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Top tips: How to build your first Power Apps solution

Made it with Power Apps

A few months ago, we put out the Made It with Power Apps challenge to all our fans on Twitter, asking for their best tips and tricks. We wanted to know what advice they would give to those building their first app. Here are some of our favorites:

Power tip #1: Don’t start from scratch

One of the most popular pieces of advice we heard was to start by using a template. As is often the case, starting from somewhere is easier than starting from nowhere and Microsoft Power Apps is no exception. Power Apps fan Daniel Christian recommends new users start by reverse-engineering an existing template which can be found in the Power Apps user community. There are a ton of simple, easy to build-off of templates available to download for free. Check out and explore what already exists—you can often modify or expand on a template to create what you need. Templates act as a great starting point you can build off of to add the additional functionality that your organization needs. They not only save you time, but many have already done the heavy lifting for you. In our books, that’s a double win.

Power tip #2: Think before you build

Before you set out to build anything, think through three things first:

  1. Are you replacing an existing system? If so, you’ve got a great head start because the data you need to access is already being stored somewhere. Say the data you’re looking for is currently in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. That means you already have a backend, database, tables, schema, etc. The basic work of storing the data has already been figured out for you. Score!
  2. Decide on your form factor. Determine if you should build a desktop, tablet, or mobile app right off the bat. Think about how your app will most commonly be used because while Power Apps has a lot of great responsive design capabilities, tablet and desktop apps can’t be used on mobile devices. Screen ratios can be tricky when you’re just starting out, and in the wise words of our friend Daniel, if you’re not thoughtful about this first, “things are just going to get all whacked out.”
  3. Find the simplest path forward. Finally, don’t try to build a super-loaded app right off the bat. Start with determining the bare-bones functionality of what your app needs to do and where the data is going to be stored, then go from there. Hold off on adding any bells and whistles until the basics are in place. Then go to town with any enhancements.

Power tip #3: Standardize naming conventions

While this may not be the glitziest tip out there, it’s definitely one of the most important. Why? Take it from Data Analyst Corey Fiacco, who learned this great tip back in February 2019. Standardizing naming will also help you out down the road, not just when you’re getting started. Applying standard naming to all of the fields and collections within your app will save you a ton of time when (not if) you have to go back, edit, or troubleshoot. Without it, you’ll likely have a hard time determining where things are. It doesn’t matter what naming convention you choose, just pick something that works for you. Get into a regular practice of renaming all of your screens, controls, groups, and local variables from their default values. As your app becomes more and more complex, this will help you describe and identify what those controls do simply by looking at the names.

For more great tips from Power Apps users like Daniel and Corey about how to set yourself up for success, watch these videos anytime.