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Microsoft Flow Primer

Overview

Microsoft Flow is a service that allows you to create automated workflows with customizable event triggers and actions. It features a very simple to use UI that allows you to get set up with working flows in just minutes. Options for event triggers range from received emails to updates in a SharePoint list, or even new Tweets matching a certain hashtag. Some of Microsoft’s examples for usage include getting email notifications forwarded to a Slack channel and copying new files in Dropbox to a folder on OneDrive.

Example

I’ll walk through the creation of a simple flow that watches a SharePoint list for new items and adds a task to a task list when one is created. The home page is rather unhelpful if you do not plan to use a template for your flow, so I’ll start at the “My flows,” page.

Once you click on “Create new flow”, you are presented with a text box. The simplest way to find what you need is to start typing the name of the app you wish to interact with. In my case, “SharePoint.”

I want to look for a new item. Clicking that option brings me to a prompt asking for the site url, and the name of the list to watch. Now I can add a new step for the action.

After clicking “Add an action,” you’ll walk through similar steps, this time selecting “Create item” out of the list of SharePoint options. As you fill out the url and list name, more fields will appear.

When selecting a text bar, some preset variables will pop up allowing you to use, for example, the title of the item that triggered this action. Simply click on one of the blue boxes to use its value. It’s worth noting that custom fields in your original list will also show up as variables here.

This is an example of me adding a condition based on a custom field before adding the new task. Conditions can be added between the event and the action using the same “New step” button. You can even keep going with more and more actions based on the single event.

Summary

Microsoft Flow is a useful time-saver tool for automating many small tasks in the workplace. Whether you want to get a push notification upon receiving an email from your boss, or automatically share your new Instagram photos to Twitter, Flow can do the work for you behind the scenes.

Jared DanielMicrosoft Flow Primer

5 comments

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  • jeffshuey - July 22, 2016 reply

    Good read. Flow is interesting, but I wonder if it will last long enough to to have the capabilities of IFTTT or Zapier. My guess is no.

    Tommy Ryan - July 26, 2016

    Good point Jeff. Seems like IFTTT has a broader scope that touches more of the consumer market, but also has channels that connect to enterprise SaaS services. Napier is a bit more techy and of course, Flow seems to target more of the enterprise. Seems like they seeded Flow with enough triggers to create some interesting scenarios, but I have found the preview to be a bit buggy for running flows. Have you created any useful Flows yet Jeff?

  • Tommy Ryan - July 26, 2016 reply

    BTW, my favorite Flow, that I created, is to notify Yammer when I post a file to a specific folder in a SharePoint document library. It is a file that I post monthly and want people to know when it is available. I could have folks create an alert on the library, but I have chosen to automatically socialize this to Yammer (providing a link back to the folder location).

  • Guy Lee - September 16, 2016 reply

    Have you been able to use Flow with a SharePoint Hosted Add-in?

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