What Is Power Automate in Windows 11 and How to Use It

What Is Power Automate Featured

Analyzing your daily clicks, mouse movements, or file copies, you may find it surprising how many of those tasks are mundane. If you’ve ever thought there must be a better way to do repetitive tasks in Windows 11, you’re in luck. Microsoft knows that many routine tasks can be easily automated, and that is where Power Automate comes in. The app is preinstalled with Windows 11, but don’t feel too bad if you didn’t even know it was there. Many people accidentally discover or ignore it when going through the startup process.

Tip: seeing a black wallpaper on your desktop for no reason? Learn how to fix the issue on your Windows PC.

What Is Power Automate?

According to Microsoft, Power Automate is a platform meant to “broaden the existing robotic process automation (RPA) capabilities to automate all mundane tasks.” But that’s a massively vague and confusing statement that undersells its potential.

In more understandable terms, Power Automate is a desktop application you can use to schedule and run repetitive and uncomplicated tasks. For example, if you want your internet browser to open several websites first thing in the morning, you can create what Microsoft calls a “Flow.”

Flows require little to no coding experience, making them perfect for anybody wanting to automate tasks. Look at Flows as shortcuts for in-app actions, such as Excel, Word, or PDF files, in addition to desktop, cloud, and text automation.

A good example of an Excel Flow is one that is explained during the app’s tutorial. Going through the steps, you create a Flow that automatically launches Excel and extracts data from whole tables or specific rows and columns. For desktop automation, there are starter Flows that launch specific apps, automatically copy files and folders, or print documents.

How to Create Flows

Flows are created through a drag-and-drop system, removing the need for complex coding or tinkering with system processes. All you need is a rough idea of what you want to achieve, then go through the options to make that happen.

However, keep in mind that using the app can be rather overwhelming at first, as you’ll need a basic understanding of how processes work and what the technical terms mean. Even so, if you’re willing to give it a go, start with the steps below:

  1. Open the Power Automate app and click “New flow.”
Clicking on "New flow" button in Power Automate app.
  1. Give your Flow a name and click on “Create.”
Naming the new Flow in Power Automate app.
  1. The next window may look a bit intimidating, but it’s easy to get the hang of things if you already know what kind of automated action you want to create. The panel on the left is all possible actions. You can click on each one to expand it further. For this example, we are creating a simple Flow that opens Spotify when you press a certain key combination.
Full view of Actions options in Power Automate app.

Tip: there are plenty of combinations that work with email clients, but you can use these eight useful Google scripts to automate your Gmail.

Automating Your First Task

  1. In the panel on the left, scroll down and click on “Mouse and Keyboard” to expand the list, then click and drag the “Wait for shortcut key” option into the main Flow box. This is conditional and only triggers the actions below it when pressed.
Selecting an action from left-hand panel in Power Automate app.
  1. As soon as you let go of the mouse button, a configuration window will pop up. Select the modifier and keyboard key to trigger the Flow. For this example, we are using Ctrl + Num1. When done, click on “Save.”
Configuring new action in Power Automate app.
  1. You’ll see that the first action was added in the main tab on the right, and we must associate it with an action. In the left panel, click on “System” and drag “Run application” underneath “Wait for shortcut key.”
Selecting another action to connect to the first action from left-hand panel in Power Automate app.
  1. As soon as you let go of the mouse button, a configuration window will pop up. In the first line, enter the location of the app you want to run. There is no need to change the parameters of “Command line arguments” and “Working folder,” but you can choose the size of the opened app from the drop-down in “Window style.” Click “Save.”
"Run application" window in Power Automate app.
  1. Both actions should be visible in the main tab. To check that everything is running as planned, click “Run” in the top ribbon.
Test running the Flow in Power Automate app.
  1. The actions and variables will disappear from the left, and you’ll see a counter at the bottom that indicates how long the Flow has been running. If there are no errors, your Flow is set up correctly. Click “Save.”
Saving new Flow in Power Automate app.

Tip: need to give admin-level permissions to a new user on a PC? Take a look through these ways to change the administrator in Windows.

Making the Most of Flows

There is one caveat you should be aware of. The application only opens when the Flow’s key combination is pressed, but the Flow itself doesn’t start automatically or under a set of conditions, as the version of Power Automate that is preinstalled in Windows 11 is actually the free version and has limitations.

However, with a subscription, you can create desktop shortcuts for your Flows, then run the shortcuts by double-clicking them. This saves you time, as you don’t need to open Power Automate and manually start a Flow.

Creating desktop shortcut for Flow in Power Automate app, Pro version.
Image source: Microsoft

Moreover, the app (for now) is limited to browser integrations with Microsoft Edge. But for Google Chrome, check out these seven extensions that automate boring browsing tasks.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much coding knowledge do you need to use Power Automate?

To create a basic Flow, you’ll need at least some understanding of technical terms and processes. You can use Power Automate to create highly complex functions, but that will require a lot of research, experimentation, and testing.

What are the subscription costs?

If you need more functionality and actions, the per-user plan starts at $15 per month. There is also a tier where you pay $0.60 per Flow or $40 per month for each user. This includes robotic process automation (RPA).

Where can I find templates in Power Automate?

There are plenty of templates from the community to help others automate their tasks. On the Power Automate website, under “Product,” you’ll find the “Templates” webpage. Some of the popular template Flows include saving an email attachment to OneDrive or Dropbox and sending an email about tweets with a certain keyword.

Image credit: Unsplash. All screenshots by Charlie Fripp.

Charlie Fripp
Charlie Fripp

Charlie Fripp is a technology writer with a strong focus on consumer gadgets, video games, and cyber security. He holds an undergraduate degree in professional journalism and has worked as a journalist for over 15 years. In his spare time, he enjoys playing various musical instruments and gardening.

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