Microsoft has announced that it is to roll out ‘Power FX’ across its Power Platform.
What is Power FX?
Power FX is to be the new low-code language that will be used to express logic across the entire Power Platform. This language is inspired by Microsoft Excel, and currently underpins canvas Power Apps. When going into detail about what Power FX is and does, they advised people to ‘think Excel’, given that its creation was inspired by the idea that apps should be built as easily as spreadsheets.
As a business that originated as Excel experts, before becoming Power Platform specialists, you can imagine how excited we are by this news! It’s not difficult to see where the name ‘Power Fx’ came from, just go and take a look at an Excel formula bar.
Given that hundreds of people create spreadsheets with Excel every day, Microsoft wanted to make app creation easier for all whilst leveraging people’s existing spreadsheet knowledge. The founding team’s original aspiration was to craft a language that achieved the following:
- Already familiar to the many millions of Excel users
- Content-centric, not program-centric, generalising not just numbers but all information with friendly naming conventions
- Instantly calculated, recompiling in real time as edits are made, just like a spreadsheet, instead of requiring multiple steps to compile and publish
The table below shows the functions in green which are identical or very close to Excel’s version, emphasising the fact that Power Fx’s roots are firmly cemented in Excel.
Microsoft have confirmed that the roll out of Power FX will be phased over a 24 month period, and by the end of 2021, Power FX will be rolled out to:
- Dataverse calculated columns
- AI builder
- Power Virtual agents
- Power Automate
- Dataverse business rules
What does the introduction of Power FX mean for:
Power Apps users – nothing! Expression language is currently used in canvas Power Apps and this is essentially Power FX, so what is currently in place will remain, but we’re likely to see this enhanced over time.
Power BI users – need not worry that this will replace M or DAX – Power FX has been created to complement these.
Power Automate users – no effect right now, likely to start seeing it rolled out to Power Automate in around 18 months.
Dataverse/Model Driven App & Power Virtual Agents users – Microsoft plan on rolling Power FX out to these environments first, so it is recommended that developers quickly familarise themselves with the syntax currently used in Excel and Canvas Apps.
Why is the introduction of Power FX such a big deal?
By using a syntax synonymous with that used in Excel, Power Fx will allow users to build Apps as easily as Excel spreadsheets. In addition, it also means there is much more consistency across Power Apps and Power Automate, making the development of Power Platform solutions far more efficient.
Microsoft have highlighted three main reasons why the introduction of Power FX is so exciting:
- It is based on Microsoft Excel
Using formulas that are already familiar to hundreds of millions of users means that Power FX becomes common ground for both business users and professional developers
- Power FX is low code
It is already the foundation of Power Apps canvas, and once rolled out across the whole of the Power Platform, people will be able to get started with low-code solutions much faster
- Power FX is open source
Microsoft recognise that the future of programming is open source and have embraced the pace of open innovation that has propelled the adoption of languages such as Typescript and C#. By making Power FX available for open contribution from the broader community, Power FX will naturally evolve for the better over time
Probably the most exciting thing about Power FX to us, is that it is ALWAYS LIVE! Again, this is another Excel trait which has been adopted, as it allows immediate feedback. Excel doesn’t have an edit/compile/run state – you simply load the spreadsheet, edit your formulas and values freely, and you get your answers – simple. A spreadsheet is always live, and there is no distinction between editing and running. Any errors detected come to light immediately and don’t interfere with the rest of the spreadsheet. Well, the people behind Power Fx want their users to have this same live experience. As developers, this means we will now have the advantage of telling the app what we want it to do, without having to describe the how or when, meaning we won’t have the tedious task of keeping variables and data tables up-to-date manually – therefore, Power Fx will allow us to build solutions faster, which is, well, bloody marvellous news!
What does it mean for businesses currently using Excel?
The introduction of Power Fx paves the way for businesses that are powered by offline legacy spreadsheets, to be migrated to cloud-based solutions that are multi-user, single version, scalable deployments. Not only that, because Power Fx is based on Microsoft Excel, using the Power Platform for their business intelligence requirements will be less daunting, as they will already be familiar with elements of it, therefore the Power Platform adoption process will be quicker and a return on their investment will be seen much sooner. What better way to kickstart a Digital Transformation journey!