Automate tasks and get notifications with Microsoft Flow, an IFTTT look-alike


Microsoft Flow is a service that automates repetitive tasks, performs actions automatically, and creates notifications from various triggers. It’s a similar service to If This Then That.

Who is Microsoft Flow for?

Anyone can use Flow provided they have a Microsoft account e.g. B. OneDrive, Outlook, Windows 10, etc. All Microsoft services use a single sign-on. So if you have access to one, you have access to all of them.

Flow is primarily aimed at people who have a subscription to Office 365, but some features work even if you don’t, and the example below doesn’t require a subscription. Anyone can use it.

What does Flow do?

Flow consists of a trigger and an action, which is very similar to how If This Then That works. Here is an example:

If an Outlook email has an attachment, save it to OneDrive

The trigger is an email arriving in your inbox and the action is to save the attachment to a folder on OneDrive.

Flow not only works with Microsoft services but can also connect to external services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Buffer, Benchmark Email, Basecamp, Blogger, Facebook, Google Tasks, MailChimp, Twitter and many more.

It is available on the web and there are also mobile apps. When used on mobile, you can receive push notifications or use the phone’s feature to find out your location, and so on.

Build an automated workflow with Flow

Let’s create a simple workflow to perform a task automatically. To get to Microsoft Flow, go to the OneDrive or Outlook website in a browser, click the Office 365 Apps Launcher button (it’s nine dots in a square grid), and click Flow.

Microsoft Launcher on the OneDrive website

After logging in (same email address and password as for OneDrive and Outlook), the Flow home page is displayed. click templates. It is possible to create workflows yourself, but if there is a ready-made template, it will be easier to use it. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of workflows, and many of them require an Office 365 subscription. However, I chose Copy files between OneDrive and Dropboxthat works for everyone and doesn’t require an Office subscription.

Microsoft Flow automation tool

After clicking the tile, the workflow will appear, and since it’s an external service, you’ll need to sign in there and authorize access.

Microsoft Flow automation tool, create a workflow

Once the connection to the external service is established and authorized, in this case Dropbox, click the Continue Button.

Microsoft Flow automation tool, create a workflow

The trigger and action are now displayed and when a file is created on OneDrive it is also created on Dropbox. Click on the folder icon on the right to select the folders. I chose to copy files created in my OneDrivePublic folder to DropboxPublic folder. They both have the same name, but you can copy any folder to any folder.

Microsoft Flow automation tool, create a workflow

That’s it. Save it and return to my flows tab on the site.

Here you can see that I have two workflows and one is on and the other is off. The pencil icon is used to edit the workflow when you need to change the parameters, troubleshoot when it’s not working, and so on.

Microsoft Flow automation tool, create a workflow

Some features like analytics are only available to Office subscribers, but the basic features work for everyone. Click on a workflow.

Microsoft Flow workflow

It shows the workflow details, such as B. a description, your connections to external services and the execution history. You can see whether it was successful or failed.

bugs and features

This workflow doesn’t work quite as I expected and based on the description I figured that files added to the folder on OneDrive will be copied to the folder on Dropbox.

It does, but it appears to be triggered by creating an Office document on OneDrive. I was using the free Word and Excel web apps on OneDrive and the documents moved or created to the specified folder were copied to Dropbox. Syncing documents is useful, but this workflow is not general file syncing. Other files in the folder were not synced.

Workflows run on a set schedule and vary based on tasks. For example, this OneDrive to Dropbox document sync runs every 15 minutes.

At first the workflow failed, but I managed to get it working. I’m not sure how though! One thing I did was edit the workflow, click on the advanced options and select Yes under Derive content type. Check the parameters in the trigger and action and make sure they are set correctly.

Microsoft Flow

To update: After some further tweaking, I changed the Yes to no under Derive content type above and it now copies other files, not just Office documents. It looks like yes = copy only office files, no = copy all files. It now works more like a sync tool and any files added to the OneDrive folder are automatically copied to Dropbox.

Sometimes you just have to play around with these workflows to get them just right.

Microsoft Flow has a lot more to offer and I’ve barely scratched the surface here. It offers some fairly advanced features and there’s a large collection of workflows to explore.

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