Microsoft Power Automate, formerly called Microsoft Flows is a free automation tool, included in Windows 11 as a native app. Power Automate is a low-code application that allows users to automate repetitive and time-consuming manual tasks using robotic process automation capabilities. It works just like the macros in Excel but it can help you automate anything in a Microsoft environment.
For example, you can use power automate desktop to move data between systems on a schedule or send an email to a higher authority triggered by a particular event, or to handle complex business workflows, etc.
Power Automate is a cloud-based tool that has 370 prebuilt actions (connectors) that allow you to build flows across different applications so that you could instead focus on more important tasks. In addition to pre-built connectors, you can also create your own scripts or automation. This tutorial will show you how to configure and use the Power Automate tool in Windows 11.
Setting Up the Power Automate in Windows 11
Power Automate can be used to automate tasks on various Microsoft applications and third-party applications using pre-built actions (templates) or by recording a series of steps that will automate a specific action or task and then lets you replay that automation whenever needed.
To run Power Automate, you’ll need a valid Windows 10 or 11 license, minimum 2GB RAM and 1 GB storage hardware, .NET Framework 4.7.2 or later, an up-to-date web browser, and an active internet connection. In addition to this, you’ll need a supported language and keyboard layout. See the lists of supported languages and keyboard layouts that can be used in the Power Automate tool on the official page.
If you are Windows 10 user, this app needs to be downloaded and installed from flow.microsoft.com or Microsoft Store. But for Windows 11 computers, it comes as an in-built application.
To access the Power Automate Desktop application, search for ‘Power Automate’ in the Windows search. Then, click on the result to open the app.
If you are starting up the Power Automate for the first time, then it will check for updates and download the latest version of the program. So, wait for it to finish updating.
Once the app is updated, the Power Automate Desktop window will appear and ask you to sign in with your Microsoft account. To do this, click on the ‘Sign in’ button to enter your account credentials.
Type your email address in the field and click ‘Sign in’.
Then, enter your password and click ‘Sign in’ again.
Next, choose your country/region and click ‘Get started’.
Once you finish setting up, a new window will open up as shown below where you can create your automation.
Creating Your Automation in Power Automate on Windows 11
Once you’re in the Power Automate Desktop (PAD) window, you can start building your automation processes and they will be called ‘Flows’.
To create new automation (Flow), click on the ‘+ New Flow’ button from the top left corner to start the building process.
Enter a name for your Flow and click ‘Create’
This will open up two windows. One is the My flows page where you can create and manage flows.
And the other window is the flow editor where you can record/edit workflows (as shown below). If the flow editor doesn’t open up automatically, simply double-click on the flow name on the My flows page.
The Flow editor window is divided into three sections. The left-hand pane is called the ‘Actions’ section where you can find all the 370 pre-built actions. The middle section is the ‘Main’ section where you can edit the workflow. And the right-hand pane is the ‘Variables’ which stores the input/output and flow variables when you’re building a task.
You will also notice the Save, Run, Stop, Run action by action, Web recorder, and Desktop recorder buttons at the top of the main section.
You can build flows in two different ways: either by dragging and dropping actions from the pre-built actions available on the left pane or by recording the steps of a task. You can also combine those two ways to build a flowchart.
Build a Workflow and Automate a Task using Desktop Recorder
You can use Power Automate Desktop (PAD) in so many advanced scenarios to automate complex tasks than the ones provided in the pre-built actions. It can be used to execute all sorts of complex actions, including starting programs, opening dialog boxes, entering data, and much more.
You can use the Desktop recorder to record every step (like mouse clicks, button presses, keys presses, option selection, etc.) you take to accomplish a task and replay those steps whenever it’s necessary.
For example, let’s say you would like to start your day off with particular music every day. You can automate this process, instead of navigating to the files and playing the song manually every time. This is how you do that.
In the Power Automate Desktop (PAD), click ‘New Flow’ to create a new workflow.
Then, give a name to the flow and click ‘Create’.
In the Flow editor window, click the ‘Desktop recorder’ button at the top center of the window.
In the Desktop recorder window, click on the ‘Record’ button.
Now, you just have to perform the steps (one by one) you want this flow process to carry out. As you do the steps the Power Automate will recognize them and record those exact steps.
After you click the ‘Record’ button, minimize the Desktop recorder.
Then, starts doing the steps you want the Desktop recorder to record.
Each of the left mouse clicks, right clicks, scrolls, button presses, and every action will be recorded exactly. So do the steps carefully when recording.
For example, the following screenshots show how we are navigating to the song in our local drive. As we open the file explorer and navigate through our local drive, the PAD highlights the items with the red rectangle. When you move the cursor over an item or select an item, the PAD will highlight that item and inform you what kind of item it is, as shown below.
Then, we double-click on the song (e.g. Feeling Good by Nina Simone) to play the music.
Then, we minimize the music player and close the file explorer.
At last, when you finish recording your actions, open the minimized Desktop recorder again and click ‘Finish’ to stop the recording.
You’ll see the list of the steps you took to perform the task under the ‘Main’ section. Now, click on the ‘Save’ icon to save this recording.
It will take a few seconds to minutes to save the recording. Once it’s saved, you’ll get a prompt saying the flow has been saved successfully. Click ‘OK’ to close the prompt.
Now, you can click the ‘Run’ icon to play the flow that you have recorded. It will perform the exact steps that you have recorded using the Desktop recorder.
Now, with a single click, you can quickly perform a long repetitive task and save time.
Also, if you got interrupted while recording the flow process, you can click the ‘Pause’ to halt the recording process and click ‘Record’ again to resume the recording.
Or, if you recorded a wrong step or missed something, you can always click the ‘Reset’ icon to reset the whole process and start all over again.
Build a Flow using the Web Recorder
You can use ‘Web’ and ‘Web Automation’ actions on the Flow editor to create some easy web automation processes. But if you want to build more complex web-flow processes (like filling an online form), you can use the Web recorder to record a flow. To do that, first, you need to set up the Web Recorder.
Configuring Web Recorder
To create a web flow process, click the ‘Web recorder’ icon in the flow editor.
In the next window, choose a web browser you want to use, then click ‘Next’.
This will open up the Web Recorder and the selected browser with Microsoft’s official site.
And Web Recorder will ask you to install the ‘Power Automate Desktop extension’ on the chosen browser. To install the browser, click the ‘Get Extension’ button.
If you chose Microsoft Edge, it will show the below page, click the ‘Get’ button to install the extension
If you selected Google Chrome, it will show you this add-on website, click the ‘Add to Chrome’ button.
Then a prompt will appear at the top right corner of the browser to ask you whether to install this extension or not. Click the ‘Add extension’ button to install the extension.
Then a message will show up informing you that the extension has been installed on the browser. The Add-on website will look differnt for every browser.
Then, you can start your web recording process to create a workflow.
Using Web Recorder in Power Automate
For example, let’s say you have lots of college application forms to fill out online. Normally you have to launch your browser, open the website, and type in every detail by yourself. This requires several key presses, mouse clicks, and scrolls. And it is a time-consuming process. Now, with Power Automate, you can record this process and mimick this entire process with a single click. Here’s how you do this:
Open the Power Automate Desktop, click the ‘Web recorder’ icon.
Then, specify the browser, pick a tab from the browser where you want to automate the process. This webpage must be preloaded in the browser. Only then you can select it from the ‘Pick a tab’ option. We’re picking an Online Application form tab for this example.
In the Web Recorder dialog window, click the ‘Record’ button.
This will launch the browser with the selected tab.
Then as you enter details, select options, or click buttons, the Web recorder will highlight the items in a red box as shown below (It means the web recorder is recording that action).
Once you finish entering the details, click ‘Submit’ or ‘Next’.
Then, go back to the Web Recorder and you will see the list of all the actions (text input, mouse click, etc.) you performed on that webpage. Click ‘Finish’ to stop and finalize the recording.
It will take you back to the Flow editor. There you will see the list of actions (This recording has a total of 41 actions).
Click the ‘Save’ icon to save the recording.
Then, you will get the message saying that your recording has been saved.
Remember the recording will only work one page at a time. If you go to the next page or click a link to open another page, the recording will stop. If you have lots of actions or if you want to add another webpage, you can create a sub-flow.
Click the ‘Subflows’ drop-down button next to the Main tab and click the ‘New subflow’ button.
Give a name to the subflow and click the ‘Save’ button in the ‘Add a subflow’ dialog.
Then, click the subflow tab and add actions through recordings using the Web recorder option or using the pre-defined actions on the left pane.
Once you’re done adding all the actions, save the flow. Now, you can click the ‘Run’ icon anytime to replay/automate the entire process.
When you click the ‘Run’ button, the Power Automate will launch the browser, navigate to the website, and starts to replay actions, one by one, automatically. Here, in this example, PAD fills in the details of the form one by one just as we entered before. As a recorded action being replayed, you will see that action is highlighted in yellow as shown below.
And, all the recorded actions will be reenacted exactly.
The automation processes we showed here in this article were simple ones. But Power Automate Desktop is capable of automating almost anything in the Windows environment. It offers a huge range of tools for building more complex and detailed workflows.
That’s it, Folks.