Power Apps -
Canvas Apps vs Model-driven Apps - When to use? [#shorts]
What must you know?
Power Apps Canvas Apps type differs from the Power Apps Model-driven Apps type.
Licensing is different for those two, even if we have on Power Apps licensing model.
Datasource also can be different.
The capabilities are different.
Canvas Apps and Model-driven Apps have their pros and cons regarding the business scenario they must address. For some business cases, Canvas Apps will be the best approach; for others, Model-driven Apps would be the better choice. They are just different; you must learn how to adapt the strategy and technology to the given business scenario.
In this article, I will show you how to assess the differences between Canvas Apps and Model-driven Apps and evaluate the best choice in terms of the business case.
This is what Microsoft says about the Power Apps Canvas Apps, and Model-driven Apps:
Power Apps Canvas Apps - what must you know?
Power Apps Canvas Apps allow you to:
- Design the app – you can create your design. You start with a blank canvas – this is why they are called Canvas Apps; from this, you can create an app with your design that will suit your customers.
- Connect the app to the different data sources – in Power Apps, this type allows you to work with all data sources available for Power Apps: Dataverse, SQL, SharePoint, Excel, OneDrive, Amazon S3, and so on. You can even work with many of them at once.
- Add a Power Fx low-code formulas – in Canvas Apps, you can work with a low-code Power Fx language. It allows you to implement various business rules, custom mechanics and work with different data sources. These low-code formulas are straightforward to implement – they are based on a low-code programming language similar to Excel functions.
- Add many different components to the application – media, pictures, timers, icons, barcode scanners, microphone recorders, maps, shapes, charts, and many other features are available and ready to be used.
- Create a fully responsive layout – there are components available in Power Apps that allow you to create a responsive design so the application can adjust to the available space. Moreover, the application can be readily displayed on mobile devices and the Teams app. Remember that the application is not responsive by design – proper components must be used for the application to be responsive – but this is doable!
- Create a design using Figma – Power Apps has a very cool feature where you can create an application’s design in Figma and then import it to Power Apps. In one of my articles, I described it: Overview of creating Power Apps from Figma.
- Embed the application in a Model-driven App – did you know that? You cannot embed Model-driven App, but you can embed the Canvas Apps in a Model-driven App tab!
- Work without Power Apps license – You can work with different data source types with Canvas Apps. If you already have Microsoft 365 license, there is a high chance that you can already work with Power Apps Canvas Apps with free connectors – like SharePoint. Then, you don’t need a Power Apps license.
Power Apps Model-driven Apps - what must you know?
Power Apps Model-driven Apps allow you to:
- Work with Dataverse data – this type of Power Apps is specifically designed to work with Dataverse. Very often, the data is the critical point, not the design. You start with a table and then create the application.
- Think more about the business scenario – as I mentioned before, Model-driven Apps are data-oriented, and things like forms, views, and design are not something Project Team must think about first. The main focus of this type of Power Apps is given to business scenarios, workflow, users, and roles.
- Stop thinking about the design – this type of Power Apps comes with a pre-populated design for the entire application. Forms, views, and top, left, and middle panels are already built for you. You can only reorganize where forms, views, and other basic components are displayed. But, besides that, you cannot change much. In many different business cases, the design is not very important – in those examples, the predesigned application is ready to use. Power Apps Model-driven apps are also responsive by design!
- Use pre-populated components – forms, views, dashboards, relationships, navigation panels, and other components are prebuilt for you. You don’t need to create them yourself – just add them to the application. Very often, there is even no configuration required. It is that easy.
- Address very complex business logic – Power Apps Canvas Apps also allow you to do that. Still, Model-driven Apps are designed to handle very complex business scenarios and are very efficient in doing so. You can use business rules, business units, and many different user roles, and the application will handle most of the configuration by itself.
Questions that can help determine which Power Apps type you should go with
- Is the custom design required?
- Yes: Canvas Apps
- No: Model-driven Apps
- What data source will be used?
- Dataverse: both
- Other than Dataverse: Canvas Apps
- How many different user roles are required?
- 3 or fewer: both
- More than 3: Probably Model-driven Apps. Canvas Apps will do as well. If you choose Canvas Apps, you will need to provide the application with many business rules (they must be created from scratch) and different scenario layouts.
- How much database capacity will be required per year?
- Less than 2000 per year – both
- More than 2000 per year – preferably Model-driven Apps, but Canvas Apps will do as well. You will just need to invest your time to avoid the Delegation problem in your data source filtering. I wrote an article that addresses this topic: Understand Delegation in Power Apps.
- Should the application be available on phones with a portrait layout?
- Yes – Canvas Apps
- No – both
- What is the Client’s budget for the project? (stop laughing, I am not kidding). If a Client needs something basic, without bells and whistles to just get their hands wet, you should probably go with Model-driven Apps.
- Low – Model-driven Apps
- High – both
Those are the fundamental questions – If you get answers to those, you should be ready and choose whether the Canvas App or a Model-driven App is more suitable for a specific business case.
If you are looking for an answer to which Power Apps type is better – there is no answer to such a question. Different business requirements help determine the approach and help you choose whether Power Apps Canvas Apps will be the better choice, or Power Apps Model-driven Apps will suit the specific business scenario. I hope you learned how to determine the approach. I also hope you found an answer to the differences between Canvas Apps and Model-driven Apps.
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I am a Senior Power Platform Consultant focused on Dataverse, Power Apps, and Power Automate. I was also a Team Leader responsible for the Power Platform Team and their development paths.
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