What is Microsoft Flow? Microsoft flow, now renamed to Power Automate is a cloud-based service from Office 365, that enables users to create automated workflows for organizations’ business needs. Microsoft flow allows you to create flows by communicating with various other non-Microsoft services or applications. Without any developer knowledge, you can create flows easily to automate your business process.
In this, we will discuss in detail what is a flow or power automate? Microsoft flow key features, why we should we use flow?, flow pricing or licensing, what are Microsoft flow connectors and templates.
Let us understand firs, what is Microsoft flow?
What is Microsoft Flow?
Now, let us understand what is Microsoft flow exactly? Microsoft flow is a cloud service from Microsoft, comes as a part of Office 365.
Microsoft flow helps you to simplify your day to day repetitive tasks to flows, that can run or execute automatically without much manual intervention.
If you are a little familiar with SharePoint designer workflows or out of box workflows, where we usually configure actions for a repetitive task, it will be easier for you to understand flows.
But Flow is not just meant for SharePoint, Microsoft flow allows you to connect and communicate with other services like Google, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and many more business applications.
By using flow, you can send automatic notifications, push notifications or emails, ask for approvals from designated persons, and many more things you can do.
What is Power Automate?
What is Power Automate? Power Automate is nothing new, Microsoft just renamed Microsoft Flow to Power Automate.
Why use Microsoft Flow?
Why use Microsoft Flow? We can use flow to automate lots of business processes by adding various flow actions with stages and steps. Now only this we can also use flow to send just email notifications or push notifications.
Apart from this, we can also use Microsoft flow to start simple to complex approvals, even we can start various multilevel approval processes.
Not only this we can also use other services to capture information. For example, we can use Microsoft flow to capture data from Twitter or Facebook on a specific hashtag.
Even we can store email attachments from your email to SharePoint document library by using flow. We can create a flow that will trigger whenever you will receive an email with an attachment, this will store the attachment in SharePoint.
Even we can also copy files between one drive for business and SharePoint or even we can sync new OneDrive files to Google drive files. And, we can also upload photos to OneDrive for Business on a button flow.
Almost all organizations using Office 365 uses Microsoft Teams. We can even use flow to communicate with the Microsoft team from other applications. Like, we can Microsoft flow to post messages to Microsoft teams when a new task is created in Planner. Or we can alert the team when a specific documents are uploaded. Or even we can post message to Microsoft Teams when an email arrives in Office 365 Outlook.
Like this, in many more scenarios, we can use flow to automate our business processes.
Microsoft Flow Key Features
Now, let us see a few key features of Microsoft flow or Power Automate. It is better to know some of the advantages of flow before creating a flow.
#1- Communicate with various Apps and Services
Before Microsoft flow, SharePoint users usually use SharePoint designer workflows to automate the business processes. And that is actually specific to SharePoint. With flow, there is no limit, not specific to SharePoint. We can use flow to communicate with various Apps and services.
Flow does not just work with Office 365 or Microsft products, it works with various non-Microsoft products like Google, Twitter, Facebook, Salesforce, Google Drive, Dropbox, Trello, Instagram, Slack, FTP, Blogger, Twilio, Bitly.
#2- Lots of Template to Use
In Microsoft flow or Power Automate, you will get a lots of templates that are ready to use. You are just a button click away to create a flow and use it by using the template. All flow templates contains the required steps and actions with prefilled data. Almost all flow templates, you can simply use it without modifying anything.
But any time you can customize the flow according to your business needs.
Few flow templates are:
- Send myself a reminder in 10 minutes
- Start approval when a new item is added
- Send a customized email when a new SharePoint list item is added
- Save Gmail attachments to your Google Drive
- Save tweets to a Google sheet
- Copy files from Google Drive to Onedrive on a daily basis
- Block out my Office 365 calendar for an hour
- Start approval for new documents and notify via Teams, etc.
#3- Create without developer knowledge
This is another advantage of using Microsoft Flow, you can create a flow with the help of a developer or without any developer knowledge.
As a business user, you can create flows easily. Microsoft flow is not a developer tool, as a power user, business user, or a citizen developer, you can use the tool to create flows for yourself and for your team.
You can also share the flow with other members as owners, so that they can also modify the flow.
How to use Microsoft Flow?
You don’t need to install anything to work with Microsoft flow or Power Automate in your system. Simply a browser and an email address are enough to use Power Automate or Microsoft flow.
As of now, Microsft does not support .gov and .mil email address, apart from these two, you can use any email address to sing up for Microsoft flow.
We can also use any modern browsers like Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari and IE 11.
By using on-premises data gateway you can connect to your own on-premises server from Microsft flow.
Apart from this, you can also use Microsoft flow from mobile apps. You can create and access Microsoft flows from iOS, Android, and Windows apps. You can download the flow mobile apps:
Is Microsoft flow free
Is Microsoft flow free? Yes, according to Microsoft there is a free plan available for Microsoft flow or Power Automate. But you will be missing out a lot if you will opt for the free plan. The Microsoft flow free license allows you to run a limited number of flows per month.
In the free plan, you are allowed to trigger 750 times per month and there will be a gap of 15 minutes.
But, let me tell you another approach, how you can get Microsoft flow or Power Automate for free and you can also get access to flow premium connectors. Not only that you can also create and run unlimited flows. Not only just flow or power automate, you can also create unlimited apps using PowerApps.
Here it is, you can join the Power Apps Community Plan.
Once you join, you can get access to create a full-featured environment for development in PowerApps and Power Automate or Microsoft flow.
Note: This is just for individual use not for production use. You can join the PowerApps community plan to learn everything about Power Apps, Power Automate, and the Common Data Service.
But as an organizational use, if you want to sign up for a Microsoft flow or Power Automate free trial, you can sign up from the below URL.
Note, the free trial is for 90 days only.
Microsoft flow pricing or licensing
Now, let us understand the Power Automate or Microsoft flow pricing or licensing details.
There are two kind of plans are available for Power Automate.
License by user
As the name suggests these are the license that you can assign to individual users. This comes with two types based on the features.
- Per use plan: The Power Automate per user plan costs USD 15 per user per month. With this plan, an individual user can create unlimited flows. In this plan, users are allowed to trigger 4500 times per month. And there will be a 3 minutes gap between triggers.
- Per user plan with attended RPA: This flow license allows individual users to create unlimited flows and also with this license, users can automate legacy applications through robotic process automation (RPA) and AI. The Per user plan with attended RPA plan costs $40 per user/month. Specifically, you will get 5,000/month AI Builder service credits. In this flow plan, you can trigger 15,000 times per month. And there will be a 1-minute gap between triggers.
License by flow
This flow plan is not for individual users, this Power Automate plan is for users across your organization. The price for this plan is $500 for five flows per month. With this plan, you can purchase additional flows for $100 per flow/month.
I hope you got an idea on Microsoft flow p1 vs p2.
How to get started with Flow?
Now, let us see how to get started with flow. By this time, I hope either you will have an Office 365 subscription or a flow license. Or even a free account to start a flow.
If you are a developer or want to learn flow, My recommendation is you can sign up for the Power Apps Community Plan. By the PowerApps Community Plan, you can get the Microsoft flow for free.
There are different ways you can create the first flow. But let us see how to access Microsoft flow.
1# Access Microsoft flow directly from this URL: https://flow.microsoft.com
2# Or if you have an Office 365 subscription, you can directly access Power Automate or flow from the Office 365 App launcher.
3# If you are trying to develop a flow for your SharePoint Online list or document library, then you can create a flow from your list or library command bar directly.
#4 You can also access flow and create a flow from your flow Mobile App.
Now, it is time to create your first flow from scratch. But before that, let us first understand what are flow templates or connectors.
Microsoft flow templates
This is another reason, why Microsoft flow is popular and easy to create flow without developer knowledge.
What are Microsoft flow templates? Microsoft provides, a lot of built-in templates that you can use to create a ready to use flow. Each template will have a set of flow actions also, that you can modify also according to business requirements.
Not only for Microsoft specific products, but flow templates are also available across services.
Once you log in, you can click on Templates from the left navigation to see a list of flow templates category wise. Even you can also search for a flow template in the search box for your required flow.
You can easily create flows by using these templates.
Microsoft flow connectors
Microsoft provides flow connectors to connect with various services like Twitter, RSS, SQl Server, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Yammer, Slack, GitHub, Google Tasks, Asana, Twilio, etc.
There are nearly 250 connectors are available to work with various other services in Microsoft flow or Power Automate.
Standard flow connectors
These are the connectors that are available with your flow license to use. Examples of a few standard flow connectors are Twitter, Linkedin, Google Calendar, OneDrive for Business, Mail, Gmail, Dropbox, Trello, Instagram, Box, Buffer, Campfire, etc.
Microsoft flow Premium Connectors
Flow premium connectors require an additional license to use those connections. All premium connectors marked as Premium so that you can separate it from standard connectors. A few premium flow connectors are Azure DevOps, Dynamics 365, Salesforce, Agilite, airSlate, Ally, Azure VM, Chainpoint, Chatter, etc.
Custom flow connectors
You can also create your own custom flow connectors and can access various applications.
Type of Flows
We can create different types of flows for your business processes.
- Automated flows: We can easily create an automated flow that will trigger automatically. For example, you can create a flow that will trigger automatically whenever someone inserted an item to a SharePoint Online list.
- Instant Flows: Microsoft Instant flows will trigger on a button click. On a button click you can send a notification to your manager regarding work from home email.
- Scheduled Flows: Microsoft scheduled flows will trigger automatically on a specific scheduled time. For example, you can copy items from one SharePoint library to OneDrive for business on monthly basis.
- Business process flows: You can create a flow for your organization and ensure that everyone in the company follows the same steps. IT Support ticket systems.
- UI flows: In a UI flow, you can record clicks and keyboard strokes from your desktop and web applications and then you can automate the playback of manual steps on legacy software.
Create your first Flow using Power Automate
Now, let us create a flow from scratch. Here we will use a flow template to create a flow. Here, we will create a workflow or flow for a SharePoint Online list.
First, login to https://flow.microsoft.com
Then click on + Create and then go to the Start from a template and there search and select your template.
Or directly click on Templates from the left navigation and then select the template.
Then search for send a customized email when a new sharepoint list item is added template and select the template.
Then search for send a customized email when a new sharepoint list item is added template and select the template.
By using this template, we can send a customized email when a new SharePoint list item is added to the SharePoint list. So make sure a SharePoint list is created on a SharePoint site. If you have not created a list, you can create a list in SharePoint.
You can see the flow below. Here the important thing is, you need to connect to Office 365 users, Office 365 outlook, and SharePoint, you need to provide the permission by sign in to Office 365.
Once it is successful, then click on Continue.
Then select the SharePoint site address. Once you select the Site address, it will populate all the SharePoint lists and there you can select the list for which you want to create the flow.
As I said before, when you will select a template, it will create the flow and you can see the create flow like below:
You can click on the Edit button, and you can see the entire flow, that looks like below:
Get my profile (V2): This action will retrieve the profile of a specific user. And we are retrieving the givenName and mail properties of the user. These properties are used by the Send Email flow action.
Send Email: The Send Email flow action we can use to send the email to the user.
It looks like below:
Once the flow got created, it is the time we can test the flow.
Open the SharePoint Online list and add an item to the list like below:
Once the item added to the SharePoint Online list, I received an email like below from the Microsoft flow. The flow triggered the email automatically.
You can see the flow like below:
This is how we can create a flow and test the flow using Power Automate.
Microsoft flow examples
If you want to know more on flow, you can check out the below Microsoft flow examples:
- Microsoft flow copy list items to another list: This Microsoft flow example explains, how to copy items from one SharePoint list to another SharePoint list.
- Microsoft Flow Example: Product Notification Approval Flow: This Microsoft flow example explains, a product approval process flow using Power Automate or Microsoft flow. Users can submit a product and then it will go for 2 levels of approval. This is a good Microsoft flow approval example.
- Microsoft Flow Example: When an item is created in SharePoint List, Send approval and create item: This Microsoft flow example explains, how to send an approval whenever an item is created in the SharePoint Online list and then it will create the item.
- Microsoft Flow Example: When a message is posted on a group, create a SharePoint list item: This Microsoft flow example, it explains how to create a SharePoint list item whenever a message is posted on a group.
- How to get manager email or name in Microsoft Flow or Power Automate: In this Microsoft flow example explains, how to get manager email or name using Microsoft flow or Power Automate.
Microsoft flow training
Want to learn Microsoft flow? I have a premium Power Platform training course, you can check it out. You can learn Microsoft Flow, Power Automate, and Power BI training.
- Check out Microsoft Power Platform training.
If want corporate training, you can contact us from our TSInfoTechnologies company web site.
Microsoft Flow Alternatives
Now let us see a few Microsoft flow alternatives. The main difference between flow and other alternatives are Microsoft flow is an enterprise level product.
Below are a few Microsoft flow alternatives.
- IFTTT: This is a free web-based tool, to get all your apps and devices talking to each other. You can use the IFTTT Platform to enhance the digital transformation of your products to integrated services. You can connect with 600+ brands.
- Zapier: Zapier is another platform that you can use to connect with various Apps and automate workflows. You can start workflows from any apps and execute various actions.
Almost every organizations use SharePoint designer 2013 for workflow development for SharePoint Online, SharePoint 2013 or SharePoint 2016.
Microsoft also invested heavily in Microsoft Flow or Power Automate and integrated it with Office 365. So now a question comes, Is Microsoft Flow is the replacement of SharePoint designer 2013?
The answer is Yes, Microsoft Flow can be the replacement of SharePoint designer 2013.
Lots of Organizations are already using Microsoft Flow. Since it is already integrated with Office 365, organizations who already moved to Office 365, started using Microsoft Flow over SharePoint designer 2013.
Microsoft Flow has lots of advantages over SharePoint Designer.
- You can develop simple to complex workflows using SharePoint designer 2013 but you need developer knowledge to develop workflows using SharePoint designer 2013 for list or libraries.
- Lots of workflow actions presented in SharePoint designer but all the actions are specific to SharePoint only. You need development knowledge to communicate various services from SharePoint designer. But using Microsoft Flow we can very easily communicate with various services.
- But on the other hand, Microsoft Flow is not particular to SharePoint, you will be connected to various services like Twitter, Dropbox, OneDrive, Facebook, Slack, Instagram, etc.
- You do not need any developer knowledge to create any flow, power users, or even end users can easily create Microsoft Flow easily. Microsoft Flow is tightly integrated to SharePoint Online but it is not only used for SharePoint.
In this Microsoft flow tutorial, we learned what is Microsoft flow and the below things:
- What is Microsoft Flow?
- What is Power Automate?
- Why use Microsoft Flow?
- Microsoft Flow Key Features
- How to use Microsoft Flow?
- Is Microsoft flow free
- Microsoft flow pricing or licensing
- How to get started with Flow?
- Microsoft flow templates
- Microsoft flow connectors
- Type of Flows
- Create your first Flow using Power Automate
- Microsoft flow examples
- Microsoft flow training
- Microsoft Flow Alternatives
- Will Microsoft Flow is a replacement for SharePoint Designer 2013?
- Advantages of Microsoft Flow Over SharePoint Designer 2013
I am Bijay from Odisha, India. Currently working in my own venture TSInfo Technologies in Bangalore, India. I am Microsoft Office Servers and Services (SharePoint) MVP (5 times). I works in SharePoint 2016/2013/2010, SharePoint Online Office 365 etc. Check out My MVP Profile.. I also run popular SharePoint web site EnjoySharePoint.com