Introduction to Microsoft Flow

Photo attribution: kreatikar

Microsoft Flow is all about automation. It can help you do repetitive tasks without your interaction. It can join different services together so that you aren’t double handling tasks.

It is said that it will save you time, but it actually allows you to do things you otherwise wouldn’t do. Repetitive, menial, ongoing tasks. E.g. you may prefer to use Google calendar on your phone, so you can use flow to auto sync items to your outlook calendar.

It can get a little daunting at times and seem a little technical because it’s foundations (concepts) are in programming, however the interface helps you a lot, and things come together quite easily once you know what you’re trying to achieve and you have some familiarity with the interface.

If you’re in an organisation, you can login to Flow.Microsoft.com with your organisation email.

Starting out

The first thing you need to know about Flow is the anatomy of a flow.

In order to automate and create a flow, you need:

  • a trigger – some event that starts the flow.
  • actions to be carried out – the actual stuff you want done.
  • conditions – other events or reasons for doing things.

Don’t worry, Microsoft has made it easy to get started by creating templates that you can use. The flow is already built for you and you are essentially ‘filling in the blanks’ with your details.

There are hundreds of pre-made templates ready to go that you can customise for your needs.

An introduction to using Microsoft Flow templates

When you log in, look for “Templates” in the navigation bar.

Then you can search for a template that suits you.

Logging in

To login, just go to http://flow.microsoft.com

Creating your own flows

When you get familiar with templates you can start to build on them or build your own flows from scratch.

The possibilities will only be limited to what you can connect to.
Advanced tutorials are planned for this blog to cover these types of flows.
Have a look at this tutorial about creating your flows from scratch

Flow limitations

Be advised that your flows have limits based on your licence. In my organisation now I have a flow run limit of 2000 per month.

There may also be a limit of 50 flows, but this is yet to be confirmed.

You may think, wow that’s a lot, until you realise that if the trigger is run every five minutes, or every time an email is received, then it will soon reach your limits.

Have no fear though, there are premium plans available, as well as more powerful solutions once you’ve out grown the flow landscape.

Out growning Microsoft flow

The progressive path upwards from flow is Logic apps. These are automated flows that run in Azure cloud. You are able to export your Microsoft flows to logic app format when you reach this stage.

Start learning

Microsoft has created official learning materials here. They are officially released materials, but I personally would not use them as a starting point. I would advise you to look around at the interface first.

Browse Microsoft Flow learning materials