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PeterGMcDermott
Advocate I
Advocate I

Should I be using PowerApps instead of Access Web Apps?

I am looking to create a solution for a small workgroup in my organization, but am unsure if I should continue designing this solution as an Access Web App or as a PowerApp. I've never created a PowerApp, but it seems that there is more focus in development of this than Access Web Apps. Is this the way of the future? What should I do? Are Access Web Apps on their way out?

Peter McDermott
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Meneghino
Community Champion
Community Champion

HI @PeterGMcDermott, great question.  I will give my thoughts, but home some of the Microsoft professionals will weigh in on this.

 

It seems to me that nothing has happened to Access Web Apps (AWA) in the last 3 years (i.e. no new features).  This is good in that it is a mature solution with relatively few bugs.  But you are basically limited to the AWA database itself as a data source.  No idea if and when it may be phased out, but I hope not for a long time.

 

PowerApps (PA) gives you a lot more flexibility on interaction with the user and in combining different data sources.  But it is still in its infancy and has various bugs, although the PA team is working on resolving these.  CDS (Common Data Service) is proposed as the default back end, but AWA is still far superior as a database.  CDS does not have compund indexing, calculated fields, data validation, queries, basically nothing that any normal database should have by default.

 

What I have done is to build a PA interface on top of AWA applications that I had already working.  This has been very successful for building some on-line reporting, advanced emailing, automated data entry etc.  You can do this by adding the AWA back end as a data source to PA.

 

In any case PA is fun, so some time spent exploring it is well spent in my view.

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Meneghino
Community Champion
Community Champion

HI @PeterGMcDermott, great question.  I will give my thoughts, but home some of the Microsoft professionals will weigh in on this.

 

It seems to me that nothing has happened to Access Web Apps (AWA) in the last 3 years (i.e. no new features).  This is good in that it is a mature solution with relatively few bugs.  But you are basically limited to the AWA database itself as a data source.  No idea if and when it may be phased out, but I hope not for a long time.

 

PowerApps (PA) gives you a lot more flexibility on interaction with the user and in combining different data sources.  But it is still in its infancy and has various bugs, although the PA team is working on resolving these.  CDS (Common Data Service) is proposed as the default back end, but AWA is still far superior as a database.  CDS does not have compund indexing, calculated fields, data validation, queries, basically nothing that any normal database should have by default.

 

What I have done is to build a PA interface on top of AWA applications that I had already working.  This has been very successful for building some on-line reporting, advanced emailing, automated data entry etc.  You can do this by adding the AWA back end as a data source to PA.

 

In any case PA is fun, so some time spent exploring it is well spent in my view.

Meneghino
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi again @PeterGMcDermott

As you may know, AWA is now being phased out rather more quickly than anyone had anticipated.  Therefore I no longer recommend AWA as a back end.  CDS is slowly improving, but still far off a real database.  So I have now switched to using Azure SQL Database as a back-end.  This is a real learning experience, but I am finding it very rewarding.  It is finally a real professional database sytem in the cloud.  You need to learn T-SQL but it is not rocket science.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous
Not applicable

NOW PowerApps is sufficiently reliable and well documented to be included In replacement of ACCESS with All offices 365, Dont be shy !!!

 

SQL Server Express is a free and Very Powerfull database free to use and can keep data on premise ou even on Azure that is cheap for small trafic.

 

There is now way that a user can use Powerapps to develop its own programs on his business account ot test new ideas on real data. It is also true for professional developers like me that love to use PowerApps because it is a lot faster to develop than PHP or Javascript web sites.

 

So including PowerApps with Office 365 Family or individual, (in place of Access which phased out) IS A MUST FOR EXPANDING POWERAPPS COMMUNUNiTY

 

Just from an end-user's perspective, Access Web Apps allowed us to quickly create a lightweight application with absolutely no programming experience required. Tables were relational, and the interface was very intuitive. The learning curve for PowerApps is extremelely steep and the shortcomings of using SharePoint lists are enormous. I'm not sure, as an end-user, that I could go about installing SQL Express...so is your post championing PowerApps for end users? Because, I still don't feel it is an equitable replacement.

Peter McDermott
Sienna
Resident Rockstar
Resident Rockstar

I don’t really think that learning curve is extremely steep. When I starded with PA there were absolutelly no documentation available and I managed to start to work on my app within a week of learning. PA can’t be any easier then it is now to create powerfull apps. Not lightweight apps as you mentioned in AccessWeb. There is still a lot to add but even now you can create whatever you want

Hi @PeterGMcDermott

 

Fully sympathise with you, although I agree with @Sienna that the learning curve seems steeper than it actually is.

 

I agree that SharePoint lists are not the solution, but personally would not go down the SQL Express route.  I recommend Azure SQL Database so you don't need to install or maintain any databases.  It is not free, but in a basic configuration which is more that enough for multiple applications it costs ~$5 per month.  Here is a tutorial:

https://baizini-it.com/blog/index.php/2017/09/26/powerapps-and-azure-sql-database-101/

 

Please feel free to get in touch via private message if you want me to take you through any issues you may have.

 

I agree with @Anonymous that a lot can be achieved with PowerApps, particularly now that SQL views are supported.

I agree the path forward from Access web apps is not clear. PowerApps is supposed to be the replacement, but most of the tutorials, examples, blog posts, etc., focus on apps with a few screens that access a couple tables. An small access database might have 12 tables. With 3 screens per table (view all rows, edit item, view item), then that would be 36 screens, not including additional screens for navigation. That's a small, simple Access solution, but I'd be concerned about trying that with PowerApps. Also, people used to how fast the Access client runs (and has run for decades), will be surprised by how long everything takes while editing forms in PowerApps. It's certainly an adjustment.
Anonymous
Not applicable

The fact that VIEWS are now supported changes, the game, because you can "prepare" links on the server side and you then always heve delegation. I have done a prof of concept application with 4 tables all linked together by 24 links with data on the link and 30 lookup tables, on SQL Server Azure, its good but I have a 200Mbits fiber link to Internet, its better still with a local Local wired sql server. In IOS 4G you cannot preload the 30 lookups, its too long you have to load it one by one on first use, and cache them localy, do not use lookup at the component level on remote table, cache them as table variables. I have all together around 20 screen and I have not seen any degradation of performances compared to only one screen.

 

By the way Visual studio (free) as the same (as far as I can remember) table creation/modification screeens as Access you do not need to go to SQL for Table creation/modification/keys/index and all, and also for sql request creation with graphic interface. The only problem for users is to see a LOT of other things in the menu/icons that they cannot understand and they are afrraid to trigger by mistake... There are other tools to do that like Toad and the like. Access prorgrams can be linked to SQL server but there may be some modification to do in the tables or program, and there is as I understand no possibility to modify linked SQL Server tables.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meneghino
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi Mike, I think that you are falling into the pitfall that I fell into initially when transitioning from Access/AWA to PowerApps. The crucial aspect is that you should split the functionality of your system into various apps, and not try to build the ‘mother of all apps’.
This makes it much easier to quickly develop or replace apps as the scope evolves. Also you can share different functionality with different groups of people as required.
For the example my accounting system has 20 tables of suppliers, customers etc. etc. and about five apps. One for the back office to input invoices, one for the accountants to input transactions, one for management to view management reports, one for admins to edit customer etc. information and one specific app for liquidity pisitions for treasury. It would be impossible and undesirable to build one app with all the functionality.
I hope this helps to clarify my approach and why I am now satisfied with PowerApps

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