Customizing Forms In SharePoint Online Using PowerApps

Many SharePoint developers are already familiar with InfoPath. It was a simple and powerful form tool back in the day – but it is now out of date. So, what tools can we use to build modern list-driven forms today? Let’s find out! 

Many things have changed in the SharePoint landscape since InfoPath’s heyday earlier in the decade: SharePoint 2019 came out last year, and SharePoint Online continues to evolve and take over modern workplaces. Yet the problem of capturing user input in forms, pushing it through workflows and storing it in Lists still exists.

For those who don’t know, InfoPath is a powerful Swiss-army knife that enables power users and developers to extend and customize SharePoint forms (both on-premise and online).

The service can be extended by code to handle complex scenarios. But, it’s OLD! The latest version is 2013, and Microsoft won’t be updating it anymore.

Unfortunately, SharePoint on-premises doesn’t have any replacement for InfoPath. You can use some 3rd-party tools or create custom code solutions However, SharePoint Online (and hybrid solutions) can use PowerApps to customize forms and even create advanced business applications. 

 

What is PowerApps?  

PowerApps is a service in Office 365 that enables the creation of rich and advanced business applications without any code! It is also capable of customizing forms in SharePoint Online. 

But is it ready to replace InfoPath? Let’s take a look. 

 

Getting started with PowerApps 

To launch PowerApps, we go to any SharePoint Online list. You can find PowerApps in the menu on every list page. 

Starting PowerApps

Accessing PowerApps from the menu

Two options will appear: Create an app and Customize forms. 

Create an app allows us to create a standalone application that can connect to data sources. It doesn’t require any SharePoint lists to work. You can use it from a web portal, from mobile applications or embed it on a SharePoint site. 

Customize forms is a way to customize SharePoint list forms (new form, edit form) in a similar way to InfoPath. It’s tied to a specific SharePoint list. 

Please keep in mind that you cannot switch from one type of PowerApps to another. Choose carefully. 

 

Let’s customize a form 

The PowerApps window looks similar to InfoPath. There are five main parts of the application: 

  1. Ribbon with actions 
  2. Object menu 
  3. Form window 
  4. Data source panel 
  5. Properties panel.
PowerApps interface

PowerApps interface elements

Let’s go over all the elements and see how we can create an example form. 

 

Screens 

Just like in InfoPath, we can create pages in a single form – Screen. 

Screen view

PowerApps Screen view

We can create a new blank screen or choose from many predefined ones. 

 

Controls 

In the Insert menu we can choose from many available controls to use in our form (e.g. Label, Button, Text, Table, Chart etc.). 

PowerApps Insert menu

Insert menu

 

Actions 

In the Actions menu in the Ribbon, you can find actions that can be defined in your form (e.g., On visible, On start), or you can connect Microsoft Flow to it. 

PowerApps Actions menu

Actions menu

 

Tree view menu 

In the Tree view menu, you can work on objects used in your form. They can be added, removed or changed. We can also reorder existing objects. 

PowerApps Tree view menu

Tree view menu

Properties panel 

In the Properties panel, we can change all the properties related to the current object (e.g., buttons). This panel is divided into three parts: 

  • Properties (basic properties) 
Properties panel

Properties view

  • Rules 
Rules panel

Rules view

  • Advanced (advanced properties).
Advanced panel

Advanced view

 

Data sources 

The Data source panel allows us to modify an existing connection to a SharePoint List. We can define which fields will be visible on the form, or specify the design. 

Data source view

Data source panel

Final form 

Here is what our form looks like in the end! As you can see, with PowerApps you can create a simple form like this in a matter of minutes, all from an easy to use interface. 

Summary 

TheCustomize form function in PowerApps allows us to modify forms in a similar way to InfoPath. PowerApps in Customize form mode is a powerful tool that enables the customization of forms and allows the use of Microsoft Flow for automation functions.  

But PowerApps can do even more. You can connect it to data sources and build a variety of apps that will help your business make better use of its information. To find out more about what PowerApps can do for you, get in touch with me.

Key takeaways
  1. PowerApps is the main tool for customizing SharePoint Online list-driven forms 
  2. PowerApps is not a 1:1 replacement for InfoPath, but it is similar 
  3. Choose carefully between Standalone app and Customize form options. It’s not easy to switch once you’ve committed 
  4. Feel free to get in touch for more information on how to use PowerApps with SharePoint and beyond! 

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