April has been a big month for Microsoft Dynamics and the Power Platform, with new apps and over 400 new features and enhancements released. Solutions Architect, Richard McAtamney shares his insights on the new capabilities.
As a Power Platform aficionado with nearly 17 years within the Financial Services sector, I’m really interested in the new Power Apps and Power Apps Portals capabilities.
Major announcements in the form of Mixed Reality in Power Apps, which tentatively present a number of new use cases and innovations in the bank branch network and the general availability of AI Builder have a huge positive impact on team productivity, improved user experiences and slickened customer journeys.
Additionally, Microsoft have worked hard to make improvements that:
- make the build slicker for in-house and development teams
- which integrate meaningfully with other technologies
- translate to innovative customer experiences and improved operational workflows for in-house teams.
Here are updates and key features from the Power Apps and Power Apps Portals release:
- It’s now possible to create Apps directly from Microsoft Teams, using existing SharePoint Data.
This allows you to:
- Drives deep integrations with productivity apps and advanced capabilities in azure
- Makes it easy to create Apps in teams with existing business data
- Create applications within your channels
- Automatically generate first few screens from data already within the Teams SharePoint site.
With Teams now the virtual workplace of choice for over 75 million global users, teams of varying skill levels can now create applications that use the context of the space they’re embedded in, bring applications to Teams mobile and give users a context that enhances productivity.
- Additionally, later this month, personal Power Apps apps will be available on the Teams mobile client. This functionality allows users to:
- Pin applications to the bottom their Teams navigation bar and open directly within the Teams setting.
- Provide quick access to mobile apps.
- Drive quick collaboration in crisis or rapid response situations, for example for frontline workers during the global health pandemic
This functionality can also have multiple uses within business and customer facing settings,
- Enhanced capabilities and experience in Model Driven Apps Offline mode
The need for enhanced offline functionality has never been more apparent than in the last few months. Systems have been overloaded with the business community shifting to remote working and frontline workers needing to communicate in the field or on the go.
Microsoft are continuously working on improving features in off-line mode. Enhancements to Model Driven Apps Offline include:
- Model driven apps are faster & more reliable in offline mode
- Entities such as currency will be available in offline mode
- Better communication & more actionable error messages
- Barcode Scanner control also now available in offline mode
- Power Apps mobile has all your apps on a single application
The preview of Power Apps mobile application allows user to launch canvas and model driven apps together from a single point, removing the user pain of two separate apps and creating a unified experience. Key highlights include:
- Canvas and Model-driven apps now run on a single mobile application
- All Model-Driven and Canvas Apps available in a single mobile App
- Makers can deliver a targeted experience to users on a single application
- Pixel perfect, task-based Canvas App or declarative metadata driven model-driven app.
- Canvas & Model-driven apps will appear together in a single list of apps in the PowerApps Mobile App
- Canvas App Monitor Tool now generally available
This feature is now generally available, allowing users to diagnose and troubleshoot issues with applications quicker. Key highlights include the capability to:
- Diagnose & troubleshoot applications quicker
- Import and Export Log files
- Share Diagnostic sessions, Inspect, Interpret and filter results
- Visualise event timelines
- Identify Problem areas and fix in App
- Modern Solution explorer gets a make over
For users who want to to spend less time searching and transitioning between designers and more time on making apps, this update will help create a more intuitive user journey. Key call outs are:
- Secondary navigation added
- Recent items 1 click away
- Remember settings from previous session
- PowerApps Test Studio for Canvas Apps is now generally available
For users who have canvas apps within solutions or projects, how are they usually tested? Power Apps Test Studio for canvas apps builds on the preview release and is now generally available with support for all controls and integration into the build and release pipeline. The features:
- Fully supports all Power Apps custom controls and components
- Allow new capabilities to run tests automatically
- Establish Quality Gates and efficient test automation
Some key improvements in Portals include:
- Web API’s for CRUD Operations on CDS entities
- Adds Web API’s allowing users to create, read, update and delete operations across all CDS entities (Based on User & Community Feedback)
- Portal Checker enhancements (First added in Oct 18’ Wave)
- Additional Scenarios added to help resolve common portal issues
- Power BI Embedded component in Portal Designer.
- First party integration with PowerBI, using liquid tags
- Simplify Integration
- First class component in Portal designer experience, similar to forms and list
- Remove complexity of liquid tags
- Add PowerBI report or dashboard in Portal as a component using Portal designer property panel, without having to worry about liquid code.
Sophisticated Apps on a Unified Platform
- Build responsive, reflowing Canvas App pages
App developers and makers can now build pages that are carefully tailored to needs of end users and responsive on various screen sizes.
- Build pages fully responsive to changes in screen size and orientation
- Automatic re-flow as the available real estate on the screen changes.
- Supports all existing canvas concepts and custom components
- Can be built in Power Apps Studio or Power Apps Component framework
- Build fully custom and responsive experiences into Apps
This functionality was requested by the PowerApps Community and is a huge step towards unifying App types
- Enabling Printable pages in Canvas Apps
A huge plus for field service type scenarios, this feature allows
- makers to configure a printable page within the canvas app and create a PDF.
- End users to print, email or file docs in a whole range of use cases, for example loss adjusters and claims inspectors in insurance.
- Using existing concepts to create, capture and print a page.
This functionality was a top request by the PowerApps Community.
- Enable creating and editing data in forms displayed as modal dialogue without navigating away
Users no longer need to navigate away from a form to create or edit a related record.
- Create or edit a related record within a form
- Open a main form in a dialogue directly from another main form
- Will also be available in the navigateTo Api
- Can be used in the command bar, event or plug-in to open a main record in dialogue experience
This new functionality hugely increases productivity, reduces clicks and removes unnecessary navigation across forms.
- Improvements to model-driven apps
These improvements are designed to enable end user productivity and reduce time to get started on a session. Highlights include:
- Remember last used app, reducing need to choose from an App list
- Last App will be used if an App isn’t specified within a URL
- Reduces click and increases productivity
- Visuals for existing App message bar to align with Form message bar experience.
- Model Driven Apps now have API’s to show App level messages, which remain visible while navigating
- API allows for flexibility in message Type – Eg: User Dismissible or not dismissible for permanent messages
- API support removing specific messages if they don’t apply
- Save is always visible in the command bar on edit forms
- Save and Save and Close options in command bar are now visible when editing a record.
- Previously both were hidden if autosave was on. Save was only visible in the footer
- View selector usability enhancements
- Drop down is wider and longer
- Personal views are separated from system views, shown higher on the list
- Header and Label Highlighting styles applies
- Pinning made easier and icon alignment
- Improved Data Source experience and Common Data Service view are generally available
- Speed of access to Common Data Service now greater than 50%
- The feature & speed now make this the preferred way of connecting to the CDS over the Dynamics 365 Integrator
- New Data Sources pane
- Entity View Selection
- Change CDS Environment
- Improved Data defaulting
Microsoft continue to focus investment and attention on the Common Data Service as a robust platform for apps of any scale.
- Auto generate web apps on top of your existing data
- Makers can now create Canvas Apps in landscape rather than just phone layout
- Easier to make Canva Apps for web and tablet Scenarios
- Use existing SharePoint, Excel, SQL and CDS Data without having to build it from scratch.
- App from Data Templates will now be responsive
- Generate App Once for both Phone & Tablet
- Large File & Image Support in Model-Driven Apps
- File & Image entity attribute can be added to any part of the form
- Files can be uploaded up to 128Mb
- Images can be uploaded up to 30Mb
- Attachments in forms ssed to be limited to 5MB – Limiting ability to add large files eg: PDF, Images & Videos
Now users can easily work with large images and files from CDS in any Power App.
- Improved themes in Power Apps
Introducing improved themes for both canvas and model-driven apps that reflect modern Microsoft Fluent themes. Canvas apps also have new control sizing introduced to allow makers to build apps with controls sized for web-based and mobile scenarios.
New themes made available for model-driven app as a preview.
Our technical teams love talking all things Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform. If you’d like to discuss any element of the Wave 1 2020 enhancements in more detail, please get in touch on 0845 226 8170 or email us at email@example.com.
Keep an eye on our blog and LinkedIn page for our follow up article on the Power Platform.