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What are Microsoft Power Pages and Express Design?

We’ve been tracking low-code/no-code software development tools for several years, and Microsoft’s Power Apps has long been a leader. At Build 2022, the company announced a new Power Apps tool called Power Pages. In short, it is a low-code business website builder. Other members of the Power Platform suite include Power BI, Power Automate, and Power Virtual Agents. Behind all of these tools is what Microsoft calls its Dataverse.

Along with Power Pages, the company announced one of the best things Microsoft showed off at Build 2022: the Power Platform Express Design tool. This allows you to turn a PDF, PowerPoint, scanned paper form, a screenshot of a legacy application, or even an image of a hand-drawn interface into working code.

At the conference, product managers Priya Vaidyanathan and Sandeep Dhanrajani described the new tool as “an enterprise-grade, low-code platform for building, hosting, and managing data-rich, interactive business web applications around the world.”

Power Pages home interface

You can create a site in Power You can create Power Pages in a web browser, using low-code customizable templates, or in Visual Studio for more advanced needs. The wizard-like interface starts out very basic, as you can see in the screenshot above. Then, as with most website builders, you select a template that works for your business.

Power Page Templates

The tool then creates a URL for you (you can also use a custom domain) and you can create a Power Apps test environment or you can use your existing one. Within a couple of minutes after the site goes live, you’re in the design studio, which looks like many other site builders, where you choose pages, edit layouts, and add navigation and functionality. There is another wizard here to guide non-coders through the process. You can search from a wide selection of company-specific templates, including detailed options for appointment scheduling or course registration. Progress tracking and app templates are coming, according to Vaidyanathan.

You get a nice selection of theme styles and colors for customization of any element on the site:

Customizations of colors and themes in Microsoft Power Pages.

You can then add data from your Dataverse and preview the site on desktop or mobile using a QR code. The generated sites use responsive design, so they look good on both mobile and desktop.

Sites created in Power Pages look professional. You can manage multiple sites in one dashboard, similar to other site builders like Wix. Extensive tutorials help you with topics ranging from design to customization with code.

Unfortunately, the tool, an evolution of the Power Apps portals currently in preview, is only available to account holders from work and school organizations, though there is a free trial option for a Microsoft 365 E3 or Dynamics trial account. 365 Sales or Customer Service; no credit card or software required to install.

express design

At Build 2022, Microsoft VP of Power Apps Ryan Cunningham noted that by 2025, 70% of new enterprise apps will be built with low code. He gave an example of this: Hearing Australia, which uses the Power Platform to build and manage mobile apps for audiology providers across that continent, linking back-end data maintained by developers with low-code front-end apps built by experts. non-technical business. A graphic from the presentation shows the landscape of the tools, from low code to technical base:

The Power Platform and underlying technologies

But at the low-code design level, Power Apps now lets you build an app directly from Figma (a popular prototyping and design collaboration tool), from a PDF, or from an image with what Microsoft calls “rapid design.” “. The gap between designers and programmers has long been a challenge, and this new Figma integration is a step forward.

Create an app from Figma

But it’s not just figma. Cunningham showed off the tool by creating applications from images and PDF files. There are even sample images of business forms and paper documents. Express design uses Azure Cognitive AI to work its magic, recognizing patterns in images.

The process of building apps from images on the Power Platform

To get started, simply click the Image tile in Power Apps, then upload your image:

Ways to start a Power Apps project

Your image should represent some business process, such as a registration form:

Launch a Power App from an image

Power Apps then analyzes the image for controls and app content, and produces a basic app layout:

App interface right after Power Apps analyzes an image

Of course, you need to do some work to turn the initial AI assumption into a fully working application. But quick design features can fuel some of the initial work of building apps. As Cunningham said at the conclusion of the Build session, these new tools “allow people to focus on the issues that really matter most and leave the rest to the platform.”

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