Microsoft PowerApps is a useful utility you can use to create simple apps for your work environment. It is designed for power users, so there’s no real programming involved. You can deploy apps that you create to users within your workplace or school.
PowerApps is very cloud centric and is targetted to mobile devices. However, you can install the apps on a Windows 10 workstation and the apps you create can be set to connect to some types of on-premises resources.
In the case of this article, we’ll look at how to set up PowerApps to connect to an on-premises SharePoint installation, but as far as on-premises options go, you can also make PowerApps connect to a SQL Server table.
Getting Started: Downloading and Installing the Software
You’ll need to download PowerApps Studio and the PowerApps On-Premisis GateWay. You can access these from the main PowerApps Web page if you scroll to the bottom of the page (https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/). Also, you’ll need to be on a machine running Windows 10 or Windows Server 2012. Windows 8 might work, but not Windows 7 and below. Further, your SharePoint instance should be SharePoint 2013 or SharePoint 2016 for this to work.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed both of the applications you’re ready to start making apps. Note that you should install both tools on a machine that will be always up… so a server that will seldomly get rebooted is way better than a workstation/laptop that a user may turn off and on randomly or that may go into hibernation mode. Also, make sure to install both software on the same machine since remote configuration doesn’t seem to work… I’ve had no luck connecting PowerApps Studio to a PowerApps Gateway on a different machine.
First Sign Up for a New PowerApps Account
As part of this process, you’ll need to have a PowerApps account. To get an account, go to the PowerApps Web site signup section (https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/signup/), or just download the PowerApps Studio application and follow the link to sign up for a new account from there. Note that you’ll need to give your company or school email address, which will act as your main user id, and which will dictate what other users you can share your apps with.
Set up the On-Premisis GateWay
Once you’ve created your new account, you’ll need to install and configure the On-Premisis GateWay component. This component will then act as a relay between your SharePoint server, the Internet-based MS PowerApps server, and ultimately the PowerApps client application. You can always log into and modify the details of your gateway using the PowerApps account you have set up.
Set up a New Connection in PowerApps Studio
Once you’ve configured the Gateway for your particular environment, you’ll need to start up PowerApps Studio and set up a new connection. To do so, click the ‘Connections’ link on the left hand menu bar, which will take you to the Web-based PowerApps user interface.
Then on the Top left of the page, click the ‘New connection’ link. You’ll now see a list of all of the possible connections. Scroll down to the SharePoint connection option and click it. You’ll now see a pop-up window, that asks you how you want to connect your data. Select the second options: Connect using on-premises data gateway. When you do this, the window will expand to ask you to enter the Authentication Type (Windows is default), the user name and password of an Active Directory user account (for testing this account will likely be your own), and then finally you’ll need to select a gateway. Luckily for us, we set a gateway up above so we can just choose that one.
Create a List in SharePoint
Ok, now you’ll need to create a list in SharePoint that we can connect to. If you already have a list you can use, so much the better. Probably for starting, simpler is better.
Create an App in PowerApps Studio
Open up PowerApps Studio and click on the New option on the left hand menu. Note that you are creating the app in your default environment, which is the domain part of the email you registered with. In the main part of the window you’ll see a number of options under the heading Start with your data. There’s also an arrow to the right of the options that is pointing to the right. Click the arrow and now you’ll be able to choose the SharePoint connection that you created in the previous step.
When you click on the connection, you’ll see a text area asking you to enter the URL to connect to a SharePoint site. The simplest option seems to be to put in the base URL of your SharePoint site, and when you click the Go button, you’ll be able to browse the lists on your SharePoint site in order to choose the one to work with. Once you’ve selected your SharePoint list, click the Connect button and PowerApps will create an app for you.
When your app has been created, you have a lot of control over how it looks and behaves. MS PowerApps is primarily aimed at mobile devices, so the UIs available to you reflect that, and at this point you cannot create a more Forms like app that desktop/laptop users are more used to.