It’s that time of the year again, the second release wave of the year. We again get insights in the direction the product teams are taking in their continuous improvement efforts. In this post I will highlight a couple that caught my eye. I will tell you why and hopefully this is useful for your own digestion of all news coming your way!
Before we start I want to speculate if this is one of the last Release Waves as we know it. Recently Microsoft announced they will move to a monthly update cadence for Model-Driven Apps. This will move the product towards a modern cloud application with faster updates. Hopefully though, Microsoft keeps us informed of the direction they are taking with their various products.
In essence the Release wave already is on a monthly cadence as all Release Wave features are already released scattered throughout the year. However, for all you applications managers out there, it now is time to change your processes to a more iteratively approach. Especially if you can utilize the user level overrides to let your key users test and experiment before you roll out to entire teams!
Building Power Apps with Modern Controls helped by Copilot
Let’s move on to the first feature. Modern Fluent UI based controls are coming to Model-Driven Power Apps! This will update our Apps to make them more inline with Microsoft design standards. We now have a general available date for these Modern Controls. In October it is general available date, and the public preview is in August. I am curious if Model-Driven Power Apps will switch automatically over on the GA date. I have not seen any communication on that matter. If they do, it will leave us with limited time to prepare.
In Power Apps Studio we will soon get our own little AI assistant in building our Power Apps. This first iteration of Copilot will be some relatively simple commands like: “Change all my labels to have font size 18” or “Make this label bold”. I am however, not convinced that this will be the game changing features we are looking for. But I will stay open minded and keep experimenting with it, as later iterations will definetly be more helpful!
What I am enthusiastic about though, is the ability to write Power Fx formulas with natural language. I am notoriously bad at remembering functions. Let’s face it, I can use all the help I can get! Currently I am experimenting with GitHub Copilot, which is giving me a tremendous productivity boost. I expect the same results from this feature.
Monitoring your Solution Context
And yes I love the pun on the header above. Why? Because in this segment I want to talk about my two favorite features of this release wave. The Monitor tool and the Solution Context in the Power Apps maker Portal. First, let’s talk monitoring. The Monitor feature is an essential tool to get a feel of what is going on behind the scenes. It will help you understand what queries are fired and what takes longer then expected. A lot of new features are build for Monitor which will be really helpful. It’s existence is often times forgotten, so I will keep promoting it. However don’t get too excited for the new features as the Public Preview is miles away, March 2024!
Now onwards then to a small feature, but one that will be incredibly helpful. The Solution Context. We now have this pretty little customizable Power Apps maker portal. We can pin all the features we want and hide those we don’t. But is this the place where we do our work? No! We are always working in the context of a solution, so this is where we do our changes too. But not any longer! We can enjoy the updates to the Maker portal as we can see and set the Solution we work in from anywhere(?) in the Maker portal! No longer do we have an excuse that we are working in the default solution. Only 2 more months to wait, October we can start using it!
March 2024 Release Wave Features?! I blame Copilots!
A lot of cool features are set to release in March 2024. Features that have been top requests by the community. A feature like full-screen pop-out of your Power Fx formula bar. No longer do we need to edit our code in tiny little boxes. Or well, next year we will no longer need to edit our code in tiny little boxes. Not to sound like a cry baby, but I just want it now 😅
Together with the Monitor updates and the improvements to named formulas, we have a lot to look forward too for March 2024. And of course I think the effort in Copilots are a good thing, they will lower the barrier of building Apps. But they do pull away resources from other much wanted features and improvements such as these.
Virtual Agent highlights in this Release Wave
The technique behind Generative Answers on your own data also has a GA date. With Generative Answers you can quickly expand the knowledge your bot can answer. Especially useful if you can point it to a couple of SharePoint documents or a Dataverse table containing your specific info. October 2023 is when these killer features are safe to use for production. I specifically say the technique as us Europeans have to wait for our datacenters to get the Foundation Models installed! I have been told we can expect them this summer, so maybe I can test this after my vacation.
For the sake of not overwhelming you with a wall of text I skipped a couple of features. Again, I hope you find this helpful. I’m really curious on your favorite features and if you agree or disagree with my train of thought. In any case, happy surfing Release wave 2!