With the thousands of cloud services out there, chances are you use many of them. Whether it’s using Gmail to send email, DropBox to store and access files, Google Docs to create and share docs or Slack to chat with coworkers, cloud services are incredibly prevalent today.
A typical workday is broken up into situations that require us to use all of these cloud services to get work done. Sometimes, how we use these services is in a predictable, almost routine fashion. We have workflows we run through where when someone drops a file into Google Drive, we then take that file upload to another system or maybe when a form is filled out; we input that data into a database system.
We’re continually executing these workflows in our day but rarely take a step back and think about the recurring tasks we do. We don’t think about how each task leads to another. If we would, we could automate these workflows and save ourselves a ton of time! Microsoft Flow is a tool that can do just that.
Flow is a tool that allows you to link together these cloud services into flows based on different criteria to help you remove some of the unnecessary logistical tasks in front of you.
Microsoft Flow has two main components; connectors and flows. A connector is a connection to a cloud service. A connector allows you to authenticate to a particular cloud service allowing Flow to interact with its API. Connectors are the gateway between Flow and a cloud service.
A flow is a workflow consisting of multiple connectors all linked together. A flow includes a trigger (the event that starts the flow) and one or more actions related to connectors that execute when the flow is triggered. These are the essential components of Flow.
To truly understand Flow, I always like to talk in examples. Let’s set up a flow to create a Google Sheets row whenever I send a tweet with my name in it. To do that, I’ll sign into Flow using my Microsoft Azure account. Once there, I’ll go to My Flows, click on New and then Create from Template. I could create a flow from scratch if a template didn’t meet what I needed though.
There are many templates to choose from, so I’ll use the Search bar, type “twitter” to filter by the flow templates that use the Twitter connector. You should soon see the template we’re looking for.
Once you click on this template, Flow will then prompt you to set up the connectors for both Twitter and Google Sheets. Click Sign In for both connectors to get yourself authenticated. Once authenticated to both services, you can fill in the information you need.
In the below example, this flow will be monitoring for the words “adam bertram,” and if found, it will create a new Google Sheets rows in the sheet Untitled spreadsheet with the time and tweet text.
Once saved, I’ll then go up to Test to perform a test run of my flow. I’ll send out a tweet, and almost immediately Flow will see that and begin executing the flow.
Once the flow is complete, I can then check on my Google Sheets and see that Flow created a new row in my sheet with the time and the tweet text.
The example provided here was basic. Flow allows you to link together a seemingly endless number of cloud services with complicated logic routines, decision trees and so on. If you can define your workflow, Flow allows you to automate nearly every part of it.