Power Apps is a member of the Microsoft Power Platform, which is part of the Microsoft 365 and Azure ecosystems.
Power Apps can create rich electronic forms. Like most forms products, it offers visual interfaces that contain data entry fields and selection fields -- like dropdowns, checkboxes or date fields -- and supports responsive UI to scale and support realignment on mobile devices. Power Apps offers extensive integration through Microsoft's connector ecosystem to its other services -- such as Microsoft 365, Azure, SharePoint and Power Automate -- and many third-party vendor platforms, such as Adobe, Amazon, Dropbox, Google, Salesforce and Zendesk. Power Apps has over 400 connectors available.
Power Apps is a natural InfoPath successor for organizations that use Microsoft technology. Power Apps can build forms, so it can replace Microsoft's InfoPath Forms tool, which has an end-of-life approaching in 2026. While Power Apps forms do not yet have all the capabilities of InfoPath forms, they will in time.
Example use cases for Power Apps include the following:
- Forms to capture metadata for document artifacts. Examples of metadata include the title, subject matter tags, reviews by date and document type -- including contract, purchase order, floor plan, budget or project plan.
- Forms to capture metadata for product catalogs. Examples of metadata include the product name, price, category, description, reviews and attributes such as color, weight or size.
- Forms to review and approve content management lifecycle changes. Examples include changing a document from draft to final or approving or rejecting a product catalog entry.
- Embellish existing forms or create new forms for business applications. Examples of business apps are ERP, CRM, warehouse management systems and content management apps, especially when the CMA is headless, so it does not include native user interface forms.
- Build personalized websites. Examples include partner management, customer self-service, product support and FAQs. Power Apps Portal enables this use case. Microsoft designed Portal to support third-party secure and anonymous access to data stored within the Microsoft Dataverse -- formerly called the Common Data Service.
The other tools in Microsoft Power Platform
In addition to Power Apps, the Microsoft Power Platform also includes Power Automate and Power BI.
Power Automate, previously Flow, can create automations. Automations can range from simple -- sending an email when a document changes -- to complex, involving data retrieval and updates across multiple platforms, services and applications. Power Automate is like Power Apps and works with Microsoft's services, as well as hundreds of third-party vendor products and services.
Power BI can consume data from various sources and render it in rich visuals across dashboards and reports. It enables users to interact with those visuals to gain insights.
Power Apps, Power Automate and Power BI are not content management tools. Rather, they can act alongside each other and form components of a holistic content management service.
Limitations of Power Apps
Despite the power and comprehensiveness Power Apps offers, it has limitations organizations should consider.
Licensing is constrained under the Microsoft 365 umbrella
Power Apps forms can only operate within the licensed business domain. However, users can share content with their colleagues and guest users who have Active Directory accounts and Power Apps licenses. Power Apps Portal also offers third-party and anonymous access.
A complicated licensing model
The licensing model has multiple plans, which users may struggle to understand. Also, Microsoft 365 licensing restricts certain connectors to higher tiers.
Power Apps costs $120 per user annually for an individual app, as the monthly price for one app per user is $10. Alternatively, Power Apps costs $40 per user monthly for unlimited apps. However, in October 2021, Microsoft will decrease these prices from $10 to $5 and $40 to $20. Organizations should consider how costs scale with hundreds or thousands of users who require access to certain apps.
Microsoft licenses Power Apps Portal differently. Portal costs $200 for 100 logins monthly and $100 for 100,000 webpage views monthly for authenticated external users. For internal Portal users, licensing is per app or unlimited.
Power Apps enables users to build simple forms quickly with its low-code services. Yet, forms with complex business logic or forms that evolve can cause problems due to a limited capability to manage the code base and track changes.
Power Apps integrated development environment
The Power Platform's IDE runs on the web. Users design all forms from a web browser -- not a desktop application -- so they can't develop forms offline or disconnected from the internet. IDEs through web browsers generally lack the sophistication of desktop IDE environments.
Limited support for multiple device sizes and screen orientations
Power Apps requires users to develop multiple versions of apps. Responsive forms can scale to some extent, yet they require a compromise. For example, an app optimized for phones and tablets requires two versions -- one for each device.
Power Apps has a 2,000 item restriction from a connected data source like SharePoint, SQL or Oracle.
Throughput limits of the connector ecosystem
Throughput varies by connection. However, trying to read or write hundreds of items from SharePoint lists, SQL databases or Excel workbooks can exceed allowed thresholds and cause failures. For example, Power Apps permits 1,000 connector requests per 24-hour period in the per-app licensing plan. Each connector's throughput limits vary and can be complex.
Microsoft limits Power Apps attachment control to SharePoint or Dataverse at the back end, so platforms like OneDrive or SQL cannot be the target document stores. Additionally, the maximum upload size is 50 MB.
No shared functions or shared code
Each app in Power Apps where users execute business logic -- such as field validation or field calculations -- requires the same logic built and maintained across apps. Larger, more complex forms with many lines of embedded programming logic could lead to unpredictability when users add or change program lines to meet changing business requirements.