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Display names and GUIDs for Canvas apps graduate

Headshot of article author Greg Lindhorst

Last fall we introduced display names and GUIDs for Canvas apps as Preview features.  Both have been well received with very few issues and very few authors turning these features off.  With our latest release (3.19032) these features are now permanent.

To refresh your memory, display names allow the use of friendly names such as ‘Preferred Day’ instead of the more cryptic developer oriented logical names such as preferredappointmentdaycode.  CDS adds a random prefix to custom names to ensure they are unique, but which also makes them harder to read and type.  Working in display names matches what the end user will see as labels.

Now I know there are some folks out there who prefer logical names.  You’ve told us in person and in the community forum.  We heard you and we thoroughly debated having an app switch for working only in logical names.  Ultimately a few factors led us in this direction:

  1. Telemetry on the Preview switch showed that display names had been turned off in only a small number of apps.
  2. We are trying to limit the number of our permanent switches.   We strive to avoid complexity anywhere we can in PowerApps.  Debugging an app is harder when lots of switches can modify the app’s behavior, especially for someone from a helpdesk or support who is coming in cold to help.
  3. Logical names can still be used.  We don’t advertise them in the formula suggestions but they can still be entered.  The following two formulas are identical, the first using a display name:

    and using the Logical name:
  4. We can always add the switch later.  I have created an idea in the PowerApps community forum for those would like to vote for bringing the switch back.

All that said, we didn’t force these features on for apps that already have them disabled.  Precisely what we have done is to remove the Preview switch for new apps and existing apps that already had it turned on, which has been the default for a while.  If you have an app with one of these features already turned off, the switch will still appear so that you can turn it on.  Once turned on, saved, and reloaded the feature can no longer be turned off but you can revert to a previous saved version of the app in the app portal.  Someday we will force all apps to use these features but wanted to provide a grace period to minimize disruption.

You will notice that we are not quite done with enabling display names throughout the product.  Names appear in lots of places and there are plenty of them where logical names are still being used.  Over time we will be fixing all of these to use display names instead.

Not to be forgotten, the GUID feature adds a proper GUID data type to Canvas apps.  It is universally better and less error prone than the string approach we used to use.  It does require the use of the GUID function to convert a GUID string to a GUID data type.

Feedback on these changes and the process we use to make changes to the product is always welcome.