An introduction to Canvas and Model Driven Apps

There are two types of Apps for use in development with Dynamics 365. In this article, we will go through the overview of the two different types along with listing the strengths of both approaches.

Canvas Apps

The first option to go for is a Canvas App. This app is very similar to what most people would assume for a mobile application on an iPhone or an Android device. It is customized exactly to the users’ needs down to the UI. It fulfills a dedicated purpose to a specific workflow for a user base. As an example, there are dating apps that allow you to meet new people but do not help you with purchasing a latte – in other words, a Canvas app is ideal at accomplishing one simple task.

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Fully Customizable UI

Canvas Apps allow for the complete control of the UI elements of the application. You don’t have to fit your design into the traditional Dynamics 365 approach of a standard UI with base functionality built around your entities. Canvas Apps allow for customized screen navigation and layout to meet the users’ needs down to the pixel.

Can tie multiple data sources into one experience.

If you have data that is located in disparate systems then the Canvas App can be utilized to unite and focus this data to the tailored experience for a user.

Focused Experience

Having an app that is dedicated to a certain task allows for greater flexibility in delivering the data to the user in the best possible way and their interaction with that data. Otherwise users can quickly be overwhelmed by a multitude of navigation screens and buttons just to get to one feature that they need within an app. Canvas apps deliver what a user needs directly from starting up the application.

Model Driven Apps

The second type of app we will be going over is the Model Driven App. In contrast with the Canvas App, the Model Driven App has a more limited UI to work with. The main focus of the Model driven app is on the business process and less on the custom UI elements.

The Model Driven app should be used when there are multiple tasks or workflows for a user that need to be surfaced and not the more focused Canvas App experience of doing one task in an App. For example of this, a Model Driven App can serve as the home for a salesperson. All of the following respective tasks will be covered in one Model Driven App: Lead creation, searching for products, sending quotes, looking up accounts and contact information, and closing opportunities as won. To reiterate in summary: the model driven app is there to serve ALL functions for a specific user, while the canvas app is tailored to a dedicated task.

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Focus is on the business case and not custom UI elements.

Driven by overall data model and broadly defined business processes (i.e. Sales Hub App, Customer Service Hub App).

Granular Security Model

Managers can have different abilities when interacting with data elements compared to a typical user. The following is an example: the boss can update/create/delete a record but the user can only view the record in a model driven app.

Data relationships

The bread-and-butter of the Dynamics 365 platform shines with the Model Driven App. How data is associated is center stage in the model driven app.

Data Heavy Experience

Dashboards, Charts, and Data are center stage on Model Driven Apps. This allows for simpler data visualization for users.

Deep Office Integration

Out-of-the-box ability to export data to excel is one example of the ease of interaction between the application and the office suite of products offered up by Model Driven applications.


Canvas Apps and Model Driven Apps allow the user to have the best experience depending on every unique business situation. The PowerApps platform is taking center stage in the transformation of businesses by taking their work on the road. This article was meant to give a quick introduction to these two types of PowerApps. If you are interested in learning more about PowerApps in general please visit the Microsoft Documentation and the AlphaBOLD blog for more informative articles on the subject.

Go forth with PowerApps!

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