it possible to trigger workflows from within apps. There are several components that make up PowerApps and a set of related technologies that make it even more powerful.

The easiest way to get started with PowerApps is to run the samples, play around with the templates, and generate apps from your own data. You have seen how to generate an app based on a SharePoint list. You now have a solid base, and you will be building and sharing out apps in no time.

What's Next?

Congratulations! You have finished the first section of PowerApps Guided Learning. Regardless of how much experience you began with, we hope you now have a very clear picture of what PowerApps is and how you can start creating apps. We've included some useful resources and downloads below, but you should definitely take a look at more of Guided Learning. At this point, you can choose where to go next:

Both sections show how to generate and customize an app. The SharePoint section has a bit more information on the generated app, and the Common Data Service section includes more complex customizations. Of course you can go through both sections, just pick a place to start.

PowerApps resources

PowerApps downloads

Congratulations!

You've completed the Getting started section of Microsoft PowerApps Guided Learning.

You learned how to...

Next Tutorial

Creating an app from SharePoint

Contributors

  • Michael Blythe