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Low-code development with Microsoft Power Apps

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Article from ADMIN 78/2023
If the IT staff is having trouble keeping up with the demand for custom applications, end users can pitch in with low-code programming tools like Microsoft Power Apps.

Low-code and no-code methodologies allow users to build applications with no or minimal coding skills. These approaches leverage declarative programming, abstracting the challenges of conventional programming.

The biggest difference between low-code and no-code platforms is that low-code provides the option to add code manually, if necessary, whereas no-code platforms abstract the code entirely. Low-code tools typically offer visual interfaces, pre-built components, and access to code libraries, allowing developers to create applications by easily dragging and dropping elements and connecting data sources. Some popular low-code platforms include Appian, Mendix, OutSystems, and Microsoft Power Apps [1].

The goal of no-code platforms is to allow the non-technical user to create basic applications or automate processes without support from IT or development staff. No-code tools make extensive use of visual modeling and pre-built templates. Examples of no-code platforms are: Airtable, Bubble, Glide, Webflow, and Zapier.

Skillful use of low-code and no-code programming can improve time to market, increase agility, enhance collaboration, and reduce costs. However, as you might expect, low-code and no-code techniques are not right for every project. In some scenarios, low-code and no-code can limit flexibility, reduce scalability, inhibit integration with legacy systems, and promote vendor lock-in. Typical uses for low-code methods include handling complex processes, system integration, and custom logic. No-code platforms are often used for prototyping, automating repetitive tasks, and building small applications.

Table 1 shows some of the key differences between low-code and no-code platforms.

Table 1

Low-Code vs. No-Code

Feature Low-Code No-Code
Primary user Developers Business users
Support for end-to-end development? Yes No
Purpose Provides support for Rapid Application Development (RAD) Provides the necessary interfaces and tools to design and build apps without the need for coding skills
Support for customization Pre-built templates to build custom applications Support for complete customization
Application complexity Can be used to build complex applications Can be used to build simple applications

Building a Low-Code Application

Microsoft Power Apps (Figure 1) is a low-code development platform for building web and mobile applications. Microsoft calls Power Apps "a suite of apps, services, and connectors, as well as a data platform, that provides a rapid development environment to build custom apps for your business needs." Power Apps is a good example of a low-code platform that lets you roll out a custom application in just a few steps.

Figure 1: Microsoft Power Automate in action. Power Apps helps build applications that connect to several data sources, such as Office 365, SharePoint, SQL Server, Microsoft Azure, JIRA, OneDrive, and Power BI.

You can build an app for free by signing in to the Power Apps website. You'll need a license to use the apps you create. Microsoft offers a 30-day trial, and pricing thereafter starts at $20 for a single user, with packages for larger groups and bundles containing additional services. Business professionals often use Power Apps to deploy applications for employee onboarding, supply chain management, and customer relationship management.

One powerful feature of Power Apps is its support for application templates, which you can use to build an app in only a few steps. For instance, to create a simple expense report application, click Start with an app template in the Power Apps home screen (Figure 2) and select the My Expenses app (Figure 3). Next, choose a name for the app and click Next .

Figure 2: The PowerApps home screen.
Figure 3: The My Expenses template.

When prompted for permission to use SharePoint, click Allow (Figure 4); then, click on the tree view in the left pane of the Power App window (Figure 5). As you can see in the figure, the tree view easily lets you select options for building the expense report. You can create new screens and add components to the report.

Figure 4: Prompt for permission to use SharePoint.
Figure 5: The completed Expense Report application.

Now click on NewExpenseCreateButton to create a button for the interface (Figure 6). Select the Advanced tab in the Properties window (on the right) to view the code, change the properties for the button control, or add some custom code of your own.

Figure 6: The properties of the Expense Report application.


Low-code and no-code technologies make it easier for non-programmers to create their own applications, allowing professional IT personnel to focus on matters that still require their expertise. For many businesses, adopting a low-code or no-code approach can save effort, time, and money. Microsoft Power Apps is a low-code platform that makes extensive use of templates, allowing users to build easy business apps that would take much longer to create by conventional techniques.


  1. Microsoft Power Apps: https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/

The Author

Joydip Kanjilal (https://joydipkanjilal.com/) is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional in ASP.NET (2007-2012), speaker, and author of several books and articles. He has more than 25 years of experience in IT with more than 20 years in Microsoft .NET and its related technologies. He has been a community credit winner at http://www.community-credit.com several times. His technical strengths include: C#, Microsoft .NET, ASP.NET Core, ASP.NET Core MVC, Azure, AWS, Microservices, Serverless Architecture, Kubernetes, Kafka, RabbitMQ, REST, SOA, Design Patterns, SQL Server, Oracle, Machine Learning, and Data Science.

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