Exploring Canvas Applications
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Microsoft Power Apps is a low-code/no-code solution that allows professional developers and non-IT professionals to create powerful applications much faster than with regularly developed applications. In this course, we will look at the core capabilities of Power Apps and how they help businesses automate and enhance repetitive, mundane, and time-consuming tasks.

We will cover canvas apps, model-driven apps, and portals, as well as their use cases and the differences between them. We'll also walk you through how to build each one. Finally, we'll take a look at the Power Apps Component Framework and how this allows developers to add even more functionality to standard Power Apps.

Learning Objectives

  • Get a foundational understanding of canvas apps, model-driven apps, and portals, including their use cases and features
  • Use data sources, controls, and formulas to build, share, and publish your own canvas apps
  • Plan, build, share, and publish model-driven apps
  • Create and customize your own portal and monitor user behavior on your portal
  • Learn about the Power Apps Framework and how it can enhance the user experience of your apps

Intended Audience

This course is intended for both IT professionals and non-technical professionals looking to automate and enhance business processes for mobile and desktop users.


There are no prerequisites for this course but any computer coding knowledge and even basic Excel knowledge would be beneficial when learning about Power Apps.


Power Apps Canvas applications as you just learned are very customizable, which means there are so many use cases for them, which of course is a very good thing. In this lecture, we won't be able to cover all of the use cases or possibilities of Canvas applications but it's important to get an idea of what is possible. In my experience, even knowing what the possibilities are without necessarily knowing exactly how to implement them can make all the difference when enhancing and automating current business processes. Without further delay, let's begin.

To get into the Power Apps Maker, we'll go to Next, we'll click on sign in and be prompted to sign in. We'll enter in our Microsoft username and password and then we should get into the app builder. A quicker way to do this is simply to enter into your URL, and you will be taken to the same page. Upon seeing this page for the first time, you might feel a little overwhelmed at all there is. Don't worry, we'll cover more about different sections on the left-hand navigation, as well as how to get around when we start building a Power Apps Canvas application from scratch later on in this course.

For now, let's take a look at All Templates. Microsoft was kind enough to create dozens of various Power Apps templates for canvas applications. You can tell which templates are canvas templates by looking at the text underneath the template title. As you can see, there are so many scenarios and use cases for Canvas Apps. There are applications for Employee Onboarding, a Help Desk app, Site Inspection app, Service Desk, Leave Request, Expense Tracker, Inventory Management, Interview Tool, Cost Estimator, and the list goes on. I highly recommend taking a look at these templates so that, one, you can get an even better idea at the possibilities and use cases for Power Apps. And two, you can learn how to build your Power Apps according to best practices.

Again, Microsoft built these templates and so that means they are designed and built incredibly well. It may seem confusing at first trying to understand what they built, but as you mess around with these templates, I'm sure you can learn a lot. To create a Canvas app using a template, simply click on one, rename it and click create.

The last thing I want to do before moving onto model-driven applications is show you a little bit of the various controls that you can utilize inside of a Canvas app. To do that, we'll simply head back to the top of the page and select Canvas app from blank. This will create us a blank Canvas app. Once I name my application, you'll notice I can select a tablet or phone format. Both formats will work on a desktop, tablet or mobile phone. But as you can guess, the phone format will look the best on a phone, and the tablet format will look the best on a desktop or tablet.

Once we hit create, we'll be taken to the Canvas app creator studio. We'll discuss more of how things work when building an app later on in the course, although this interface should look somewhat familiar if you've used Microsoft PowerPoint or other similar Microsoft tools. For the purpose of this demo, we're just going to take a look at the various controls and screens that can be used inside of a Canvas application. If I click on the insert tab here, we can see a lot of different inputs that we can take advantage of inside of our app.

Next to new screen, there's a dropdown arrow. And if I select that, you'll see we have lots of different screens to choose from. Think of screens as slides inside of a PowerPoint presentation. Each screen can have different controls on it and users can navigate from screen to screen. This list here includes a scrollable screen, a list view screen that allows me to view data in a gallery or a scrollable list, a success screen, a tutorial screen to teach app users how to use my app, and email screen to send an email, people, meeting and calendar screens, some different layout screens like a split screen or a sidebar screen, and the recently added print screens which allow you to print whatever's on the screen. This is a brand new feature, and I'm so excited about it. Being able to print something right from a Power App is so useful and a great feature.

Taking a look at the actual controls that we can add now. We see we have labels for simple text buttons which can execute various functions which we'll talk about later in the course. And if we select the dropdown next to text, we will see a lot more options like text input, which allows users to enter in text, HTML text which shows Rich text, for example texts that is bolded, highlighted or italicized, Rich text editor which allows users to bold, italicize or format text. And lastly, pen input which allows users to draw inside of the box. A use case for this would be capturing an electronic signature.

Looking at the input drop down we'll see some controls we've already mentioned as well as some new ones, such as drop downs, and combo boxes for users to search and select one or multiple items from a down list, a checkbox, a radio box, handy toggle for users to select yes or no or other sets of options in various ways. There are also sliders, timers and other controls that can be utilized inside of Canvas applications for users to input or select data.

Next, we have galleries. Galleries are controls that essentially allow users to view lists of data. Data tables also allow users to view data but in a slightly different way. Forms are powerful controls that once connected to a data source allow users to fill out data to be sent to that data source. There are many media controls include image, video, microphone, audio, and barcode scanner, PDF viewer, map and more. These controls as you can imagine, are very powerful and there are a lot of use cases for them. For example, a barcode scanner could be used to scan items as they come in from a delivery to help count inventory or to look up an item. I actually created a Power App that allows me to scan items at the store, and we'll look them up on Amazon so I can compare prices.

Canvas apps have some basic charts that can be integrated but they also have the option of adding a Power BI tile which allows users to view part of Power BI dashboard. Canvas apps also have a large list of various icons that can be used to improve the user experience and design. Microsoft updates the list of icons every now and then, so be sure to check every so often to see if there are any new icons. For the custom dropdown, app makers can import, export and create components. We'll cover these later on in the course.

Power apps has and is continuing to add AI features. The list of available AI capabilities right now includes business card reader, receipt processor, form processor, object detector, and text recognizer. I won't cover any of these features or capabilities in this course, but Microsoft does have some great tutorials on how to use these features.

Lastly, mixed reality, this is relatively new and includes view and mixed reality, view shape and mixed reality and measure in mixed reality. Mixed reality is starting to become more and more popular. And the use cases for this are becoming larger and larger. As we've explored some of the use cases and possibilities for Canvas applications, I hope your imagination has been going off into all of the different applications you can build and how you can help improve yours or others companies. In the next lecture, we'll move on to understanding model-driven applications.

About the Author

Ben is a Power Apps and Power Automate Specialist for Sovereign SP and has been using Power Apps, Power Automate, and SharePoint since 2017. Since then, he has built 100+ solutions using these amazing Microsoft tools. He loves helping others realize what technology can do and how it helps automate and enhance business processes. Most of all, though, he loves how these tools help make people’s jobs easier. The phrase, “This will make things so much easier!” is why he's in the IT business.

Ben Fetters lives in South Ogden, Utah, with his amazing wife and brand-new baby girl. A Weber State University Business Administration graduate, he loves to create businesses and help current businesses improve.