My view on Power Automate Desktop


We are developers. We are lazy. We want to automate repetitive tasks. And yes, we are quite capable of writing small scripts in order to do that. But do we want to? We have to organize, maintain, update, schedule them by ourselves. I don’t want to put in too much effort automating my stuff and rather focus on real work to do. And when I see those citizen developers dragging and dropping their low code solutions together real quick and with ease, I think to myself - “well, that’s exactly what I’d like to use for automation, too”.

Power Automate Desktop

Shiny new thing that comes pre-installed with Windows 11 for creating automations on the desktop. Power Automate is a low-code platform that enables home and business users to optimize their workflows and automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks. Now available for the everyone as an App for your Windows system. And it indeed is awesome - we can choose from more than 400 premade actions to orchestrate our system, tasks and applications and it even allows us to record and replay mouse and keyboard activities. This is Microsofts take on robotic process automation (RPA) and it reminds me a bit of the old times when I used to play around with AutoIt . Probably, Power Automate Desktop as a ubiquitous low-code solution will make tools and languages like AutoIt obsolete in the near future. Let me know on social media what you think about that.

Anyways, isn’t it nice we get the full low-code experience for automation tasks from the cloud to the desktop?

Do we, actually?

“That’s what I was looking for!”, I thought to myself.

Currently, I’m using Windows Package Manager to keep my installed 3rd party applications updated by opening a command line from time to time and executing the rather long and hard to remember oneliner

winget upgrade --all --silent --force --accept-source-agreements --disable-interactivity --include-unknown

and then go grab a coffee ☕.

Let’s automate that simple task by scheduling execution of the oneliner every week or so.

For executing the oneliner, there is a descriptive and configurable commandline action in Power Automate Desktop. Perfect! Now, over on how to run that periodically. I know there is a recurrence trigger in Power Automate cloud flows, so I was intuitively looking around for where to configure triggers to my desktop flow - just to realize there aren’t any. We can only run a desktop flow by clicking on it. What a bummer! After a bit of research I found out there is a possibility for work or school accounts to register their machines in the cloud in return to be able to run desktop flows on that machines from within cloud flows, which then again can be recurrence-triggered for example. A bit tedious, requires corresponding security roles and is unavailable for home users. Okay, a script-like experience is also fine to start with - let me create a desktop shortcut of my flow so I can just double-click to run it when I feel like it’s time to update again.

Power Automate Desktop > My Flows > More > Create desktop shortcut

… and it’s greyed out. Premium feature. Next bummer!

At this point I want to cite myself stating at the beginning of this post that

“I don’t want to put in too much effort automating my stuff and rather focus on real work to do.

and stopped.

My thoughts

Power Automate Desktop as an automation solution for home and business users on the desktop is well documented, nice looking, easy to use and feature-rich regarding the actions to choose from. It is really worth it to give it a try if you haven’t done so yet! Currently, it lacks straight-forward functionality to get productive for me and didn’t live up to the expectations I had coming from the cloud. I would love to see Power Automate Desktop become even more accessible to everyone and support a broader range of use cases by implementing cloud features like triggers. Other than manually starting desktop flows. Like easily scheduling them. Which is what I did in the end using the old Windows Task Scheduler in my case.

I love Power Automate Cloud Flows and implementing low-code solutions where appropriate! Because of the familiarity and ubiquity, I think Power Automate Desktop has the potential to fill that gap for a fully blown UI automation tool on the desktop, so I would love to manage everything nice and tidy within it. Including triggers.

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