# Tuesday, February 4, 2020

A few months ago, Microsoft Flow was rebranded as Microsoft Power Automate.

Power Automate (PA) is a tool and platform for building workflows. It is specifically targeted at business users and business analysts. These foods are often referred to as "Citizen Developers". They understand the business logic to be encoded but lack the skill or desire to write custom code.  Because PA provides a graphical interface directly within the browser, these Citizen Developers can create many workflows without writing any code.

PA consists of the following key components
Flows

  • Connectors
  • Triggers
  • Actions
  • Templates
  • Solutions

Flows

A flow is a workflow created with Microsoft Power Automate. It consists of a set of steps, along with some logic to decide when and how often those steps are executed.

Connectors

Connectors provide a way for your flow to connect to external data sources and applications. They are wrappers to APIs to those external components. PA ships with hundreds of connectors, but you can also build your own, if the one you want is not available. 

Triggers

A trigger defines an event that kicks off a flow. This can be a document saved somewhere, an email message received, a database change, or any of a number of possible activities.

Actions

An action is a step for the flow to perform. You build your flow by chaining together different actions and the logic around their execution. Most actions use connectors to interact with external data or an external application.

Templates

A template is a predefined flow on which you can base a new flow. This makes it easy to create a flow to accomplish many common tasks, such as automatically saving an email attachment to a OneDrive folder or send an email when someone saves a file. More complex workflows also have templates. For example, there are several templates that support manager approval processes.

Solutions

A solution is a set of related flows that you can manage together. Use this to deploy multiple flows at the same time to the same environment.

Examples

The built-in connectors and templates make it possible to build flows for a variety of scenarios. Want to automate the process of approving expense reports? Done! Want to be notified when important data is updated? Done! Want to know the weather every morning? Done! You can start with a template or build a flow from scratch.

What if it’s not enough?

Some workflows may require more complex logic or lots of custom code. For these, Microsoft offers Azure Logic Apps – a more powerful workflow engine hosted in Azure.

Getting started

If you are an Office 365 or Dynamics 365 customer, you already have access to Power Automate.

If not, you can sign up for free at https://flow.microsoft.com

You can build flows with the free version; but there are limitations on the number of flows, the available connectors, and the frequency they can be invoked. You can move past these limitations this by signing up for a paid version.

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