Power Apps Portals for External Users

Power Apps Portals for external users will allow developers to create websites which can be shared with users outside of their organisation. Users will be able to sign in with a wide range of identities and even browse the content anonymously.

Power Apps Portals for External Users

Power Apps Portals for External Users

When I was asked to investigate Power Apps Portals, I was excited somewhat to see what it could do. Portals was in beta and Microsoft were offering a 29-day trial, after which you could convert your test Portal into a production environment. Of course, there was a cost attached to this.

I went ahead and created a new environment and a new portal.

All good so far.

Then I noticed there was not much in the way of YouTube video tutorials or articles other than some Microsoft technical notes.

It was pretty confusing.

Nowhere to be found was a concise illustrated article taking you through the creation of a portal, using data, creating screens, using controls etc.

I persevered, but found it difficult to get a simple data entry form to work. Gradually I pieced together bits from articles and realised what I could be doing wrong.

When it did start working, I was elated.

Power Apps Portals VS General Power Apps

As a Power Apps developer, I have to admit to being disappointed with Power Apps Portals for external users. I was looking forward to being able to share my apps with the world and not being confined to the Office 365 space. Whilst this is possible with Power Apps Portals, there are some things to think about before taking the plunge.

If you come from a web development background then you will have little trouble getting your head around Power Apps Portals. For anyone else, you are going to have to learn some new tools. For example,  HTML, Javascript and CSS knowledge is needed. Microsoft have decided to include a programming language that has been used in Shopify, called ‘Liquid’. Why they did not go for something familiar such as C# or VB.Net, I don’t know. Either way, you can tell that to use Power Apps Portals for external users, you will need a range of skills that you don’t get to use in the general Power Apps product.

Power Apps Portals Data Source

If you have been using a data source such as SQL Server or SharePoint to store your data, you may be interested to know that there is a new one on the block. The common data service or CDS for short is the way forward. A Microsoft engineer I spoke with was very helpful in getting me started. He mentioned the CDS is something they will be pushing heavily over the coming years.

Entities are created to store the data and these are accessed from your Power Apps Portals project. Personally, I found the CDS to be somewhat lacking in features. It is so easy to craft stored procedures in SQL Server, but I could find no feature like that in the CDS. If you want to look at data that has been saved, it is not as simple as just opening the entity. You have to create a view and select the fields you want to include. I am sure the CDS will improve over time, but right now it is too limited and this could be another product that gets replaced in a few years.

Power Apps Portals – Summary

To sum up, Power Apps portals for external users is for seasoned web developers and bears no resemblance to the general Power Apps product. It is certainly possible to get a basic data entry screen up and running using the templates, but for anything more sophisticated, you are going to need to be familiar with web tools.

Check out my getting started Power Apps Portals tutorial video.

Also read about Microsoft PowerApps and Flow


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