Some Limitations of Microsoft PowerApps
“InfoPath does many, many things, and not all of them are in PowerApps just yet. Some of them, frankly, might not ever get there.”
(Chris McNulty at Build, May 2017)
PowerApps is the designated replacement for InfoPath for scenarios like custom forms on SharePoint lists. But we’ve identified some PowerApps limitations that make it unsuitable to replace InfoPath, for example, if you need external users, offline work, XML files, or to print or archive your forms.
If you need to share forms and data with customers, vendors, partners and other people outside your organization, PowerApps will not meet your needs the way InfoPath does.
PowerApps is an Azure-based service that is only available to members of your Microsoft organization. There is no way for external users to use the PowerApps forms you create. This popular feature request on the Microsoft feedback site has not yet been added to the roadmap, so there’s no telling if or when it might be offered.
Deskless mobile workers cannot count on an internet connection being available when they need it. For certain kinds of work — field service, construction, deliveries, inspections, etc. — it is critical to have robust offline support to keep people productive even when disconnected.
PowerApps assumes a constant connection and provides no built-in ability to work offline. Mobile users cannot open a form while offline, nor submit data to be synced later when online. Data queried online is not cached for use offline. While Microsoft recently took its first baby-steps toward supporting some level of offline functionality, this is so far a complex, code-heavy and do-it-yourself approach. Microsoft’s guidance has been: continue to use InfoPath for offline scenarios.
Structured XML Documents
We recommend that if you are doing content management scenarios, things that are tied to structured XML documents, you are going to have continued support for those scenarios inside InfoPath.
— Chris McNulty at Build, May 2017
If you have business processes built around the structured XML files generated by InfoPath, then PowerApps will not meet your needs. Microsoft is clear in its guidance that you should continue to use InfoPath for XML scenarios.
Printing and archiving
Printing is an important feature in many scenarios, from providing a customer copy to archiving a transaction. If a signature is captured in a form, for example, it needs to be available to access in the future.
Printing from PowerApps is not on Microsoft’s roadmap, although it is one of the top feature requests on the PowerApps feedback site. It’s possible some sort of printing ‘in the moment’ will be added as a feature someday. However, because there is no underlying document as there is in InfoPath, it is unlikely that PowerApps forms will ever support electronic archiving, PDF, or any ability to re-open a form later to print it.
Is InfoPath the only option, then?
Don’t expect Microsoft to produce any other InfoPath replacement than PowerApps. If these PowerApps limitations render it unsuitable for your business scenarios, then what are your options?
One option, of course, is simply to keep using InfoPath. The good news is that Microsoft has extended support for InfoPath 2013 for three extra years, to 2026. So there’s no urgent rush to find a replacement. The bad news is that InfoPath is a deprecated product, so it will continue to age without any new features.
If you’re using (or considering) Office 365, then the pain of continuing with InfoPath is greater. Support for InfoPath in SharePoint Online is fraying around the edges. Browser-enabled forms do not support custom code and do not work on mobile devices when the SharePoint Online mobile view is enabled. What’s worse, Microsoft has never committed (beyond “until further notice”) to continuing support for browser-enabled forms in SharePoint Online.
Consider the Formotus alternative to PowerApps
Like PowerApps, Formotus forms run in native mobile apps and connect to a variety of cloud services such as Salesforce and Google Sheets. But Formotus excels in the areas where PowerApps shows its limitations:
- External Users. Formotus lets you add anyone you want to your account for unlimited form usage — no Microsoft account required. Formotus also supports public-facing forms for anonymous users.
- Offline Autonomy. Formotus mobile users can remain productive for hours, days or weeks without an internet connection. Formotus was engineered from the ground up as an “offline first” solution on iOS, Windows, and Android.
- Structured XML. Like InfoPath, Formotus forms generate structured XML documents. If you import an InfoPath form, Formotus submits XML that SharePoint recognizes as InfoPath. If you use the Formotus online form creator instead, the resulting XML is similar but not identical to InfoPath. Both kinds of form run side-by-side for a seamless migration path.
- Printing and Archiving. Formotus offers even better options than InfoPath for printing and archiving forms. In addition to an XML file, Formotus generates a PDF file that submits by email or to a SharePoint library or Google Docs. The PDF file contents can be customized by the form designer.