PowerApp Your Office and SharePoint Mobile Solutions

Office Add-ins team

by Rob Lefferts, on November 30, 2015

Across Office, Office 365 and SharePoint, we are incredibly excited about people being productive. This fuels not only our passion to reinvent productivity, but also our vision to empower customers and partners to easily create their own custom solutions. This is the core of extensibility across everything in the Office family — it is not just a set of tools for productivity, it is also a platform for you to reimagine the way the world should work. Whether that comes from custom document templates in Word, workflow and forms driving a custom document approval in SharePoint, Add-Ins powering integration between a spreadsheet and an inventory system, or a purpose-built mobile app that an HR recruiting department uses to vet candidates. All of these solutions can be super-charged by taking advantage of the broad capabilities of Office and SharePoint.

We see a broad range of solutions builders working with a broad range of tools to deliver solutions that leverage the Office platform. Across Office and SharePoint, this include roughly 3 million professional developers working as consultants, independent software vendors, solution integrators and within numerous corporate IT departments. Those developers use our native tools, open source frameworks, mobile SDKs, Visual Studio, and work in a wide array of programming languages and platforms. Our partner developer ecosystem adds a variety of capabilities for crafting business applications — from deeper and more flexible custom forms to a wider variety of workflow conditions, actions – both within the SharePoint experience and in mobile applications. We love welcoming new ways to enhance our customer’s investments in SharePoint and Office.

This is exactly why we are excited to see the Microsoft PowerApps tool announcement today, because it opens up the range of solution builders that can work with Office. PowerApps is an enterprise software as a service for innovators everywhere to connect, create, and share business apps on any device. It couples naturally with the vision of Office as a platform and takes advantage of capabilities like mail, calendar, contacts, users, lists, and libraries from across the Office Family: Office 365, SharePoint Online, SharePoint on-premises, Excel and OneDrive. With PowerApps, you can build apps with clicks – not code – and with templates for many common app types to help you get started. It’s no longer a matter of end-users waiting for IT or a professional developer to write the code; they can easily build apps to solve their own problems. Building a solution with PowerApps on top of Office is a simple matter of (a) open the PowerApps tool, (b) connect to an Office/SharePoint data source, (c) customize the UI and (d) start using your great new app.

A mobile solution built using PowerApps showing information from a SharePoint List

A mobile solution built using PowerApps showing information from a SharePoint List.


Here are a few simple scenarios to show the kind of things that will be possible:

  • Already storing information inside a SharePoint List? For years, users have been taking advantage of the great capabilities of SharePoint Lists to make it easy to define, share and extend data, and over 1 million developers have been using it as a platform for just that reason. One simple example is using it to store a list of images for product device inventory.

    Now imagine that you can easily build the iOS, Android and Windows application that gives you a great, seamless mobile experience customized to just how you want to view those images. Or make it easy for almost any smartphone user to update data, view information across any device, and even add new photos on the go to your list of product ideas. PowerApps makes this possible both against SharePoint Online, running in Office 365, and also against SharePoint running inside your company.

  • Need specific information on the go? Suppose you’ve got a giant set of financial data inside Excel and you would like to surface a targeted mobile experience that highlights a few of the most important pieces of information on the go. This is possible with PowerApps. Again, this is not about replacing the full Excel experience. It’s about crafting the best possible experience for the mobile- and cloud-first world – letting you easily access the pieces of information you need for your particular business process, while out and about.
  • Looking to integrate your calendar? What if your sales people need a custom application that connects together a bunch of related content about the customers they’re meeting with? This could include critical information from Office 365, like their Outlook calendar and related documents in SharePoint, as well as your company’s own information about the customers they’re meeting with? Again, because PowerApps has built-in connectors for these Office services, this is a very natural and easy scenario.
  • Storing documents in OneDrive and OneDrive for Business? Many key business situations require ready access to documents, whether it’s a PowerPoint deck to drive your sales pitch, a word document to define your legal contract, an Excel document to keep track of financial data, or a OneNote notebook to help you stay on top of a wide variety of notes and items. Because PowerApps easily connect to document libraries from SharePoint, OneDrive and OneDrive for business, it is very easy to build great solutions that easily surface these critical types of content.

If you are a developer using the Office platform, then you already know how to do a bunch of these things, but PowerApps will enable several things that will be great for you.

First, PowerApps allows you to create new business apps very quickly in order to address employee demands. It brings app building with Office to a much, much broader range of users, letting them fix the simple problems themselves, while professional developers focus on the really challenging issues.

Second, PowerApps builds on your existing investments by helping you connect to rich business data from a variety of sources – including Office and other popular cloud services.

Third, PowerApps provides secure management and sharing of apps consistent with your company IT policies, so you don’t have to worry about chasing down rogue applications or who has access to the information.

And finally, PowerApps offers lots of great integration points for developers to introduce new data and experiences. If you have been developing with Office and SharePoint for a while, you might naturally ask the question whether this intended as a replacement for InfoPath or SharePoint Designer. It’s a fair question, but the short answer is “no.” All of these tools are designed to help end users craft solutions, but PowerApps is really a fresh take on the problem of solution-building in a modern, cloud and mobile world. As such, we think you’ll be delighted with its natural and intuitive design experience, its real strength of building gorgeous mobile experiences, and its powerful connection to a variety of cloud services.

It will be great to see all the things that users can create against Office and SharePoint with PowerApps. It is part of our vision to support the widest possible range of users, developers and tools to create custom, compelling, fantastic solutions that take advantage of Office data, capabilities and experiences. It is also a roadmap for future investment — over time you will see the Office family and PowerApps continue to work together to build more and more ways to unleash your imagination and vision for productivity.

For more resources check out the Channel 9 PowerApps page with all of the developer resources you will need to get started today.


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