First look: Play citizen developer with Microsoft PowerApps

If you can write an Excel macro, you can develop an application using PowerApps, Microsoft's new 'citizen developer' offering

First look: Play citizen developer with Microsoft PowerApps

Modern application development isn’t only about cloud hyperscale microservices. It’s also about bringing application development to new audiences. Many of the tools and techniques that have been rolled out over the last few years apply to folk who simply want to solve a business problem fast as opposed to dev teams building the next unicorn startup.

That’s where Microsoft’s new PowerApps tool comes into play. Best considered for quickly building mobile and desktop applications, PowerApps enable anyone who has written an Excel macro to create an application -- as long as the data you need is accessible, either in a database or on the other side of an API.

Back in the early days of my development career, the consulting company I worked for was focused on 4GLs, using scripting tools like Forte to build graphical desktop applications that could take advantage of data stored on soon-to-be-obsolete minicomputers and the eternal mainframe. With the advent of cloud services with RESTful APIs and thanks to API description tools like Swagger, it’s time for a new 4GL-like software development paradigm.

That’s where PowerApps comes in, offering a visual development environment for cross-platform mobile applications.

Powering up PowerApps

You’ll find PowerApps versions for Windows 10, iOS, Android, and the Web. I’ve been experimenting with the iOS version on an iPad and the Windows 10 version on a desktop PC. You can build an app using any version; the phone and tablet versions are full-fledged development environments.

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