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Power Fx: Embrace the Next-generation of Low Code App Development

By the year 2024, 65% of all app development functions will be created utilizing Low Code and 75% of large enterprises will be using at least four low code development platforms.

– Gartner

Today, technology is evolving at a frantic pace. Microsoft predicts that more than 500 million new business apps will be created in the next five years, this amount will be more than all of the apps created in the past four decades! However, the latest US labor statistics reported a shortage of about 1.4 million software developers in 2021. It is easy to see why more and more organizations are hinging on low code development platforms to become more agile and accelerate their strategy execution.

As a leader in the low code application development services, Power Apps empowers the business experts to build impactful business apps by leveraging pre-built code snippets or blocks, and point-and-click interfaces, cutting back on the intense coding time and skills required for developing an application. While point-and-click functionality is great for quickly assembling experiences and workflows, but many real-world solutions need a layer of logic that goes beyond what is practical to drag and drop. To bridge this gap, Microsoft has recently announced its low code programming language, Power Fx. It provides pro and citizen app developers with a familiar and approachable way to express logic and build more sophisticated applications.

“Power Fx is our commitment to reach developers with the Microsoft Power Platform”.

– Charles Lamanna, CVP Low Code Application Platform, Microsoft

Power Fx is an exciting new open-source language that is at the heart of Microsoft Power Apps canvas apps today and is inspired by Microsoft Excel. This human-friendly, general-purpose, strong-typed, declarative, and functional programming language can be used across the Power Platform, enabling everyone to get started with low code tools. Power Fx is built on a similar syntax that millions of developers have been using to solve logic and computation problems. The language’s powerful features, including the ability to edit apps directly in the text editors, such as Visual Studio Code, help developers and professionals amplify app capabilities easily and develop apps faster.

5 Reasons to be excited about Power Fx

  • Power Fx is open source: Industry experts believe that the “future of programming is open”. Microsoft has embraced the concept of open source innovation by accelerating the adoption of languages like C# and Typescript. With Power Fx, the Redmond giants are now bringing that same open approach to the low code world. Power Fx will be available for open contribution by the broader community on GitHub.
  • Power Fx is Excel-based: Developers and professionals can build solutions utilizing formulas that they are already familiar with. Power Fx enables a broad range of people to bring skills they already possess to low code solutions. Power Fx delivers a common ground for business users and professional developers alike to express logic and solve problems.
  • Power Fx is made for low code programming: Power Fx is already the foundation of the Power Apps canvas apps. The language will soon be extended for use across Power Platform to Microsoft Dataverse, Microsoft Power Automate, Microsoft Power Virtual Agents, and beyond.
  • Power Fx is strongly typed: Meaning that types of all the values are already known at compile time. This helps developers in detecting the errors at an early stage.
  • Power Fx is local and remote: This low code language leverages the same syntax and functions for data, which is local in-memory and remote in a database.

How Formula-based Coding Works

Microsoft describes Power Fx as a “formula language for low code that’s based on Microsoft Excel”. In Power Fx, a formula uses references to controls and data instead of the cells, linking it to the user interface design. Each formula runs when the control to which it is tied is used, so when you type into a text control, the appropriate formula automatically runs. Similar to Excel, each formula in Power Fx is independent. However, one formula can feed into another, using output values as inputs. You don’t control how those elements interact, it’s all handled by the underlying platform, whether it’s Power Apps or any other tool using the Power Fx language.

Power Fx also delivers an asynchronous functional programming environment, with each formula a separate function. As a result, the app is live as you write your code, with each new block of code ready to run as soon as it’s written. It’s an approach that makes writing a Power Fx application much like building an Excel spreadsheet while allowing you to test and experiment with code as you are building an application.

Microsoft has built a dynamic compiler for Power Fx that runs inside the Power Apps platform, and it’s used to deliver auto-complete and other IntelliSense features. You get to see errors highlighted as you make them, thereby speeding up debugging. An error in one formula doesn’t stop the app from running, thanks to each block being run in isolation. The IntelliSense tools in the compiler work with your data sources and controls, loading metadata and using it to suggest what you can use at a certain point in a formula.

Power Fx describes business logic in the most concise, yet powerful, formulas. Most logic can be reduced to a single line, with plenty of expressiveness and control for more complex needs. The goal is to streamline the number of concepts to a minimum, and ideally no more than an Excel user would already know. Power Fx enables No-code options for handling control formatting, setting values that can be seen in generated code.

The Next Chapter in Low Code Evolution is here

Emerging at the epicenter of the low code movement, Microsoft Power Fx is the next evolutionary phase in rapid application development. It is the first of its kind low code programming language, based on spreadsheet-like formulas. In this language, an expression by itself means nothing about what it is calculating, but it is up to the developers or professionals, whether they want to place it in a variable or pass it to a function. Furthermore, instead of only writing an expression with no specific meaning, one can write a formula that binds the expression to an identifier. The language enables the full spectrum of app development from “No-code” (for those without any coding skills) to “pro-code” (for professional developers). Power Fx bridges the gap between skill sets and development approaches, thereby enabling diverse teams to collaborate and build next-generation solutions together.

With Power Fx, Microsoft has aroused interest among technology connoisseurs across the world. This new kind of coding language can redefine the way professional developers build solutions and offer citizen developers a familiar and approachable way to express logic. Microsoft is extending the language to work on hundreds of external data sources, across mobile devices, and through various advanced application scenarios. And this is only the beginning, as Microsoft is expected to significantly expand the Power Fx’s features in the coming months.

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