PowerAutomate and JSON extend PowerApps

Extending PowerApps with the use of PowerAutomate and JSON Responses, This is going to be a quick one for a Friday Night as I have been asked this question quite a few times in the past week so time to make a blog post.

As we discussed in our last blog post on JSON (See it here: PowerPlatform and NSC Love JSON) We know how to handle Arrays, objects and multiple data types but how do we get that useful data back to PowerApps!

Well many of your may know the connector. “Respond to PowerApps”

respond to PowerApps or PowerAutomate

Now with this guy, there is one glaring issue. Its TEXT ONLY! Now I don’t know about you… but we have made this work passing things other than text… Lets not go back there.. or mention it again….

However have no fear! We can use something called a HTTP Response. Now the beautiful thing about this response action is that we can define the expected output of data. If we need PowerApps to see an Array… Great! We can build a Schema to send that off.

Now this sounds scary once again… its adding code to your no to low code solution but hang in there with me.. PowerAutomate pretty much does it for you.

In this blog I will be using a SharePoint list as my data source…. But it could be anything.

The PowerAutomate Setup!

The First thing you are going to want to do is create a very basic flow. This is so that we can gather the expected output of your data. This flow launches from PowerApps.

(Using Test in the top right allows you to fire this off as if you were in PowerApps)

basic PowerAutomate Workflow

Running this flow will give us this lovely output that we need to generate our response!

PowerAutomate SharePoint Response

The bit we are after is everything under after the { “value”: make sure you include and copy the open and close square brackets! [ ]

Keep this copy aside somewhere… We will need it soon!

Now your response will be very different to mine so there is no point pasting mine here. However what you need to take away here is you can remove columns by removing their names. For example you see “@odata.etag”: I don’t want this column to appear so when I generate my schema I am going to leave it out.

Finally… The PowerAutomate Reponse!

We are going to add one step to our flow. 
PowerAutomate Response

Ensure you have chosen your body value from the step above. Essentially this is where the response will be getting its data from.

The last step. Click Generate from sample and paste in the entire JSON output from your Get SharePoint List items Connector (In my case)

What this will do is then generate a schema which will format the data and types that will be sent back to PowerApps as seen below:

PowerAutomate Resposne Schema

Now three things I would like to mention here to help some heart ache.

  1. Make sure you define types for everything in your response. PowerApps hates undefined types
  2. Make sure your required items in your Schema will always have data in them
  3. Finally if you change your schema after the PowerAutomate Workflow is added to PowerApps… You have to remove and re-add it… Otherwise it will always expect the original schema.

On PowerApps end your code on your button will look something like this:

ClearCollect(tableFromResponse, getData.run())

All this does is collects your output of the PowerAutomate Workflow into a collection to be used in PowerApps!

And with that. Have a fantastic Weekend!

Ben Out!

Reach out to the team on Twitter at NextStep Aus and let us know what you’ve built!

Check out some of our other posts here:
PowerAutomate QuickBits 2 – Handling APIs Efficiently
Running SQL Queries in PowerApps
PowerApps QuickBits – Radio Button Reset Solution

PowerPlatform and NSC Love JSON

Have you ever wanted to do more with your favourite PowerPlatform and hit a wall? Well today we are going to shed some light on one of those walls… JSON

Now. Some will tell you that you require quite a bit of knowledge to understand and use JSON.

I am here to tell you today. They are dumb. You be you. Sit back, relax and read

NextStep Creations Basics of JSON and the PowerPlatform

So we start by ignoring the PowerPlatform as we need to layout some basic concepts first.
In programming there are these things called type definitions. They do exactly as they say. Define types.

Some of the common types you will see as you start to Delve a bit deeper are as follows:

  • Integers (Also known as numbers or values) <– this little guy is a whole number so 123 is an integer and so is -123
  • Strings (Also known as text or str) <– this little guy is normally surrounded by “HI! I’m a string! “, it can also be surrounded by ‘yes these’
  • Booleans (Also known true/false, yes/no, on/off) <–This is as it states only two values. An ‘on’, ‘yes’, ‘1’ or ‘true’ and an ‘off’, ‘no’, ‘0’ or ‘false’
  • Objects (Also known as a record) <– Think of this guy as a row in a table. It will contain data for that entire row.
  • Arrays (Also known as a table) <– Think of this guy as the entire collection of items. You could say an Array is a collection of objects
  • NULL (Also known as blank) <– This one sometimes trips people up. As people assume that 0 or “Zero” is Null. However this is incorrect. Think of it this way:
    Zero: You have a toilet roll but there is no toilet paper left. You still know its a toilet roll though!
    Null: You have no toilet paper and no toilet roll.
  • Undefined <– this guy…. this bloody guy…. will ruin your day if you forget about him. Here is a nice image to assist me in defining what undefined is 🙂

JSON types - 0 null and undefined
Okay so now we have those little guys out of the way. Lets get into the SCARY code stuff.
Here is an example describing a person… We are going to break it down:

{
  "firstName": "John",
  "lastName": "Smith",
  "isAlive": true,
  "age": 27,
  "address": {
    "streetAddress": "21 2nd Street",
    "city": "New York",
    "state": "NY",
    "postalCode": "10021-3100"
  },
  "phoneNumbers": [
    {
      "type": "home",
      "number": "212 555-1234"
    },
    {
      "type": "office",
      "number": "646 555-4567"
    }
  ],
  "children": [],
  "spouse": null
}

Okay so every JSON file will contain { } these guys. They generally start and finish objects.
As you can see above prior to First Name there is an open tag { then finally after spouse there is a close tag }

Starting from the top! “firstName”: is the first name column! now pay close attention to the quotes and the colon. For a column name quotes ‘ ” ‘MUST start and close the name followed by a colon ‘ : ‘.

Now we have {“firstName”: “John”, 
Here John is defined as the value for the firstName column. Please also note its surrounded in quotes as its a string and the line is closed with a comma ‘ , ‘. Something to note here, these commas have to be placed on every line of an object except the last! Remember this!

Moving down. “lastName”: is another column definition with the value “Smith”, <– again notice the comma.

“isAlive”: true,  <– this one is slightly different as the words true and false without quotes surrounding them are defined as boolean values as described above.

“age”: 27, <– this value doesn’t require quotes either due to numbers being defined as integers if quotes are not surrounding the digits. So if you need a number type… Lose the quotes.

now “address”: { <– ooh! This one has another open tag. Meaning we have our first nested object. The contents of this one are clearly defined the same way. The biggest thing to note here is that the object MUST be closed so at the end you will notice }, meaning im finished defining this and move onto the next column

“phoneNumbers”: [ <– yay! learning! This one is the start of an array. Now remembering as above that an array is a collection of objects. Meaning you will generally see something like {object1}, {object2}, {object3} now these objects will be surrounded by [] as this dictates the array nature. Again ensure that you close this Array by using ], saying hey! I’m done here move onto the next column.

Okay now we have broken down how to read JSON. Lets move onto how our beautiful PowerPlatform reads JSON… SCHEMAS! 
We have performed some magic hiddin inside a JSON to JSON Schema converter to create the below:

{
"$schema": "http://json-schema.org/draft-04/schema#",
"type": "object",
"properties": {
"firstName": {
"type": "string"
},
"lastName": {
"type": "string"
},
"isAlive": {
"type": "boolean"
},
"age": {
"type": "integer"
},
"address": {
"type": "object",
"properties": {
"streetAddress": {
"type": "string"
},
"city": {
"type": "string"
},
"state": {
"type": "string"
},
"postalCode": {
"type": "string"
}
},
"required": [
"streetAddress",
"city",
"state",
"postalCode"
]
},
"phoneNumbers": {
"type": "array",
"items": [
{
"type": "object",
"properties": {
"type": {
"type": "string"
},
"number": {
"type": "string"
}
},
"required": [
"type",
"number"
]
},
{
"type": "object",
"properties": {
"type": {
"type": "string"
},
"number": {
"type": "string"
}
},
"required": [
"type",
"number"
]
}
]
},
"children": {
"type": "array",
"items": {}
},
"spouse": {
"type": "null"
}
},
"required": [
"firstName",
"lastName",
"isAlive",
"age",
"address",
"phoneNumbers",
"children",
"spouse"
]
}

Now please don’t get confused here. All you are seeing is the definition of what we have explained above.

These beautiful schemas are VERY important as they allow us to add predictability to our low code solution. We know what will be a string, Boolean, array or object.

In the above you will see the definition of each column and then its type defined just after. Now the reason I wanted to expand into Schemas in this post is these are where the headaches come from. 

In a perfect world the data we enter in the system will be perfect… but lets be real… users are dumb…

So if your isAlive field requires a yes or no and some how the user enters “hello world” your system will catch fire.

Now you may want it to break if this happens. However. Sometimes you may need you system to keep running. What you could do is remove the type definition from your defined column so instead of:
“isAlive”: {
“type”: “boolean”
}
it would be:
“isAlive”: {}

Something to note however. If you are passing data back to PowerApps… PowerApps hates undefined types. So don’t do this.. XD

Also something that might cause you headaches is this bit:
“required”: [
“firstName”,
“lastName”,
“isAlive”,
“age”,
“address”,
“phoneNumbers”,
“children”,
“spouse”
]
This states that all of these fields are REQUIRED for your JSON to parse the data correctly. Now if for some reason age doesn’t always have data. Your environment will cry tears of blood. Not to fear! You can remove the required column names with the simple backspace key along with your hours upon hours of time spent debugging this dumb issue.

So something to note is you can also remove all of them so your required portion of the schema could look like this:
“required”: [] <– just be careful as you MAY need to ensure data is in some fields.

Okay.. This is the walkthrough, breakdown, explanation, whatever you want to call it of something that took me much longer than I would like to admit to FULLY grasp. 

I have not explained everything. Nor will I. However I hope this little post of mine can help you in expanding your apps, workflows or automation! If you have any questions or ideas, don’t hesitate to reach out to myself and the team on Twitter: NextStep Aus

Automate on people.

Ben out!

Check out some of our other posts here:

PowerApps – Create Beautiful HTML/PDF Reports

Today we are back again…. Turning our boring HTML Table from PowerApps into a beautiful CSS Table with embedded images and with my limited HTML and CSS knowledge make it…. customer friendly

 

Do you know the initial setup?

If not please find my previous blog post below:
Create HTML/PDF Reports from PowerApps

Updating our previous flow:

The very first thing we are going to need to do is add a new string variable with a name we can remember!

PowerApps - initialise variable header content

Now we have our empty string… Lets do some HTML!

WAIT… But Ben… I dont know HTML….

Have no fear! W3 Schools is here! HTML Tutorial

< !DOCTYPE html >
< html >
< head >
< title > HTML Report < /title >
< meta charset=”UTF-8″ >
< meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1″ >

Now if I can say anything…. Please do NOT copy the code below and expect it to work… The reason for this…. Bloody Quotations!
This is a quotation that wont work
This is a quotation that will work "

Special thanks to Reddit User ‘u/Knovar’ for experiencing this little bug so we can add it to the blog steps 🙂

Just make sure your quotes, symbols and special characters are on point as sometimes HTML and Website text editors like to just change things!

Now you will notice I am not adding the < style > tag here. This is for two reasons:

1. I am going to add quite a bit of CSS here… (Don’t know CSS? W3 Schools to the rescue! CSS Tutorial) The one thing variables in PowerAutomate does not like is lines and lines of visible text.

2. I don’t want to have to scroll or search 17 times looking for the once piece of HTML or CSS that I am trying to edit or change!

Next we are going to create another empty string variable.. This time instead of header content… you guessed it… var_HTMLStyle.

< style >
/*Set the Page size*/
@page {
size: A4;
}

/* Style the body */
body {
font-family: Arial;
margin: 0;
}
#limit {
max-width: 550px;
word-wrap: break-word;
}

/* Page Content */
.content {padding:20px;}

#customers {
font-family: “Trebuchet MS”, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
border-collapse: collapse;
width: 100%;
}

#customers td, #customers th {
border: 1px solid #ddd;
padding: 8px;
}

#customers tr:nth-child(even){background-color: #f2f2f2;}

#customers th {
padding-top: 12px;
padding-bottom: 12px;
text-align: left;
background-color: #264c79;
color: white;
}
< /style >
< /head >

The above code sets some CSS Styles for my tables and my body content as well as a very important step…

It sets the page size as ‘A4’
If you intend on exporting this to PDF… You will love this little gem..

Okay home stretch we are going to replicate the above two steps..

But we are going to create a var_HTMLBody this will include
thetag as well as some text if you desire

for us it will just be < body >

Then we are going to create a var_HTMLTable

This is the fun bit… The below piece of code (which will be the content of our var_HTMLTable String variable) Defines the tables Header, the tables CSS Style and the table header columns. Notice we do not yet close the table HTML

< h2 > Ben’s Money Breakdown < /h2 >
< table id=”customers” >
< tr >
< th > Name < /th >
< th > Cost < /th >
< /tr >

We are now going to create an apply to each loop from our previous ParseJSON and do a little Append to string magic 🙂

At this stage you can delete the previous Create HTML Table control as we are about to be replacing this.

First Create the apply to each and give it the ‘body’ content from the ParseJSON Response from earlier.

apply to each & append

As you can see above we have added an Append to string variable action… Now the magic…

< tr >
< td > @{items(‘Apply_to_each’)[‘description’]} < /td >
< td > @{items(‘Apply_to_each’)[‘purchase’]} < /td >
< /tr >

This builds our table row… One at a time… in the correct order…. 🙂

It should look like this:

apply to each filled out

Now after our apply to each we have to add some important steps.
It joins all our string variables together to make our finished HTML

The steps are as follows:
1. Close our Table with < /table >
2. Close our body with var_HTMLTable < /body >
3. Close our HTML Header with var_HTMLStyle var_HTMLBody < /HTML >

It should look something like below:
finish HTML

Finally use the var_HTMLHeader as the file content for your Create File action from the first Blog

create file

Now lets run this with content from before:

new table with css

Old Table for comparison:

old table without css

Hope this helps!

Taking your PowerApps and PowerAutomate Skills the NextStep

Ben Signing off!

PowerApps – Create HTML/PDF Reports

Do you get shivers every time your client or boss asks for a report of that beautiful PowerApps Gallery you built for them?
This post will give you the tools you need to create beautiful PDF reports with and without images using our wonderful PowerPlatform and a little code magic.

The very first thing you are going to want to do is setup a Gallery or Collection in PowerApps <– This is what we will be using as our base for our report.
Lets take a look at my very basic app that tells some real truths:

Items

As you can see we have three columns – Description, Purchase and Notes
We are going to export the 4 rows of a snapshot of my life (dont tell my wife) to PowerAutomate where we will formulate our amazing HTML.
The code to do this is quite simple – but first we need to create our flow.

Items

Above you see two things:
1. The first is our PowerApps trigger. This is what allows us to call and send data to the PowerAutomate Workflows (Flows).
2. The second is an Initailise Variable step with Type Array and a nice name. We at NSC use var_ to start our variables so they are all the same scheme.

The beautiful thing about the PowerApps Connector is that it also does something else for us. As you can see it lets us Ask in PowerApps as a dynamic value option. This creates a PowerApps Variable with the name of the control:

Items

Notice the name of the variable varitemsFromPA_Value and look at the name of the initialise variable step: var_itemsFromPA_ <– take note of this.. when you are dealing with 100’s of these, your naming scheme will save your headache!

So quickly recapping… We have a PowerApp with Data and a Workflow with a setup ready to receive it… Lets join them.

Items

I have added a button to my PowerApp > I have clicked on my button > I have clicked actions in the top header > I have clicked Power Automate and Now I simply have to select my requested flow.

Items

I have now selected createReportDemo (My Workflow’s name and its adding to my button)

Items

Oh No! It failed to register… This is something you WILL run into when you are playing with Flow and PowerApps… The trick here. PowerApps can accept and receive only one thing… Text (strings, words, characters, bits) it only deals with Text…

So when we created our variable as type array that puts a request to PowerApps to send an Array reponse. It cannot complete this action so it FAILS! Don’t fear though. This isn’t a stopping point; we just have to change our functions slightly

To Remove a PowerApps Variable you have to remove the Trigger from the Flow:

Items

ItemsItems

Okay we have cleared that Variable… Now lets change the variable type:

Items

Now lets re-request our PowerApps Variable:

Items

Okay now we are ready to head back to the PowerApp.


BOOM!

Items

We are now ready to start adding our code to the no code solution! 🙂

In the function bar at the top of the PowerApp if you select this…

Items

It shows you your beautiful NAMED variable that it is asking for

These are mandatory. If you ask for two you must provide both responses. Hence why I showed you how to delete incorrect variables above… cause god dammit man we are only human!

The function layout is as follows:

`createReportDemo.Run(JSON(expenses, JSONFormat.IgnoreUnsupportedTypes))`

My collection here is called expenses (which contains all the columns and data)

We are using Ignore Unsupported Types because I dont want to deal with NULL value checking today you can read more about this here:
JSON Functions
We will cover JSON in more depth in blog posts to come!

Items

So we now have a button that will send all our data from PowerApps to PowerAutomate in a JSON format and a PowerAutomate Workflow that will grab that response and put it into a string variable for us… GREAT!

Time for the HTML…. WRONG we have to do some dumb stuff first…

Your beautiful button you created earlier… Press it.. Press it now!

Hopefully it will run your flow and you will get a succeeded response like below:

Items

We are now going to open that response:

See that beautiful Value there… right now it contains [{BLAH BLAH BLAH

This is our JSON code and what we need to copy for this step:

[
{“Notes”:””,”URI”:””,”description”:”Cat”,”editValue”:”false”,”purchase”:133},
{“Notes”:””,”URI”:””,”description”:”Wife”,”editValue”:”false”,”purchase”:999},
{“Notes”:””,”URI”:””,”description”:”Baby”,”editValue”:”false”,”purchase”:200},
{“Notes”:””,”URI”:””,”description”:”Ben”,”editValue”:”false”,”purchase”:1}
]

Okay now we have our sample code lets jump into the Workflow’s edit mode:

Insert a _Parse JSON_ action and provide the content as the var_ variable we defined earlier

Items

Now see that Schema is required … SMASH Generate from Sample and dump our copied notes from our succesful run in there

Items

Then click done!

Items

Now our JSON is entered we can continue

Add a new step – Create HTML Table

The Content for this is the Dynamic Body of our Parse JSON

I have added a comment so you can see the real expression (if you care)

Items

Okay home stretch…

This Create OneDrive for Business connector might cause you some grief… its not you… its Power Automate…

There are two solutions to resolve this error:
onedrive error

  1. Export your flow… then simply re-import your flow….. Yup…
    OR
  2. Delete your flow…. then delete your OneDrive for Business Connector from the connectors screen on the left…. Create the OneDrive for Business Connector again and finally recreate your flow

Add a Create OneDrive for Business File:

Items

The Filename MUST contain .HTML here

The File Content is the body response of our Create HTML Table

Next Add a Convert File (Preview) Action:

Here our *File: is the ID of the above created File and Type is as you request. However as the title suggests this is to PDF!

Items

Finally…

Add a Create File action… 

Here we are going to just play match the names and use the File Name and File Content of our Convert File action:

Items

And Thats it…

This final step will create our PDF and save it to the defined location. You can fancy this up but that will be part two of this post 🙂

Here is the output of this basic PowerApp and PowerAutomate Workflow:

Items
Items

Hope this helps! Read the next step here: PowerApps – Create Beautiful HTML/PDF Reports

Taking your PowerApps and PowerAutomate Skills the NextStep

Ben is now in trouble… Signing off!