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5 benefits of PowerApps forms for SharePoint

Microsoft PowerApps has been around since 2015, but it is just now beginning to beat out its predecessor, InfoPath -- originally a straight PDF competitor -- in functionality.

Businesses rely on a number of forms to collect data in the field or from employees in the office -- paid time off request forms, purchase request forms, surveys and myriad sales-related data, such as contracts and legal instruments.

When Microsoft announced that InfoPath 2013 would be the last supported edition of the product in 2013, many businesses strategized to replace the software, which started as a PDF competitor but later settled in as an e-forms tool. Then, Microsoft rolled out PowerApps and Microsoft Forms in 2015 to replace InfoPath.

At the time, many developers were concerned these products would not measure up to InfoPath. But with the latest edition, Microsoft finally fulfills its promise to deliver a low-code way to build forms and apps using PowerApps within the SharePoint Online ecosystem.

Here are five benefits enterprise users will find switching to PowerApps forms.

1. Take SharePoint forms across multiple devices and platforms

InfoPath did not support mobile devices and had limited capabilities when it came to web forms. Through PowerApps, SharePoint users can interact with complex forms using iOS devices, Android devices, Windows and any browser -- expanding the platform to reach users in the field and on different systems.

2. SharePoint form design dev skills are now optional

One drawback of InfoPath is that it required advanced development skills to build complex forms. By pushing for a full browser-based app and form designer, PowerApps attracts nontechnical and business users, enabling them to build mini apps and solve their own challenges without resorting to InfoPath or other SharePoint development.

3. SharePoint no longer the sole data repository for data

PowerApps introduces support for cameras, GPS, barcode scanning and orientation.

Unlike InfoPath, PowerApps forms neither require data within the forms to reside in SharePoint lists nor do users need to navigate to SharePoint sites to access forms. This added flexibility makes PowerApps available through the native app within multiple platforms, bypassing SharePoint completely and enabling users to store their data in a number of data sources, such as cloud databases, web services, Excel, OneDrive and on-premises SQL.

4. Better functionality than traditional SharePoint forms

InfoPath provided flexibility for organizations looking to build forms to collect business data. A challenge that many SharePoint developers faced was that web-based forms needed more coding than InfoPath forms. PowerApps forms eliminate that burden by enabling users to access forms and screens, regardless of the OS and browser.

Learn about PowerApps forms

5. PowerApps is able to interact with mobile devices

When SharePoint did not support mobile view and was not accessible from mobile devices, some users resorted to third-party apps to deliver content to smartphones and tablets. Users saw the benefits when SharePoint introduced the native app back in 2017. PowerApps introduces support for cameras, GPS, barcode scanning and orientation. This functionality can now be used to collect more information that can be used within SharePoint.

PowerApps has proven that it can live up to its hype and deliver more functionality than InfoPath. But access to PowerApps comes at a price. Despite being offered as part of the enterprise plans, the free edition of PowerApps has limited workflows and data storage. Administrators must define what their true needs are when it comes to PowerApps prior to jumping into it full force.

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