Microsoft Power Platform – Canvas Apps vs. Model-Driven Apps

Jacek Szafader by Jacek Szafader on October 31, 2023

In today’s age of digital transformation, businesses are relentlessly searching for ways to streamline processes and boost productivity. One solution that frequently comes to the forefront is the Microsoft Power Platform, a versatile toolkit that empowers users to create customized applications. However, our clients often embark on this journey with the misconception that their existing PowerApps licenses from Microsoft 365 provide access to the full scope of the Microsoft Power Platform. In this article, we’ll delve into the distinctions between the two, clarify the need for additional licensing, and highlight the benefits of Microsoft Power Platform.

Licensing Misconceptions: Unveiling the Divide

It’s a common scenario: clients brimming with enthusiasm approach us, eager to digitize their operations, under the assumption that their current PowerApps licenses provided with Microsoft 365 are all they need to kickstart the process. Unfortunately, this is often a misleading belief that results in unforeseen limitations. These licenses, in most cases, grant access exclusively to what are known as Power Apps within Microsoft Teams – a subset of the Microsoft Power Platform. It’s crucial to comprehend that the Power Platform within Microsoft 365 differs significantly from the comprehensive capabilities of Microsoft Power Platform.

Canvas Apps: Tailoring Solutions for All

Canvas Apps are tailored to meet the needs of various user profiles:

  • deal for Citizen Developers: Canvas Apps are the perfect playground for individuals with limited coding experience. They offer a user-friendly interface for crafting personalized applications.
  • Versatile for Personal Productivity: These apps excel in boosting personal productivity and are highly adaptable to spontaneous, ad-hoc solutions.
  • Efficient Data Capture: Canvas Apps are a go-to choice for scenarios involving data capture, such as Forms Pro and SharePoint Lists.
  • Simplicity for Occasional Use Apps: They are well-suited for creating apps meant for occasional use, focusing on specific tasks and processes.
  • Mobile-Friendly: Canvas Apps are designed with mobile scenarios in mind, providing adaptability for various screen sizes and ensuring seamless functionality on the go.
  • Task-Based Applications: These apps are effective for developing task-based applications, tailored to your specific requirements.

Canvas Apps Limitations:

  • In-App Reporting: Canvas Apps may lack in-app reporting capabilities, which can be addressed by integrating Power BI.
  • Complexity Management: As applications grow in complexity, with multiple screens and functions, the need may arise to split them into multiple Canvas Apps, leverage MS Teams Hub, or even consider Model-Driven Apps.
  • Limited UI Customization: Extensive UI changes can be challenging to implement within Canvas Apps.

Model-Driven Apps: Orchestrating End-to-End Solutions

Model-Driven Apps are tailored to meet the needs of professionals and experienced developers:

  • End-to-End Process Management: These apps excel in handling end-to-end processes and offer robust operational reporting capabilities.
  • Document Generation: Model-Driven Apps natively support Excel and Word document generation, simplifying document-related processes.
  • Integration-Ready: They seamlessly integrate with Power Automate, Office Connectors, and Data Flows, ensuring efficient automation of tasks.
  • Hybrid Flexibility: Model-Driven Apps can handle scenarios that require a combination of Canvas and Model-Driven approaches, providing added versatility.
  • Complex Business Rules: These apps are suitable for managing intricate business rules that may require code extensions.

Model-Driven Apps Limitations:

  • Backend Constraints: Model-Driven Apps primarily rely on Dataverse as the backend, which can be limiting for scenarios with very large data volumes.
  • Archiving Challenges: Archiving data may pose challenges.
  • UI Customization: While Model-Driven Apps offer UI customization, there are limits to extensive modifications.

Licensing Overview: Clearing the Path

Now that we’ve explored the differences between Canvas Apps and Model-Driven Apps, let’s shift our focus to licensing considerations. It’s essential to understand the options available and the licensing requirements for each path.

Canvas Apps Licensing: Included into the Microsoft 365 Suite. Canvas Apps are included in the Microsoft 365 suite, making them accessible to users under certain licensing arrangements.

Model-Driven Apps Licensing:

  • Power Apps Per App Plan: This plan is designed for those who need access to a specific app, providing licensing on a per-app basis. It’s a cost-effective choice for occasional app users.
  • Power Apps Per User Plan: This plan offers comprehensive access to multiple apps and is suitable for regular app users who require broader access.

Choosing the Right Path: Navigating the Decision

In conclusion, the choice between Canvas Apps and Model-Driven Apps isn’t one-size-fits-all. Both offer distinct advantages and functionalities, and your decision should be based on the specific requirements of your project and the expertise of your team.

  • If you have a multitude of tables to incorporate into your application, Model-Driven Apps are the way to go.
  • In need of utilizing data beyond Dataverse? Opt for Canvas Apps.
  • For additional security, field security, reporting, or other special requirements, Model-Driven Apps have you covered.
  • Desire advanced controls like a Camera for mobile applications? Consider Canvas Apps or embedding a Canvas App into your Model-Driven App for added flexibility.