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PowerApps for pros: develop faster with low code

Headshot of article author Ryan Cunningham

As we open Microsoft Build 2019 this week, the Power Platform is a hot topic for software developers.

That’s right: low-code has arrived as an important new capability in any professional developer’s toolkit.

We’ve doubled down our efforts to ensure a “no cliffs” experience in PowerApps, allowing pros to augment the speed of low-code development with more sophisticated assets and practices when needed. As a result, we’re seeing more organizations take a bet on PowerApps, with IT departments rolling out apps at scale in record time, and we have been recognized as an industry leader in low-code for application development professionals.

A recap of recent new features and capabilities that are helping drive this momentum:

Develop custom components for PowerApps

We’ve just released a preview of the new PowerApps component framework, which introduces the ability for developers to build custom controls using code and use them directly in PowerApps. This includes high-productivity tooling with the new PowerApps CLI and Visual Studio plugins to make the end to end development experience smooth. Partners and customers using our early previews have already delivered a stunning array of custom user experiences with the component framework.

Learn more about the PowerApps component framework and tooling announcement here, and follow this blog for improvements as we expand what’s possible for custom control development.

Manage lifecycle through development, test, and production

Canvas apps and flows are now included in solutions, the same infrastructure that enables lifecycle management for Dynamics 365 and the Common Data Service. This means that developers can now package all related apps, logic, schema, and other components and move them together across environments. We’re modernizing the experience for solution management, ensuring an easy end-to-end process that makes it possible to follow best practices with just a few clicks. Solution awareness will also allow developers to manage apps in source control along with their code and fully automate their build and release pipelines.

Ensure quality with PowerApps checker

We’ve recently announced the general availability of solution checker – a powerful analysis tool that identifies potential performance and stability risks across all the assets in a solution, directing developers to specific guidance on how to improve. Customers leveraging the PowerApps checker in preview saw significant performance improvement in key scenarios like form load time when they resolved issues identified by the checker.

We’ll continue to expand the breadth and depth of what PowerApps checker can analyze, as well as continue integrating it directly into authoring experiences to help catch issues early and teach best practices while developers are working.

Custom connectors, code plugins, on-prem and more

These recent advancements join a host of existing extensibility features for professionals working on the platform, including:

Go deeper on these and many other capabilities using our documentation for pro developers or this handy roundup of PowerApps learning resources.

Innovation for everyone

All this news about code and professional development may strike some people as counterintuitive. Isn’t PowerApps meant for non-developers? Why would a coder choose to not write code? Can these two audiences really work together on the same platform?

It’s true that many of the inspiring stories we’ve come to associate with PowerApps are centered on makers who are not traditionally software developers. Thousands of people with jobs like security guard, auto glass repair dispatcher, or assistant principal have been able to do transformative things in PowerApps without a background in computer science or any help from a professional. Dramatically expanding who can build apps and solve business problems with technology continues to be our core driving priority on the PowerApps team.

However, to focus exclusively on citizen developers in this journey tells an incomplete story. Most organizations today are heavily invested in experts and technology to build and maintain the software that their businesses rely on. For these professionals, low-code offers several key advantages over “traditional” full stack software development.

  • CDS is a rich data platform relied on at scale by millions of users, with schema, logic, and security built in – why start all this from scratch?
  • The platform natively connects with hundreds of data sources in a few clicks – why manage data integration independently?
  • PowerApps can quickly create robust user experience on top of all these data sources, deployed instantly across iOS, Android, and the web, with AAD authorization already handled for free – why develop all this with code?
  • When building on PowerApps and CDS, every asset including data, logic, components, security roles, etc., can be easily reused across hundreds of applications – why start every new project in a silo?

The professionals who are building with PowerApps are doing it because they can focus their coding skills on the hard problems that matter, and go faster with everything else. But speed isn’t the only reason. Because citizen developers are also working on the platform, it allows everyone to meet in the middle in a way never before possible.

Classic low code tools of the past tend to hit a “cliff” at a certain sophistication level, lacking the capability that PowerApps now has to gracefully grow up with more advanced controls, data sources, and lifecycle management. This allows projects started by citizen developers to be taken further by pros when and if needed.

Classic ‘pro code’ development, on the other hand, has never been accessible or fast enough to iterate on directly with end users. Instead, as an industry, we’ve spent decades inventing ways to extract needs and expertise from users and translate them into software. Discovery processes. Requirements documents. User research. Project planning and agile sprints. This “process layer” takes incredible time and resources, separating developers from the reality of users’ experience and needs.

PowerApps fundamentally breaks down these barriers. The real power of the platform is that it gives professionals and citizen developers the chance to truly work together to solve a problem.

What happens next is genuinely transformative. Just ask one of the many software professionals choosing PowerApps today: