Convert Office Files in to PDFs using Microsoft Flow

I recently discovered an cool template in Microsoft Flow which allows you to convert any Office file in to a PDF in a simple tap of a button. This means, you don’t have to dig in through office applications anymore to get a file converted as a PDF, which is a very common scenario for most users.

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As a result of continuous improvement of the cloud platform, Microsoft has recently released a new Flow template (works only on Office files as of now) in Office365 and we can now use this template to work as a simple workflow to convert any office file in to a PDF which may be stored in OneDrive of in a SharePoint Library.

In my case I have stored documents in my OneDrive. First and foremost, I’ll go ahead and add the Flow template.

Head on to OneDrive (or directly to the Flow) –> New –> Create from template

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And then, just search for “Copy as a PDF” and click “Add” to add the Flow.

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Hit “Continue

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It will now display the parameters for you to customize (only if necessary, otherwise just leave with the defaults).

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That adds our new Flow. Now to try it out ! Simple find any office document or create a sample one to test the Flow. I’m using a sample doc here. once you select the file and click the “Flow” dropdown menu, you will notice the newly added Flow is listed there. Just click it !

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This will initiate the Flow. Simply hit “Continue

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Hit “Run” to begin

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And, right after a second or two, you will see the converted PDF is stored in the location you defined in the Flow parameters. Simple and yet cool isn’t it ? !

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Until the next post, Keep Flowing !

Want to add a Flow button right next to every item in your library ? reading this post of mine will get you the knowledge to do it yourself.

DISCLAIMER NOTE: This is an enthusiast post and is not sponsored by Microsoft or any other vendor.

Add a button in to a SharePoint List/Library to trigger a Flow (part 02-customization)

Part 02 (This article)

In my previous article, we saw how we can add a button in to SharePoint online list or library to trigger a flow in place. We are continuing with this article on how we can customize the newly added button to change its appearance (Well, let’s make it look like a button).

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Changing the appearance:

Go to the format mode from the target button column. And we can use the following parameters to change the look and feel. My button here looks good as it stands out from the rest of the content in this space.

  • txtContent: “Define your button text”
  • color: “set a button text color code”
  • border: “set a border to the button”
  • background-color: “set a button background color”

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Applying a condition to the button:

Further more, you can customize the button to apply when a condition is true (e.g. – show a button only when the Flow have not started).

In this case, I’m going to tweak my approval Flow a little bit to maintain the status of the library items. The purpose here is to update the status of a item which is initiate for approval but still “Pending” as we using a custom status column here.

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By modifying the Approval Flow, I am adding a new step (SharePoint Update item action) to my existing flow. This new step has to be placed before the starting the start. At this stage, I have to set the status as “Pending” (static string).

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Then the same action added to both ending paths in order to update the status column up on “Rejection” or “Approval”. At this stage I can simply use the “Response” variable to pick up the current status value and update the “Status” column.

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Once added, it’s position looks like below.

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Define the Site URL, Choose the target library, pick the ID attribute and Response variable as shown below. Repeat the same for “No” path as well and that’s all we need to do here.

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That’s it from the Flow and we can head back to the Library to do the appearance tweaking. Go the column format mode and notice the changes I have done here. Apart from the color and background changes which I did to the button earlier, I have added a condition to display the button only when its true. Under this logic, the button would only appear when the status column = empty (“”), meaning the Flow have not started for a respective item in this library.

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And, as expected ! the logic is right therefore the condition perfectly applies. I have few documents in this library with mixed statuses (Rejected, Approved, Pending and of course some are not started yet). The button only showed for the items which are not gone through the Flow.

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Microsoft reference for JSON based column formatting is here. This article has covered many perspectives of column formatting.

And ! here’s the full JSON code of this customization which you can reuse if you have a similar use case.

If you want to start from the beginning, go ahead and read my previous article.

{
  "$schema": "https://developer.microsoft.com/json-schemas/sp/column-formatting.schema.json",
  "elmType": "span",
  "style": {
    "color": "#0078d7"
  },
  "children": [
    {
      "elmType": "button",
      "style": {
        "border": "light",
        "background-color": "yellow",
        "color": "#0078d7",
        "cursor": "pointer",
        "visibility": {
          "operator": "?",
          "operands": [
            {
              "operator": "==",
              "operands": [
                "[$Status]",
                ""
              ]
            },
            "visible",
            "hidden"
          ]
        }
      },
      "txtContent": "Send to Approval",
      "customRowAction": {
        "action": "executeFlow",
        "actionParams": "{\"id\": \"e290feff-0013-41f2-97dd-91a37fb84ea0\"}"
      }
    }
  ]
}

Add a button in to a SharePoint List/Library to trigger a Flow (part 01)

Part 01 (This article)

Microsoft Flow together with PowerApps undoubtedly revolutionizing the process automation in modern work places. You may have a Flow attached to a document library or list but there is no easy access to initiate that flow from the list/library itself. People have to dig in a little bit to initiate it and that’s a little bit of time consuming for constant usage.

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With this article, we will find out how we can overcome this struggle using a little bit of JSON stuff (Don’t worry about that word, you don’t need to be a developer here). Using the Modern SharePoint capabilities, we can embed a button right in front of every item in a list or library so that people can trigger a Flow right there. New column formatting is a cool out of the box capability to get this done.

Now let’s get this started. First and foremost, you need to have a Flow created in place and have the GUID of it.

We’ll get a Flow created really quick in case if you don’t have one. If you have a Flow already in place, you can skip these basic steps

Open up your SharePoint Library and click on the “Flow” drop down on the ribbon as below. Then go to “Create a Flow

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You’ll see a list of available templates. You can utilize these templates if your requirement matches with them. Or simply feel free to create your own. Thankfully, there are a lot of templates published by Microsoft and the community which you can re-use on various scenarios. Unless the requirement is very specific or you are really keen on creating one your own, there is no point of designing a Flow from the scratch.

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I am adding a simple “Request Manager Approval” flow here. Pretty straight forward.

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Next, go ahead and check if the flow is added to “My Flows” section. If so, you are good to go.

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Now go inside the created Flow by clicking on it and copy the highlighted GUID form the address bar of your browser. We need this for our new Button.

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https://asia.flow.microsoft.com/manage/environments/Default-f50d518a-e13c-4359-85f6-ef76484f4c32/flows/e290feff-0013-41f2-97dd-91a37fb84ea0/details

Now to add the button but before that we need a new column for this button. From the list or library, go to the very end horizontally and add a new text column to this list/library.

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It should be like below after adding. You can edit this view by dragging and dropping the desired column across the library if you wish to. I’m calling mine “Approval” so it makes scenes for a column contains buttons.

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Now, go ahead and format this column. Click on the little arrow on the newly created column and go to format mode.

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And paste the JSON code below. replace the GUID using the target flow which you have copied to the clip board.

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Here’s the code (you will have it provisioned as you go to format mode itself).

{
  "$schema": "https://developer.microsoft.com/json-schemas/sp/column-formatting.schema.json",
  "elmType": "span",
  "style": {
    "color": "#0078d7"
  },
  "children": [
    {
      "elmType": "span",
      "attributes": {
        "iconName": "Flow"
      }
    },
    {
      "elmType": "button",
      "style": {
        "border": "none",
        "background-color": "transparent",
        "color": "#0078d7",
        "cursor": "pointer"
      },
      "txtContent": "Send to Approval",
      "customRowAction": {
        "action": "executeFlow",
        "actionParams": "{\"id\": \"e290feff-0013-41f2-97dd-91a37fb84ea0\"}"
      }
    }
  ]
}

That’s it and you will immediately notice the button applied to your column. This is how my library looks like after adding the button. It still doesn’t look like a button because of the border, background and colors of it.

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Cool thing is ! you can customize the button to look like as you want it to be. Further more, you can also make it a logical button which has a condition behind it. (e.g. – show a button only when an item pending for approval).

Read the part 02 of this article series to further customize the button and apply conditions.

Detailed Microsoft article for this is here

DISCLAIMER NOTE: This is an enthusiast post and is not sponsored by Microsoft or any other vendor.

Microsoft Flow in a real world scenario: using Office Quick Parts to fill out documents (part 02)

Part 02 (This article)

Email notification on smartphone in hand. New mail message in inbox, mailing letters or reading sms on mobile phone vector illustration

After the last step in the part 01 of this article series, we  are resuming with this flow. We now can save this, and quickly give it a test run if it delivers what we need.

Hit “Save”  button and check the flow for any errors from “Flow Checker” option on the top right corner. Also,  you can test any flow straightaway from here.

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Let’s do a dry run here. You have two options to test it out. Use data from the last run or trigger as a new instance. Hit “Save and Test” to begin.

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And hit “Continue” to start it.

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Inputs to be done here for the metadata fields we mapped and then simply hit “Run

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Flow also has an wonderful activity tracker. A cool new interface allows you to monitor your Flow activities from a one place.

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Click on “See flow run activity” to find out the status of this instance. This run has been succeeded.

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We can go back to the library and open up the document to see if our Quick Parts have been updated as per this run. Bare in mind that Word Online might have an issue when you open this kind of a document. Quick parts are working well with Office Desktop Application and Word online Preview Mode but, unfortunately having some issues in Word Online in edit mode. Therefore, make sure you test it with Word Application before you wonder where it went wrong as quick parts may still show empty in online mode even after running the Flow successfully.

Here’s how it should look like after the execution.

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Sending Email Alerts up on completion

After composing of the document, we can configure the flow to send out email alerts. In this scenario, I’m going to send alerts to the person who triggered this flow, alerting him with the composed document as an attachment.

Let’s go ahead and add a new step as usual.

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Search for “Get file content” SharePoint action

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We have to rename it as “Get file content new” so it makes better sense as we already have a step with the default name.

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Next up, parameters. Choose the appropriate site URL from the drop down and file identified has to be the ID. Leave the “Infer Content Type” with its default and that’s it.

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Now, add another new step which we will be using to configure the email alert. search for “Send an email” and select the “Send an email (V2) (Preview)”

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Parameters to be configured as shown below. search for “User email” attribute for Receiver field and choose it.

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My subject line will be “Text: customer name field” concatenated. Feel free to have your own here. Type the text and look for “Customer Name” attribute and place it next to the text in the subject line as shown below.

The Body will be just a plain text which indicates the purpose of this mail. Again, it’s all up to you to insert anything here.

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For the attachment name, use File name with extension, from the Update file properties section.  For the File Content, get that from the Get file content new file section.

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You can extend the content section by adding more attachment/content but that’s optional. just leave the “Importance” as normal here which depends on your situation though. Feel free to adjust these parameters as required.

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Now the exciting part !. We can run our full flow to see if everything works as expected. So I will go ahead and kick it.

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Click on “see flow run activity” to see the status of this instance.

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And click again on the latest instance from the history of this flow.

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You will see the entire history of the instance selected. And best of all, in just a simple click you can see the action result in a handy dandy UI ! Isn’t this amazing ?

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Now let’s switch to our outlook account. In my case it’s my account which was used to kick the Flow. And, I can see the latest item with all our parameters including the attachment which means the hard works have paid off !!

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In addition to that, Flow Dashboard is a great place to keep up with all your things around Flows across the entire tenant. You can turn on/off a flow with just a button swipe!. Statuses and other handy dandy stuff all brought in to a one place to make your life more easier.

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Until next flow post, Happy Flowing !

Start over with part 01 

DISCLAIMER NOTE: This is an enthusiast post and is not sponsored by Microsoft or any other vendor.

Microsoft Flow in a real world scenario: using Office Quick Parts to fill out documents (Part 01)

Part 01 (This Article)

Yes ! a simple and yet solid Microsoft Flow can be configured to fill-out a Word Document stored in your SharePoint library in conjunction with Quick Parts.

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Image Courtesy: brookfieldinstitute

With this blog series, I’m going to demonstrate, how you can utilize legacy and yet famous Office Quick Parts with Microsoft Flow to optimize your content creation!. Well, Quick Parts aren’t new, they have been in Office suite since 2010 but still being famous among content creators due to its usability. 

To get started, you need the following fundamentals:

  • Office 365 subscription with SharePoint, MS Flow Capabilities
  • A document library to store documents
  • Microsoft Office Application Installed in your PC or Mac

Once you have them, simply log in to SharePoint online and open up the desired site. You need a document library to store documents and also relevant fields (metadata) to be created to match our quick parts (Date, Company Name, Project Name etc..).

In my case, I have a simple library with few metadata fields created as below.

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Following fields in blue, are our quick parts that we will be linking with the SharePoint library fields. They can be belong to a content type (centralized) or a specific to an library, nevertheless we can use quick parts in a document so that anyone can easily fill them out as part of a process.

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Once you have added columns in to the library (much more easier in Modern SharePoint experience!), create a new Word document in that library or if you already have a document, just upload it to the library (just drag and drop). my library is the default “Shared Document” and the columns are “Customer, Project name, Date, Project value”, just four, simple !

Once you have uploaded, open it from Word application as shown below.

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From Word, direct to Insert –> Quick Parts –> Document Property –> Choose the desired field/s

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Here I’m adding Customer field which looks like below once added.

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You have to click on each spot where you want Quick part to be placed and it will insert accordingly. I have added some fields multiple times here which is perfectly fine. Normally, a single field value can be used in various location across a document.

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Changes are usually saved automatically. If you notice the save icon on the top bar of Word Application. So just go ahead and close this now.

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Let’s head back to our library and get started with building the Flow for this scenario. Its easier to work with any office 365 tool nowadays due to the ultimate UI enhancements Microsoft have recently done.

Click on Flow –> Create a flow, from the Library

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You will now be redirected to Flow web site and you must sign in using your O365 account to be able to go ahead from here onwards.

Once you signed in, choose New –> Create from blank from the Microsoft Flow home page. Pretty simple right ?

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Type in “Manual” and hit “Enter” to search. Select the “Manually triggered button” as shown below.

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Next up, we have to choose our SharePoint action. Type in “Get File Content” and select the highlighted action to proceed.

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On the trigger options, Choose appropriate input types to match your fields. Keep in mind that your trigger can be whatever you want it to be, in my scenario, I’m using a manual trigger which is easy for me to demonstrate the use case.

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Now to format our input parameters in the trigger. In my case, I’m adding 4 input types (Date, text and number) according to the Quick Parts I have. You can have more or less, inputs based on your story.

Customer: Text Field | Amount: Number | Doc Date: Date | Project: Text

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Next up, is to configure our 1st SharePoint action to act as we want. we have to bind our SharePoint library to the flow. Choose the site where you have the library from the dropdown. I am using SharePoint because, in this case that’s is where my data resides, but, you can use various other services such as Salesforce, or PowerApps to bring inputs in to the file. The idea of this post is to demonstrate that how data coming from (anywhere) can be automatically entered in to a Word document.

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And select the document library from the listed ones. Leave “Infer Content Type” as Yes as well.

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Now let’s add a new action here. Click on “New” and add the Create File SharePoint action as below.

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This action will update the file properties when the flow is triggered. Select the Site address and folder path (Library). Define the File name by choosing the appropriate fields as you wish. File content should come from the File Content Action itself.

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Once this is done, the Flow so far would look like this. make sure you map the fields properly so you wont have any errors during the first run. A positive first impression is something awesome you know that !!

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Then, click on “New” and search for “Update file properties” SharePoint action from the list to add our next action.

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In here too, we have to configure some parameters to reflect fields and quick parts appropriately. Choose the same site and libraries and Item ID should be “Item ID” from create file. I am using Customer Name field as the title here but its up to you to have your own choice.

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Continue to read part 02

DISCLAIMER NOTE: This is an enthusiast post and is not sponsored by Microsoft or any other vendor.

Microsoft Flow latest updates for October 2016

The new era of workflow automation was introduced recently as Microsoft flow in Office365. I have been in the preview program and the functionality is fantastic so far.

General Availability of Microsoft Flow (You are set to go production)

GA

Microsoft announced today about the general availability of Flow which would be within this quarter. that’s a great news and we can expect the availability of Flow in 7 different geographies. with this release, you can use Microsoft Flow for production purposes.

Flow will have several options for you to chose, Free and paid depends on your usage scenarios.

Dynamic AX Integration Support

DM AX

Flow will now support Dynamics AX integration for you to perform actions such as copying data from external systems in to Dynamics AX.

More new services

Flow

Blogger and PageDuty services are now supports in Flow. Page duty is a helpdesk tool that used by support teams to dispatch service requests and it can be integrated with Microsoft Flow.