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Microsoft Power Automate Review

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If you have repetitive tasks in your organization that need to be automated but most of your employees have little or no knowledge about coding, then Microsoft Power Automate (formerly known as Flow) would be a great solution for you. It enables the creation of workflows with its low code/no-code system.

As you become familiar with its capabilities, you realize that you do not only automate complex processes. Even something as simple as deleting certain content from a document can be automated so that you do not have to spend so much time going through a document searching for outdated information.

Power Automate connects different applications so that they can work as part of a single workflow. While you may have purchased several software separately, it is possible to get them to communicate and sequence their handling of tasks so that one action will trigger the next and that will continue like a domino effect.

Although this is not the only application that can perform such tasks, many enterprises are being encouraged to use Microsoft Flow. Might it be all hype and no results? This review will give you insights and probably help you decide if it is an app you should take on to solve your workflow issues.

What is Microsoft Flow?

Microsoft Flow was rebranded as Power Automate. At first, it focused on creating workflows, this is not so different from automation but when Flow was automated, it took on added features. But, enough with the rebranding and let us talk about what is Microsoft Flow?

This is a tool that helps to automate and processes through the connection of different applications and services. It is a cloud-based tool, so no surprise that most of the applications that it will connect are cloud-based as well, however, it is still possible to integrate with on-premises software as well.

With Power Automate, you can automate processes between tools that you use frequently within your organization. You can access it as part of some Office 365 plans which is because it can help to connect the different 365 tools, but you can also purchase it as an independent subscribed application.

One of its distinctive features is its power to enable automation without the need for IT help to write code and install workflows. With an ordinary browser, a user can set triggers and actions between their different apps and they will be ready to experience automation.

Since it is part of a wider Microsoft family, a user can also utilize other 365 tools to customize processes or even create business apps specially created to work within the business.

How to Use Microsoft Flow?

Learning how to use Microsoft Flow is as easy as understanding triggers and actions. Flow enables a user to set a trigger and define the action. For instance, you may want to receive a notification in Outlook every time a message is sent to your business Facebook account which you do not open much. In this case, a message being sent to Facebook is the trigger, and the notification in Outlook is the action.

With Power Automate, you can define these triggers and actions and it will act as the tool that connects the two applications. This is just an example of a simple workflow, but you can initiate complex workflows that will help automate processes within your business.

Using Templates and Connectors

Templates also play a key role in enabling users to carry out different tasks. Flow contains several templates that can be used for common automations across a variety of systems. A combination of templates and connectors can be used to set off automated processes of different levels of complexity.

The connectors are the link between various systems. If you think of the common platforms you use like Salesforce, Twitter, Facebook, and HubSpot, wouldn’t you want to be able to link all of them without shifting from one app to the next trying to perform a series of tasks? That is where connectors come in.

Templates serve as inspiration for automations that you could create. There is a library of common templates and connectors that businesses regularly make use of. For example, you can find a template that provides notification when a document is ready to be signed using DocuSign.

The great thing about this feature is that the user doesn’t have to do much to get the workflow installed, you simply choose what you want.

Windward Hub integrates with Power Automate to make your job even easier and quicker. Know more about it.

What a Business can Use Microsoft Flow for?

There is a wide range of automations that can be achieved using Flow. It ranges from straightforward trigger notifications as we described earlier, to more complex processes that combine a series of steps and integrations of applications. An idea of what can be done includes the following:

  • Create a list of leads from email responses to a marketing campaign.
  • Retrieve data from an order form and enter it into an invoice.
  • Automate approvals for particular tasks.
  • Share reports and other data with team members on a collaboration app.
  • Automate email responses to priority communication with clients.

Basically, you are dealing with a flexible application that connects with several other flexible applications, so the extent of possibilities is wide. Once a business gets a hang of how to use it, they can come up with different ways to use it.

Power Automate Integrations

Since Flow is part of the Microsoft 365 Suite, you do not have to look very far to find Power Automate integrations. If you’re already using modules like 365 Sales, Marketing, Service, and so on, then you already have a set of integrations you can create. For example, you can integrate the sales module with your team collaboration app like Slack so that every time a lead communicates with your business, you will receive notification within the collaboration app. Or you can integrate marketing with sales so that responses to marketing emails sent out during campaigns can also be visible to the sales team.

Outside of the Microsoft environment, there are still several integrations that can be created. Power Automate is compatible with a long list of commonly used business apps like survey monkey, file sharing apps, social media platforms, analytic tools and so much more.

Microsoft provides a step-by-step guide that is easy to follow if you are a first-time user of this tool. In a few minutes, you can integrate different tools without having to write a line of code. This is not just easy to do, it is also cheap since you do not have to pay an IT specialist to get that done.

Reasons to Choose Power Automate

While there are alternatives to Power Automate, it has some positives that make it worth considering over the others. Here are some key reasons to consider:

  • This is part of a larger suite of Microsoft tools and so you can benefit from the integrations and wider support you can get.
  • Since it is cloud-based, it is easier to set up and it connects both with cloud-based and premises software.
  • It is low code/no-code software so even non-IT users can set it up with minimal challenges.
  • It is designed as an enterprise solution so most businesses will find its features are relevant.
  • It comes with templates that are easy to use and they inspire other automation possibilities.

Microsoft flow, however, has its limitations and a few users have pointed out that sometimes setup feels a bit complex and they wish there was a simpler way to get started. Besides, it is a great business solution that even integrates with some of its alternatives.

Pricing

Power Automate has three price plans. The first costs $15 and offers unlimited flows that can be customized by a user. The second is $40 and includes robotic process automation along with 5000 AI Builder credits per month. The third one is licensed by Flow unlike the other two that are licensed by the user. It goes for $500 per month and offers unlimited number of users along with everything the other plans offer.

Conclusion

Microsoft Flow is designed with businesses in mind so a user can be sure that it will suit their business automation needs. This however doesn’t mean it cannot do simple tasks like transferring your vacation photos from Facebook to Google Photos or notifying you when you receive mail from that organization you applied to for a job. Despite its limitations, it does give a good ROI.

If you’ve just discovered us, we’re excited. Try Windward Hub (integrates with Microsoft Power Automate) for free and take it for a spin. Start automating documents in just a few clicks starting today.

Tags Start & End

Tags Can Start & End Anywhere

Appendix B

.NET code for multi-page image output

Appendix A

Java code for multi-page image output

Data Bin Search

The Data Bin can now be searched to find a table, column, node or other piece of data without scrolling through it all.

Shrink to Fit

This will shrink the contents of a cell until it fits the defined cell size.

Time Zone Conversion

A new Windward macro has been added to help with converting dates and times from UTC time to the local time zone.

Image Output Format

New image output formats added.

PostScript Output Format

PostScript, commonly used with printers and printing companies, has been added as an additional output format.

New and Improved Datasets (Designer, Java Engine, .NET Engine)

Datasets have been re-written from scratch to be more powerful and easier to use.

Stored Procedure Wizard (Designer)

This works for all tag types that are connected to a SQL-based data source (Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, or DB2).

Boolean Conditional Wizard (Designer)

Before, conditional statements could only be written manually. Now they can also be built using our intuitive Wizard interface.

Reorganized Ribbon

The ribbon menus have been re-organized and consolidated to improve the report design workflow.

XPath 2.0 as Data Source

Adds various capabilities such as inequalities,descending sort, joins, and other functions.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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SQL Select Debugger

SQL Select  Debugger

  • The look and feel was improved
  • Stored Procedure Wizard
  • Improved Exceptions pane

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Tag Editor/Tag Selector

Added a Query tab as a field for typing or pasting in a select statement

  • Color Coding of Keywords
  • TypeAhead
  • Evaluate is now "Preview"

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Rename a Datasource

All tags using that Data source will be automatically updated with that name.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Connecting to a Data Source

New single interface to replace 2 separate dialog boxes

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Tag Tree

Displays of all the tags in the template, structured as they are placed in the template. This provides a simple & intuitive way to see the structure of your template. Also provides the capability to go to any tag and/or see the properties of any tag.

Added Javelin into the RESTful Engine

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Support for Google Application Engine Integration

The ability to integrate the Windward Engine into Google’s cloud computing platform for developing and hosting web applications dubbed Google Applications Engine (GAE).

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Additional Refinement for HTML Output

  • Improved indentation for ordered and unordered lists
  • Better handling of template header and footer images
  • Better handling for background images and colors

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Redesigned PDF Output Support

This new  integration will allow for processing of complex scripts and bi-directional  text such as Arabic.  Your PDF output  will be much tighter and more closely match your template, and we’ll be able  to respond rapidly to PDF requests and fixes.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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PowerPoint Support

Includes support for new ForEach and slide break handling, table header row repeat across slide breaks, and native Microsoft support for charts and images.

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Tags are Color Coded

Tags are color coded in the template by type, making it easy to visually identify them.

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Increased Performance

Version 13’s core code has been reworked and optimized to offer a reduced memory footprint, faster PDF generation and full documentation of supported features and limitations in the specifications for DOCX, XLSX and PPTX.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Advanced Image Properties

Documents can include advanced Word image properties such as shadows, borders, and styles.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Improved HTML Output

Windward has updated HTML output to reflect changing HTML standards.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Version 13 New Data Sources

Windward now works with a slew of new datasources: MongoDB, JSON, Cassandra, OData, Salesforce.com

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Generate Code

The Generate Code tool in the designer allows you to open an existing template and, with a click of a button, automatically create a window with the code needed to run your current template with all data sources and variables. Simply copy this code and paste into your application's code in the appropriate place. You now have Windward integrated into your application.

You only need to do this once. You do not do this for each template. Instead, where it has explicit files for the template and output, change that to parameters you pass to this code. Same for the parameters passed to Windward. This example uses explicit values to show you what to substitute in where.

Pivot Tables Adjusted in Output

Any pivot tables in an XLSX template are carried over to the XLSX output. The ranges in the pivot ranges are adjusted to match the generated output. So your final XLSX will have pivot tables set as expected in the generated file.

This makes creating an XLSX workbook with pivot tables trivial.

Imported Template Can be Set to Match the Parent Styles

In an imported sub-template, if its properties for a style (ex. Normal) differ from the parent template's properties for the style, the use in the sub-template can be set to either use the properties in the sub-template, or the properties in the parent.

You set to retain when you don't want the child template's styling to change when imported. You set to use the parent when you want the styling of the imported template to match the styling in the parent.

Any explicit styling is always retained. This only impacts styling set by styles.

Tags can be Placed in Text Boxes

Tags can be placed in text boxes. Including linked text boxes. This gives you the ability to set the text in a textbox from your data.

Tags can be Placed in Shapes & Smart Art

Tags can be placed in shapes & smart art. This gives you the ability to set the text in a shape from your data.

HTML Output Supports Embedded Images

When generating HTML output, the engine can either write bitmaps as distinct files the generate HTML references, or it can embed the images in the HTML providing a single file for the output.

Footnotes & Endnotes can Have Tags

You can place tags in pretty much any part of a template, including in footnotes & endnotes.

Document Locking Supported in DOCX & XLSX

Any parts of a DOCX or XLSX (PowerPoint does not support this) file that are locked in the template, will be locked the same in the output.

Specify Font Substitution

If a font used in the template does not exist on the server generating a report, the font to substitute can be specified.
In addition, if a glyph to be rendered does not exist in the font specified, you can specify the replacement font. This can be set distinctly for European, Bi-Directional, and Far East fonts.

Process Multiple Datasources Simultaneously

If you need this - it's essential. And if you don't need it, it's irrelevant.

Windward enables you to build a document by applying multiple datasources to the template simultaneously. When Windward is merging the data into a template, it processes the template by handling each tag in order, and each tag pulls from different datasources. (As opposed to processing all of one datasource, then processing the next.)

This allows the select tag to use data from another datasource in its select. For example, if you are pulling customer information from one data source, you can then pull data from the sales datasource using the customer ID of the customer presently processing to pull the sales information for that customer. If you're interested in patching together your data from multiple datasources, read this post on our blog.

Written by:_
Genesis Abel

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