The first release wave of features for the upcoming year are available for us to look at! Always fun to digest what’s coming. And as always, it’s important to note that these plans are subject to change. Consider them as a general guide for what’s to come. Please remember that this is an evolution of the platform, not a revolution. Microsoft typically saves major announcements and game-changing features for their big events, so don’t expect any earth-shattering developments in this wave. Nevertheless, there are still some exciting updates upcoming that are worth taking a closer look at.
Now the first important announcement is about the planner itself. The Release Planner tool is now General Available and I encourage you to use it! Create your personal list of features you are exciting for and easily see what has changed since your last visit. Or you can create one to share with your team to keep track on new features you need in your solution. This is also an excellent example of dogfooding as it is build on top of Power Pages!
I can categorize my highlight list in 4 topics; Improvements to the UI, Maker productivity, Application Lifecycle Management and Power Pages. And if you read more, I will address them as such in this blogpost!
Release the Fluent UI
Now if you follow the community closely, you have probably seen a lot content on how to make your Canvas Apps more accessible and provide a better UI. It is much needed as the default controls for Power Apps are somewhat outdated. Luckily next month we should see Fluent UI components coming to Canvas Apps. Fluent UI is UX framework designed by Microsoft which contain a lot of modern components. These will hopefully make it easier to make our Apps look more modern.
On top of that we also get improvements in lay-out containers by adding drag and drop functionality.. This is of particular interest to me as this is something I use often in Custom Pages. I also think these containers will play a big part of the convergence of the apps story, where eventually Canvas and Model can be used more easily together. Every improvement is welcome in the responsiveness story. Granted, we have to wait a bit for this one. It will be in preview in July.
Features to help every maker in this release wave
Later this year we can reuse Power Fx formulas by creating functions. Note, this is different then the Names Formulas. This will help in creating more readable logic and improving readability lessens complexity. Currently if we want to build something like a function, I do so by creating a custom component. Adding the logic to that component and using the in- and output to run it as a function. I think functions like this will make your apps easier to maintain and lower the learning curve of Power Fx.
Next is something that will iron out an annoyance when building your Model-Driven apps. When adding a column to your data model in Dataverse you currently have to open every form and view to add that column too. With this feature we can soon (this month, so only 5 days left!) add the column to the form and view while creating. I will be definitely looking at how this works when it comes in preview! Could save a lot of clicks!
ALM improvements slowly reaching the core platform
When you are building bigger solutions on the Power Platform Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) will play an important role. Solutions like these are often build in multiple iterations consistently adding new features. With Power Pipelines announced in the last wave we see the ambition to add CI/CD capabilities to the core of the Platform. And good news is that we have an expected General Availability month, June!
To help out with quality control, you also want to regression test new versions of your solution. And of course, we do not like to do this manually. During the Power Platform conference Microsoft announced Test Engine to help with just that! Currently we can use Power Fx to write test cases for Canvas Apps. But in this wave (public preview in May) we can also write test for Model-driven Apps and Custom Pages! Also in may we can add Test Engine tests to our pro-dev deployment Pipelines using for example Azure DevOps or GitHub actions. After which I hope we see further integration to Test Engine in the Platform itself. Both in automation of the tests and of the surrounding tooling of writing tests.
Power Pages release wave features
Now I have to add my own personal disclaimer. The last time I used this product, they were still called a Power App! However I do have some positive comments to make. I know the product team works hard in creating the best low-code designer possible. This requires extensive work “under the hood” limiting capacity on new features. But now with the features announced for Power Pages I think it’s safe to say that capacity has freed up to work on these! The 4 I want to highlight are:
- Use Cloud Flows in your Power Page. This will bring low-code automation to Power Pages.
- In June we will also see a public preview of Bootstrap 5. A much needed upgrade to the UI capabilities of Pages.
- Power Pages configuration will soon be solution aware. Previously we had to transfer these as data, making deployment from development to production more complex.
- Improvements to the Visual Studio code for the Web editor. See immediate results in a preview window of your changes!
There you have it, my highlights for this release wave. I hope you find them valuable and am really curious to hear your thoughts on both my highlights and what you are looking forward too!