Twice a year the Power Platform team gives us insight on where they will focus on for the next 6 months. They do so in a so called release plan. This is not the same as release notes as on any given time these plans might change, post-pone or even scrapped altogether. So please always look at the actual release plan when you want to look at what’s coming!
In this post I give my 2 cents on features that caught my eye. These are not necessarily the most anticipated / shiny new feature. It might be the ones I have personally experienced as a pain point or have some more thoughts about.
Connectors in Power Virtual Agents
The first topic I would like to address is Power Virtual Agents. And specifically the announcement that we can soon use connectors within the authoring experience. To bring data into the chatbot we nowadays have to create a Power Automate Cloud flow. This integration is great as you can use Power Automates logic to combine multiple data sets. However if you just want some information of the contact the chatbot is currently talking to, it’s a lot of overhead!
My initial response was that this is a great feature. But now that I have given it some more thought it is also a double edge sword. The current authoring experience of Power Virtual Agents is excellent in it’s simplicity. It is truly a no-code environment. Of course we can extend this with Power Automate or Bot Framework Composer. But bringing the world of connectors inside the authoring experience can be daunting.
Topics can also quickly become large and unclear. Adding data retrievals and updates could add to the clutter. Be that as it may, with Power Virtual Agents so deeply intertwined with Dataverse it is silly that we can only bring Dataverse data in using a cloud flow. Especially now that the chatbot component inside Power Apps Portal has reached general availability.
Speaking of Power Apps Portal
If you have ever implemented a Power Apps Portal you know how much harder it is to do modern looking stuff. Especially compared to showing data using lists or entering data using forms. Customers and portal users nowadays expect more from a self service portal. Adding files and images to a support ticket for example should not be a multi-step process.
Luckily Dataverse has introduced the File and Image attribute type a while ago. Which can soon(ish) be used inside Power Apps Portal Forms! The image attribute will be previewing in April. It’s a long wait to see how it will actually pan out. However the promise is great. Seeing a thumbnail after an upload will help the user check if the upload was what he wanted.
A longer wait sadly is for the file attribute column type. It is great that it’s coming though as I can’t wait to clean up my annotation table. For those who don’t know, currently if you want to upload files to Dataverse, you do so by adding annotations to a note record. The annotation actually contains the file. The note is just their to bind it to the record where we actually want the file.
The promise of feature parity
It is official! The pre-deprecation announcement for the classic form designer. In April we no longer have to look back at the old-school form designer. This brings a feeling of nostalgia but I already can’t remember the last time I had to switch back.
And as we are on the subject of switching the old for the new; Modern Advanced Find is making it’s way into model-driven app. This will allow you to select the table and view you want to see data of. I expect this feature to evolve and maybe one day it too will reach feature parity with the current advanced find. The current advanced feature is so powerful that I suspect it will be a few iterations before the experienced model-driven app users will be enticed to switch.
Power FX improvements
I’m also looking forward to intelligent formula repair in Power FX. Currently the feedback you get when you make a mistake in a formula is not sufficient. I look forward to some examples how to fix my formula. This technology is already present in other products like Excel and for the infrequent user it is a life-saver.
Power FX named formulas is another great feature copied from Excel. This will bring another way to set a variable. But using this technique the variable is dynamic. Whenever the result of the expression changes the variable is automatically changed as well. No longer you have to worry about forgetting to add the Set() function. The formula itself will also not be mutable in other places then inside the “Name manager”. This means that this could also be the place where you will define your theming. The benefit for the Power Apps team is they can further optimize performance. And for the advanced maker this will definitely help in organizing their logic!
To wrap up the release plan
Before I call it quits I want to honorably mention the Power Automate release plan. There are a lot of announcements for Cloud flows which will make your life easier building them. I myself had some difficulties copying and pasting steps with connection references, but that’s going to be fixed! It’s good to see a renewed focus on Cloud flows. Now if only they could add Power FX support.. One can only dream!
It’s always fun to go through those release plan and seeing what pops out. It is different for each maker as we all are different in how and what we build. I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts and please share yours! I’d love to know what feature is going to help you!