Microsoft Power Automate – What is it?

If you’ve ever used IFTTT (If-this-then-that) or Zapier, then Microsoft’s Power Automate will seem very familiar. It provides a ton of integrations with many popular services and tools so that you can string them together in automation scenarios without writing any code. Want to automatically save all email attachments you receive to OneDrive? It can do that. Want to automatically post a tweet to Twitter when you receive a particular email? It can do that. Do you want to get a push notification every time you receive an email from your boss? Yes, it can do that too. You can string together simple to even very complex automations with clicks and configurations over dropping down to Visual Studio and writing some code.

Power Automate Desktop, which I mentioned in my previous blog post, is free to Windows 10 users with no additional cost. The cloud version is a paid-version with varying pricing plans. However, as of the writing of this article (August 2021), you can get a 30 day trial of it with a work or school account.

Here’s an example of an automation that I put together that emails me the contents of a website directly to my email, every day at 10 AM:

screenshot of MIcrosoft Power Automate designer with a flow showing how to email the contents of a website at a set time.

There was no code involved in the making of this. The recurrence widget allows a flow to be triggered at a specific time. The HTTP connector grabs a web resource that you specify. Finally, the email notification widget allows you to send out an email. The “body” variable that you see was produced by the HTTP connector in the previous step.

Well, this was a contrived example for the sake of this article but there are so many more connectors available to you that you can cobble together some great automation that will hopefully make some repetitive and boring tasks automated without sitting down and writing an app for it. Or better yet, you can introduce this tool to your non-technical friend or coworker who has been bugging you to automate something for them. This will hopefully empower them to finally build that automation themselves and inspire them to build other great things that we didn’t even imagine.

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