• Luigi Iacobellis

A Guide to Microsoft Power Apps Low-Code No-Code Application Development Platform

Updated: Sep 25



This article is the second in a series that will make up the ultimate guide to low-code no-code application development platforms. These articles are meant to help non-technical people in understanding the complex low-code no-code market. The first article is a primer to help you understand what low-code no-code application development platforms are, what components they consist of, the benefits of using them and generally how they are priced. I would highly encourage you to start with the primer article because while these platforms ultimately do the same thing (allow people who don't know how-to code to build apps) the terminology, components and pricing for each platform are drastically different. This article will outline everything you need to know about Microsoft’s low-code no-code application development platform, Power Apps.


What is Microsoft Power Apps?

Microsoft Power Apps is an enterprise grade low-code no-code platform that allows users to build professional apps with little to no-code. Through Power Apps, users can build desktop, mobile and tablet based applications using pre-built templates or instead starting from designing the app's data model, or even by first designing the app's user interface. Power Apps is one product in Microsoft's Power Platform.



What is the Microsoft Power Platform?


Microsoft Power Platform Ecosystem

Microsoft's Power Platform consists of several different products that can be purchased and used as standalone services or that can be used together to build robust enterprise business applications.

Microsoft Power Apps
  • Microsoft Power Apps is the actual application development platform where apps are built. Power Apps can be connected to various online and on-premise data sources such as SharePoint, Office 365 apps (i.e. Excel online, OneDrive) and SQL Server databases through what are called Connectors. Power Apps can also store data in Microsoft's centralized and scalable database service known as Common Data Service or CDS.

Microsoft Common Data Service
  • Microsoft's Common Data Service allows users to build and extend databases and data tables that will store the data to be created and consumed by apps developed in Power Apps without needing to code. You can also integrate data into CDS very easily using its built-in integration service that features pre-built connections to a variety of external data sources.

Microsoft Common Data Service Integration Service
  • Microsoft Power Automate (formerly known as Microsoft Flow) is an online workflow service that automates actions across the most common services and apps (even those developed in Power Apps). Its important to note that users design and develop applications (including forms, screens, functionality and behavior) in the Power Apps platform while workflow (i.e. for example an approval workflow after a form is submitted) and integration with other third-party apps and services are configured in Microsoft Power Automate. This can be a confusing distinction for new Power Apps and Power Automate users especially considering you can use both products as standalone services. The screenshots below illustrate the flow dashboard in Power Automate which is where you can view the details of a specific workflow that was configured. You'll notice that the flow dashboard in Power Apps looks identical to the flow dashboard in Power Automate except for the branding: purple for Power Apps and blue for Power Automate. Power Automate is a standalone product that can be purchased on its own for process automation and is included (albeit with limitations) in some Microsoft 365 licencing. Power Automate features a robust catalogue of free and premium connectors. Check out this article to see an example of how Power Automate can automate tasks across third-party apps and services.

Flow Dashboard As It Appears in Microsoft Power Apps
Flow Dashboard As It Appears in Microsoft Power Automate
  • Microsoft Power Virtual Agents is a platform that allows users to build conversational chat bots without needing to write any code. The platform allows business users to create repositories of query and responses that can be embedded within a bot that can then be added to an app or deployed to a website.

Microsoft Power Virtual Agent Bot Designer
  • Microsoft Power BI is a business analytics service that allows users to consolidate data from many sources for the purpose of creating interactive dashboards and reporting solutions. Power BI can connect to all of the products in the Microsoft Power Platform allowing users to generate analytics on data collected through Power Apps or analytics on workflows executed through Power Automate.


What Type of Apps Can You Build in Microsoft Power Apps?


Design Rich User-Experiences Through Canvas Apps

What sets Microsoft’s low-code no-code application development platform apart from others, is the ability to build what are called Canvas Apps. Canvas Apps allow users to to build apps optimized for mobile devices, tablets and desktops starting from the user-interface. When building a canvas app, users literally start with a blank canvas and can drag and drop fields, text, icons, media and more and can even customize the design and layout of each element. With canvas apps, the user is able to customize the design and layout of the app completely. Users can change design, text, color themes, layout and much more.

Microsoft Power Apps Studio Canvas Apps

One awesome feature of Power Apps canvas apps are galleries. Galleries allow users to easily connect data sources such as a list of records to app screens. Users can select from a wide range of gallery designs that are pre-formatted eliminating the need to spend time arranging and customizing layouts.

Power Apps Gallery Layouts

Power Apps also features a ton of predefined app templates which provide users with a good starting point for further customization.

Power Apps Canvas App Templates


Build Apps Starting From Your Data Through Model-Driven Apps


The next type of app that you can build in Microsoft Power Apps are Model-Driven Apps. Unlike canvas apps, with model-driven apps, users have less control over the design layout of the app. When creating model-driven apps, users start by designing or modelling the data to be utilized by the app, then define workflow to be executed through the app and lastly define the views of the data to be displayed through the app.

Microsoft Power Apps Model-Driven App Designer
Microsoft Power Apps Model-Driven App

Create Power App Portals for Internal and External Use

The last type of app that you can build in Microsoft Power Apps are Portals. Portals are simply websites that can be made available to users outside an organization for the purpose of interacting with business data. Through Portals, users can be granted various roles with unique permissions to perform different functions or event to just access content.

Microsoft Power Apps Portal

How Much Does Microsoft Power Apps Cost?

Microsoft Power Apps is a subscription based software-as-a-service. This means that in order for a user to use Power Apps they need to have an assigned licence. Having a licence to Power Apps enables a user to build as many apps as they want. However depending on what plan a user has there are restrictions on how many apps developed through Power Apps they can use. Microsoft offers two different plans or licence types, what they call the "Per App" plan and the "Per User" plan.


Microsoft Power Apps "Per App" Plan


The Per App Plan costs $10 USD per user per month (or $120 USD annually per user) and includes the following entitlements per licence:

  • The ability to access up to 2 apps developed through Power Apps

  • The ability to access up to 1 portal developed through Power Apps

  • The ability to use pre-built and custom data connectors

  • The ability to connect to on-premises data sources

  • The ability to use Common Data Service with up to 50mb of database storage capacity

  • The ability to use Common Data Service for up to 400mb of file storage capacity

  • The ability to implement workflows in apps through Power Automate with access to standard and premium connectors


Microsoft Power Apps "Per User" Plan


The Per User Plan costs $40 USD per user per month (or $480 USD annually per user) and includes the following entitlements per licence:

  • The ability to access an unlimited number of apps developed through Power Apps

  • The ability to access an unlimited portals developed through Power Apps

  • The ability to use pre-built and custom data connectors

  • The ability to connect to on-premises data sources

  • The ability to use Common Data Service with up to 250mb of database storage capacity

  • The ability to use Common Data Service for up to 2 GB of file storage capacity

  • The ability to implement workflows in apps through Power Automate with access to standard and premium connectors


Can You Purchase a Combination of Microsoft Power Apps "Per App" and "Per User" Plan Licences?


Yes, organizations can purchase a combination of Per App and Per User Plan licences. Why might an organization need to do this? Well if an organization has certain user groups that may only need to access a limited series of apps (say 1-2) then those users could be licenced on the "Per App" plan. If that same organization has another user group that may need to access more than 2 apps, then those user groups could be licenced on the "Per User" plan.


Can a Single User Have Multiple Microsoft Power Apps "Per App" Plan Licences?


Yes, the Microsoft Power Apps "Per App" licence is stackable meaning that a single user can have multiple licences allowing them to access more than 2 apps but less than an unlimited number of apps. Why might an organization need to purchase multiple "Per App" licences for a single user? Well, should an organization want to start small with developing low-code no-code apps, it would make sense to licence on the "Per App" plan and scale up as more apps are developed. From a cost perspective, once a user needs access to more than 7 apps, it would be more economical to licence the user on a "Per User" plan. Consider the following scenario:

  • User 1 needs access 7+ apps and is licenced on the "Per App" plan

  • $120 USD annually on the Per App plan to be able to access up to 8 apps multiplied by 4 licences equals $480 USD which is the same as the cost of the "Per User" plan


Is Microsoft Power Apps Included in Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) Subscriptions?


Microsoft Power Apps is included in select Office 365 subscriptions albeit with some

restrictions. The apps that can be developed through Power Apps for Office 365 are restricted to only retrieving and storing data in Office 365 products such as Microsoft OneDrive, SharePoint Online or Excel files. Similarly, any workflows to be implemented in these apps would be limited to free connectors through Microsoft Power Automate with some limits on the number of flow attempts that can be executed daily (i.e. 2000 API calls per day). The full list of Office 365 subscriptions that are entitled to use Power Apps is below:


  • Office 365 Business Essentials

  • Office 365 Business Premium

  • Office 365 A1 for Faculty

  • Office 365 A1 for Students

  • Office 365 A1 Plus for Faculty

  • Office 365 A1 Plus for Students

  • Office 365 A3 for Faculty

  • Office 365 A3 for Students

  • Office 365 A3 for Student Use Benefit

  • Office 365 A5 for Student Use Benefit

  • Office 365 A5

  • Office 365 A5 for Faculty

  • Office 365 A5 for Students

  • Office 365 Education E3 for Faculty

  • Office 365 Education E3 for Students

  • Office 365 Education for Homeschool for Faculty

  • Office 365 Education for Homeschool for Students

  • Office 365 Enterprise E1

  • Office 365 Enterprise E2

  • Office 365 Enterprise E3

  • Office 365 Enterprise E3 Developer

  • Office 365 Enterprise E3 without ProPlus

  • Office 365 Enterprise E5

  • Office 365 Enterprise F1


What are the Strengths and Weaknesses of Microsoft Power Apps?


Microsoft Power Apps Strengths

  • Versatility: Microsoft Power Apps is an incredibly versatile platform that can be used to address your most complex use-cases or business scenarios. Power Apps canvas apps allow for the creation of unique feature-rich user experiences optimized for use across mobile, tablet and desktop.

  • Robust: Microsoft Power Apps allows you to connect your apps to over 330 third-party apps and services (through Microsoft Power Automate) creating endless integration and process automation opportunities.


Microsoft Power Apps Weaknesses

  • Price: Microsoft Power Apps is a premium product offering at a premium price point. While the "Per App" plan is a little more economical than the "Per User" plan, it only allows users to access up to two apps. Given the simplicity and power of these platforms, it seems unlikely that organizations would stop at two apps and would eventually need to stack Per App licences or move up to the Per User licence which carries a significant price tag.

Where Can I Get More Information on Microsoft Power Apps?

The best place to get information about Power Apps is to visit Microsoft's robust online knowledge base.

  • Microsoft's most recent pricing guide can be downloaded as a PDF here.