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|A representative example of a Power Automate flow|
|This blog shows how you can create a flow in Power Automate to send yourself a notification whenever someone makes a change to a file in a given OneDrive folder (the blog is designed to give you a good overview of what working with Power Automate is like).|
The aim of this blog isn't to teach Power Automate; rather, it's to show you what learning Power Automate would (will?) be like.
The example flow I've chosen below gives a pretty good summary of the strengths and weaknesses of Power Automate. Don't confuse Power Automate with Power Automate Desktop, a completely different kettle of fish, although we train in both.
So I've got a folder containing my cheesecake recipes on OneDrive, and I'm worried someone is messing about with them:
My current list of recipes are in a folder called .. Cheesecake recipes.
What I want to do is get an email notification whenever anyone makes a change to any file in this folder:
Something like this, in fact.
So to start with I can create a flow which runs when someone changes a file in a OneDrive folder. First I need to choose to work with a OneDrive trigger:
Flows can be triggered by almost any cloud event: someone filling in a form, sending you an email, creating a Teams meeting, updating a SharePoint list and so on.
Even narrowing it down to just OneDrive events leaves me with a wide choice:
Some of the OneDrive triggers.
This is typical Power Automate: there is a wide choice of triggers, but it's not obvious what the difference between them is. For this example, for instance should I choose when a file is modified or when a file is modified (properties only)?
So I've now got my trigger:
The start of the flow.
To send an email - like many things in Power Automate - begins easily, but involves unexpected complication:
For the next step of my flow, I first need to say what it will do. You can get some idea of the range of possible actions from the few presented at the start of the All list.
Here I've narrowed down my search to Outlook 365 actions, and am about to choose to send an email:
If I wanted to use my Outlook desktop application to send the email I would have to use Power Automate Desktop, since Power Automate can only access things in the cloud.
Why am I choosing version 2 of this action, and what happened to version 1? Who knows!
I can now type in the details of my email:
I just need to put the file name and path at the cursor position now.
However, I can't easily put the file name and path in - all I have access to are these bits of information:
Power Automate is listing bits of dynamic content (fields that you can substitute into your actions at any time).
It turns out that all I have access to initially are the file's identifier, and from this I need to get the other details by adding an intermediate action:
I need to add an intermediate action to get details about this file, given its unique id.
I've now got a much wider range of bits of dynamic content that I can access:
I'm going to send myself the path of the file which has been modified.
I can now save this flow, and test it by modifying one of the files in the given folder.
Power Automate is a powerful tool for automating your business processes, but it's not as intuitive to learn as Power Automate Desktop (and you obviously have to entrust Microsoft with your data and files to take full advantage of it).
Some other pages relevant to the above blog include:
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