The Latest Flow and PowerApps Updates: Visio; CDS; Confirm Exit; Standard Bank

June 19 2019

Microsoft announced the 2019 Wave 2 release of Flow in connection with its Business Application Summit in Atlanta, touting its new AI Builder system as the biggest element of the offering for the Power Platform.

Stephen Siciliano, principal group program manager for Flow recommended users take advantage of Microsoft Visio within the Flow portal to sketch out the logic for a flow. The approach replaces older planning methods like using SharePoint workflows or flowcharts. Over 200 users voted on the ideas forum in favor of triggers for Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations. Instead of the well-known "when an item is created, updated or deleted" actions, these flows will trigger from business events. Microsoft is storing approvals in the Common Data Service and changing the system so that expired flows can still respond to approval requests. Additionally, a new cancel approval button allows admins to withdraw approval for a flow. Approval emails will be updated to indicate that the approval has gone through and admins can even choose to disable the built-in email.

Microsoft highlighted a number of new connectors for Flow launched in May. Microsoft Translator V2, a connector for V2 of the LinkedIn API, Dynamics 365 Sales Insights and Video Indexer V2 are just a few examples.

The June update to the on-premises data gateway released on June 11, with HTTPS by default, a new performance monitoring template, a Performance Profile founded on gateway CPU usage and a port test issue resolution. Some operating systems may not be supported after July when the Flow team will begin using the .NET 4.7.2 framework for gateways.

Microsoft software engineer, Jack Sigmund, shared Office 365, Outlook and Gmail templates and a solution overview for creating email alerts about meetings prior to 10 a.m. He navigated the "get current time" function with UTC and added a day to indicate the following date on the calendar and filtered for hours early in the day. Sigmund noted that there are differences in the way calendars are set up between Google Calendar and Outlook. Google Calendar doesn't have a filter for all day events.

Jonathon Levesque, senior platform evangelist, and Anton Khritonenkov, co-fouder of Plumsail shared a way to automate PDF creation from a template. Khritonenkov started with Plumsail Forms for Web, setup as a wizard, and used a DOCX file. He enabled a form ID so that Flow would trigger when the form is created and converted the generated DOCX file to PDF, finally saving it into SharePoint and sending it in an email.

Microsoft shipped the June update for EasyRepro on GitHub, the Automated UI testing API for Dynamics 365 and model-driven standalone PowerApps. NuGet packages will be easily downloadable and EasyRepro added API updates work better with Dynamics 365 and standalone PowerApps. Data Table controls are also getting an overhaul, with new controls demoed in an experimental section. Like the form control it has a new field selection experience, with call outs to add existing fields and configurable column controls.

The PowerApps team is permitting metadata customization. For new entities, users can input an entity and display name and edit the primary field or entity description. Under PowerApps' advanced settings, users will find opportunities to improve data source experiences with CDS views, applying CDS views as a filter on entities. Because there may be a large number of data sources listed, the system will recommend what it infers are the most likely to be used. Under the connectors section, the data source picker shows all of the current connections within the environment and lets users create new connections. Microsoft advises users to remove existing CDS connections before using this option.

Better leveraging CDS continues to be an emerging theme for PowerApps. In the past, the team provided Excel workbooks with Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement SDKs listing messages or entities eligible to register plug-ins with. Now, a Plug-in Registration tool goes beyond a static list, querying for custom actions. Senior program manager, Jim Daly, shared how to find the Service Root URL under PowerApps Advanced Settings and Developer Resources. He sourced data into an Excel workbook from Dynamics 365 online, pasting in the URL, signing in and transforming data with PowerQuery Editor. This loads a list of message entities.

According to Greg Lindhorst, principal program manager for PowerApps, the new JSON function for canvas apps returns JSON strings for canvas data structures, with support for images and media and base65 encoding for camera images. However, some data types are unsupported like record and control references. JSON can wrack up memory and compute quickly, so the team blocked it from normal data flows, meaning that users can only invoke it from behavior formulas such as OnSelect.

PowerApps objects have two new properties: A ConfirmExit boolean and a message that appears in a confirm dialog. This is meant to prevent the loss of unsaved changes, from clicking back in the mobile version or closing a browser. Users will need some of the newest versions of iOS and Android to use the features.

In South Africa, Standard Bank announced the formation of a Power Platform Center of Excellence. Since adopting Power Platform in February, 2017, the bank has developed 300 solutions, combining functionalities of PowerApps, Flow and Power BI linked to SharePoint Online. For instance, one team created an app for inspecting 8000 ATM machines, building the app prototype in only 24 hours. The app uses GPS to find ATMs close by and uploads photos of any issues. Other solutions include ones for grants management, withholding tax or insurance claims management.

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