11 min read

October PowerApps updates are rolling out. Say hello to many new features!

We’re excited to share that many of the items in the October Release Notes are now beginning to roll into preview environments, with others already available in production!

If you’re at Microsoft Ignite in Orlando this week (or following along online), we’ll go into more depth and demo many of these new features in this session. You can catch the full list of awesome PowerApps sessions during or after the event streaming on demand.

Before we dig into the all the details, here’s a higher level rundown of how these features fit together. We’ve focused on the following key priorities:

  1. Quality, quality, quality. PowerApps is now faster and more reliable than ever before, with continued investments in core platform fundamentals. We’re also rolling out tools that help makers and admins deliver higher quality experiences to your end users. App Checker and Solution Checker provide rich line-by-line guidance for canvas and model-driven app designers, and the PowerApps Preview program now makes it possible to try new bits ahead of production rollout to maintain continuity. Jump to the full details.
  2. More powerful apps built on CDS with continued platform unification. Earlier this year we announced a major set of new features for the Common Data Service, brought in directly from the robust Dynamics 365 platform. We’re continuing that unification journey, delivering new capabilities across the board from the combined strengths of both platforms. Now you can include canvas apps and flows in solutions to take advantage of the same infrastructure that powers app lifecycle management for Dynamics 365, and embed canvas apps directly in CDS entity forms to make model-driven UI customization and data connectivity easier. Jump to the full details.
  3. More productive makers. Building business apps faster is the core promise of PowerApps, and we’ve continued to invest in helping makers of all abilities do more with less complexity. With rich connected screen templates, improved accessibility, easier form customization, reimagined designers for CDS components and much more, a steady stream of usability improvements is continuing to expand an accelerate the success of makers on the platform. Jump to the full details.
  4. Awesome end user experiences. PowerApps isn’t just for building apps faster, it’s also a way to deliver world-class user experiences that help your team work more efficiently (and enjoy it along the way). The Unified Interface used by Dyanmics 365 and standalone model-driven apps continues to improve with new features, faster performance, and cleaner UX. Canvas apps have new controls, improved themes, custom sizes and more capabilities that help them feel at home in any host. Jump to the full detials.
  5. Greater admin visibility and control. PowerApps adoption is growing dramatically across organizations, and as it does we’re helping IT admins keep up with great tools for managing adoption and maintaining high standards without slowing down citizen development. Admins now have richer analytics and insight into how their organizations are using the platform, and thanks to a new set of management connectors can now use PowerApps and Flow to fully customize how they manage PowerApps and Flow. Jump to the full details.

Quality, quality, quality

See risks and get helpful guidance across components with Solution Checker. Model-driven makers and Dynamics 365 customizers often end up with highly sophisticated solutions that can be difficult debug and diagnose. The new Solution Checker will now analyze any unmanaged solution for performance and stability risks, identifying down to the individual component (and in some cases even line of code) patterns that are problematic. Download a detailed report that points to in-depth documentation about how to resolve each issue. Solution Checker is rolling into Private Preview now and will be more widely available in the coming month.

PowerApps Solution Checker

Get inline guidance on formulas and accessibility with App Checker. Solution Checker builds directly on the pattern established by App Checker, an inline tool in the PowerApps Studio that identifies issues with formulas as well as app accessbility, and provides recommendations to improve. App Checker is available today worldwide.

PowerApps App Checker

Test new features before they roll to production with a Preview environment. Now you can get early access to upcoming features and updates before they’re available in worldwide production regions. You can try out, learn about, and dogfood upcoming functionality and enable business continuity by ensuring apps continue to work with updates — including many of the features described here.

Embedded apps launch much faster. The bulk of our engineering effort in the last several months has been “under the hood,” boosting performance and reliability of key scenarios. One of those scenarios is the time it takes to launch an app embedded in a host like SharePoint Online. Especially for embedded forms, fast load times make a big difference in how natural the customization feels in the experience. We’re pleased to report great progress on this front, with embedded forms loading dramatically faster now than a few months ago across the board.

Use the Concurrent() function to help apps load faster. Often makers can have a big impact on the time it takes an app to load by improving the way it works with data. Some apps struggle with load time due to OnStart or OnVisible properties that have many instructions. By default, these execute in order, one after the other, which can slow app load times down significantly. The new Concurrent() function addresses this by wrapping any number of external function calls and executing them together at once without waiting for the previous to finish.

More powerful capabilities building apps on CDS

Improved ALM with canvas apps in solutions. Canvas apps and flows can now be included in the same solution infrastructure that powers the full Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement platform. This brings great improvements to the limited import-export functionality previously offered for canvas apps, and means that all key platform assets can now be moved together across environments as well as published to Microsoft AppSource on a single infrastructure.

A full solution browsing experience is now inline and modernized at PowerApps.com. This makes it easy to quickly pick a solution you want your app, flow, or other component to be included with when authoring. App makers, system integrators and ISVs can then leverage import and export functionality to distribute composite solutions and manage app lifecycles across environments, as well as to publish to Microsoft AppSource. This capability is rolling out in Preview starting October 1st to a first ring of customers and will continue to reach new regions throught the month.

Easily customize entity form UI and connect to data with embedded canvas apps. App makers and Dynamics 365 customizers can now embed canvas apps in their entity forms just like they add custom controls today. Host forms can pass data context of the current record, a related record or a set of related records to an embedded canvas app. This lets makers create rich, contextual sections, grids and other visualizations without writing custom UI code. And thanks to the rich connector capabilities in canvas apps, it also significantly reduces the complexity of bringing data from 200+ sources directly into a model-driven form. This capability is rolling out to an early set of Private Preview customers and will be available more broadly in the coming weeks, hot on the heels of solution awareness for canvas apps.

Embed canvas apps in PowerApps model-driven entity forms

More easily work with relational data in CDS. Working with relational data is key to most business applications, yet it can be tedious to write queries that pull in the necessary information, join on foreign keys, and control the projection using PowerApps expressions. Advancements in the expression language and CDS connector are now making these tasks much easier. Previously, for example, a gallery of Accounts that also displayed the last name of a Contact associated with each account required a complex Lookup() expression and joining multilpe entities.

Going forward, all you’ll need to write instead is ThisItem.PrimaryContact.LastName. The Contacts data source doesn’t even need to be loaded. PowerApps analyzes the app to determine which lookups are desired, and brings in only the fields that are required for the projection. This and other improvements for working with data in CDS from PowerApps Studio – including better support for Option Sets – are set to roll out later in October. We’ve also recently shipped support for GUID data types (for use in both CDS and SQL) as well as friendlier treatment for display names in formula authoring.

Attachments for CDS. Earlier this year we shipped Attachment support for SharePoint lists, and we’re pleased to announce that a similar capability is now available for CDS in production everywhere. Add and remove photos, files, and other documents directly related to any CDS entity record.

More productive makers

Build quickly with connected screen templates. Now you can use the PowerApps canvas to quickly assemble apps using pre-built screens for common scenarios like sending emails, scheduling meetings, finding people and more. Many of these templates connect automatically to Microsoft Graph, enabling you to quickly build great experiences in a few clicks without writing expressions, configuring connections, or futzing with lots of controls. Screen templates are available now in Preview, and rolling to production over the next few weeks.

Brand new view designer, improved app module and sitemap designers. We’ve been hard at work modernizing the model-driven app design experience in a way that will benefit the full platform going forward. The next major step to roll out is a brand new View Designer for configuring views over Common Data Service entities. The new designer has many improvements over its legacy counterpart, including the ability to see a live preview as you apply filtering and sorting logic. Additionally, we are adding simplified sizing and sorting via the column headers like SharePoint and Excel to make it faster to get the view you want. The view designer is in the final stages of testing and is on track to roll to production by mid-October.

Photo of the new View Designer.

In addition to the new view designer, we’ve been incrementally improving the app and sitemap design experiences for model-driven apps. You can now play an app while working on it, as well as more easily add and edit components in-line (and rest assured they’ll end up in the proper solution when you do). We’ve also freshened up the sitemap designer and added SVG support for Unified Interface icons.

Accessible app authoring for everyone. A core part of the PowerApps mission is enabling everyone to build business apps, regardless of their background or abilities. Hand in hand with improving the accessibilty for end users of PowerApps, we’ve also made major progress over the last several months improving accessibility for makers. Specifically, we’ve focused on making it possible to build and manage your apps entirely using keyboard and screen reader technologies throughout all of the modern management and design experiences at PowerApps.com.

Easier field selection and form customization, including dependent dropdowns without formulas. We’re making it easier to discover and manage the fields included in a form, gallery, or data table by exposing the entry points to field editing in more places (live now) and improving the experience of selecting data and fields as you’re working in PowerApps Studio (rolling out in the next few weeks). We’re also making it easier to create drop-downs and combo boxes that depend on what’s selected in another control on the canvas — a key scenario for anyone designing a form whether it’s based in SharePoint or CDS. Previously this was only possbile by writing a Filter() expression; very soon you’ll be able to do this in a few clicks with a friendly callout on the canvas property pane.

Better tree view and enhanced group control. We’ve refactored the tree view in PowerApps Studio to not only improve performance, but also to make it easier to work with large apps. You can now expand/collapse all sections, reorder inline, and more. We’ve also made grouping more than just an authoring concept. Newly enhanced groups on the  canvas work when apps are being used as well, making it possible for keyboard order to match the visual structure of your page and giving more control over layout nesting as we well as relative positioning of child controls within parents. Both of these enhancements are already available in production.

Improved formula authoring with automatic formatting and commenting. The formula bar in PowerApps Studio is growing up. You can now automatically format your longer formulas to make them easier to read, and you can add comments right in line to remind yourself or a co-author what’s happening through complex steps. You’ll notice we’ve started to use these comments in the connected screen templates and more recent samples to help explain how they’re working with data and logic. Both formatting and commenting are already available in production, with more enhancements to the formula authoring experience on the way.

Create in-app messages easily with a single expression. No longer do you need to add multiple hidden controls, variables, and formulas just to show a simple message to your users when something happens. The new Notify() function can be used to serve a message in response to any action on the canvas. Makers can choose how the message is presented based on its type: errors are red, success is green, warnings are yellow, and violets are blue.

Awesome end user experiences

Improved Unified Interface for model-driven apps and Dynamics 365. Unified Interface is the modern UI platform for Dynamics 365 and model-driven apps, and it’s getting better all the time. We’ve shipped a steady stream of fundamentals improvements and features such as a better lookup experience, persisting form selection even when users navigate away, and enabling hybrid experiences with the legacy web client for long-tail scenarios. Siginficant advancements rolling out in October include a streamlined sitemap navigation and commanding experience, putting the team on course to begin enabling Unified Interface by default for many types of new environments.

Canvas apps of any size. As more and more PowerApps are embedded in other applications across the web, from SharePoint and Teams to Dynamics 365 and standalone model-driven apps, it becomes important to be able to create for canvasses that don’t match tradtional form factor sizes. Now in production, makers can set custom sizes for apps to create the perfect fit, whether it’s a small widget embedded as a SharePoint Web Part or a standalone app running on a 4K monitor.

Improved themes. There are 8 new Office themes which make embedded apps inside of SharePoint feel like they belong. The existing PowerApps standard themes have been given a more modern and fresh feel through updating them with contrast compliant colors.

Edit rich text on the web. The Rich Text Editor control, available now as an Experimental control on the PowerApps canvas, provides the app user a WYSIWYG editing area for formatting text. The control’s input and output format is HTML, and it allows copied rich text (i.e from web browser or Word) to be pasted into the control.

Greater admin visibility and control

New rich insights for admins. The Power platform admin center is in now in Public Preview. In the first phase of this preview, admins will be able to access new usage, error and performance reports for the apps and flows that users have built within their organization. Over time, the Power platform admin center will become the one-stop shop for adminstering PowerApps, Flow, and Dynamics 365 across an organization as well as an improved front door for support.

Manage PowerApps and Flow… using PowerApps and Flow. We’ve recently released a set of management connectors for PowerApps and Flow that allow admins and makers to use the platform itself to monitor and act on platform usage. Now an admin can, for example, set up a flow to regularly monitor for new apps and flows created and report on their usage.

Best practices for Admin and Governance. Curious what companies are doing to govern and manage PowerApps as they roll out to tens of thousands of global users? What should your company be thinking about when it comes to security, environments, ALM, and user access? We’ve accumulated the state of the art on all things admin into a single resource, coauthored with the Microsoft IT team that is currently modernizing legacy applications on the platform for our own global workforce. Check out the PowerApps and Flow Governance and Deployment Whitepaper.