Power Automate: New vs Classic Designer - what's the difference?

January 30th 2024
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As you may have noticed, the New Power Automate Designer has recently been released. The New Designer is still in the early days, with more improvements on the way, but it already has a nicer look and feel! Power Virtual Agents users might notice it’s very similar. This blog will highlight the key differences between the two designers, including the limitations and how to change between them.

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Swap to the Classic Designer

New features are still being developed for the New Designer, meaning that some functionality is only available within the Classic Designer. Also, sometimes the New Designer doesn’t always render as expected or work as smoothly as the Classic Designer. So, you may want to swap back by personal preference while it is still being developed. There are two ways to swap back to the Classic Designer:

1. Using the toggle

 

2. Changing the URL

You can also edit the end of the URL by changing v3=true to v3=false and pressing enter. To access this URL string, first open the flow to its details page and click edit from there.

 

Copilot

One of the most obvious changes with the new designer is that Copilot is enabled on the right-hand side. This means you can use Copilot to help build your flow straight from the designer for a more seamless experience. You can ask Copilot to build a flow, add a condition and explain what different actions do.

There are now navigation options with the new designer, so if you are working on large flows or flows with lots of branching, it is easier to navigate to where you need to be. The designer in this aspect is very similar to the canvas used for Power Virtual Agents (or Copilot studio). A useful feature added here is the ability to search and select a specific action.

The new navigation features are:

  • Zoom in and out
  • Navigate by using the Minimap
  • Fit view
  • Search for Workflow Actions

Note: Sometimes, the navigation menu doesn’t render where it should and may be partly hidden behind the left navigation menu, as seen in the image below. This doesn’t affect the navigation controls functionality and will hopefully be fixed in future releases.

navigation menu

Where you fill in action, details have also changed with the new designer. Previously, when you clicked on an action, the details opened in a drop-down within that action box. Now, when you click an action, it opens in a separate pane on the left-hand side of the page. The parameters, settings, code view and about details are all available within the side pane without clicking the ellipsis to reach them like in the Classic designer.

Classic Designer

 

New Designer

Renaming actions also now occur in the new action pane; double-click on the current action title at the top to replace the text.

 

Action Inputs and Settings

Advanced Parameters

In the classic designer, when adding advanced parameters to an action, you must click ‘Show advanced options’, which opens all the available advanced parameters. This list can be long, especially when dealing with SharePoint lists or Dataverse tables. With the new designer, you get to select what parameters you want to show, making it easier to find what you need.

Classic Designer

 

New Designer

Adding Expressions and Dynamic Content

There is a new keyboard shortcut for quickly adding dynamic content or expressions into an action input. Typing ‘/’ pops open a menu allowing you to select quickly. The other option is to click the blue icons at the end of the text box.

Run After Settings

Run after settings for an action in the new designer are configured under the Settings tab on the left pane, in the classic designer they are accessed from the elipsis on the action block. The four Run After options are the same as the classic designer.

Classic Designer 

 

New Designer

It is now easier in the new designer to see what the Run After setting is from just looking at the flow. If the run after setting is not ‘Is successful’, a coloured dot will appear before the action corresponding to the colour on the settings menu:

  • Orange = Has timed out
  • Grey = Is skipped
  • Red = Has failed
  • Green = Is successful

The green dot only shows if selected alongside another Run After option.

Adding Notes

In the new designer, to add notes to an action, click the ellipses on the left side pane and click ‘Add a note’.

The way you view notes is slightly different in the new designer. When a note is added to an action, you can view the note by hovering your cursor over the note icon on the action box or by clicking on the action to open the left side pane, whereas before, the note was visible on the action when you opened the action box.

Expression Box

Another useful change with the new designer is that the box for writing expressions has been made bigger, making it easier to see the full expressions you are typing. There is also the additional functionality to paste the last used expression and to expand the expression pane further into full-screen mode, which is a huge upgrade from the tiny box in the classic designer!

Classic Designer

 

New Designer

Copy and Paste Actions

Copying and pasting actions was available within the classic designer, however it never made it out of preview, meaning that sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. This functionality has been updated by the new designer, making it more reliable to use. To copy and paste an action:

  1. Right-click the action you want to copy and click ‘Copy Action’ from the popup menu
  2. Click the plus button where you want to add the action
  3. Click ‘Paste an action’

Action Search

The action search has been changed in the new designer. Now, the most popular connectors appear first in the left pane, making finding them and their corresponding actions quicker and easier. The action search also works much better than before, and there are options to filter the runtime and whether it is an action or a trigger. Overall, the UI in the new designer looks a lot nicer and is more user-friendly.

Classic Designer

   

 

New Designer

   

Limitations

Unfortunatly, there are some known limitations with the new designer, however as it is still very new it’s likely that they will be fixed with time.

Format by Example

One big limitation at the time of the blog is that the Format by Example functionality is only available in the classic designer. If you aren’t aware of this feature within Power Automate, please look at another blog and video we posted about it: Power Automate Expressions – Format by Example — Encodian.

Luckily, this can still be used by the classic designer; it just means you must switch back and forth.

Outlook Connector

There are some issues when using the Outlook connector from the new designer:

  • The HTML email editor is not available, meaning you can’t add any HTML and CSS styling to emails
  • Email addresses are not auto-populating with organisation emails, meaning you need to type out or copy and paste send to and from addresses if you aren’t using dynamic content.

Undo and Redo Buttons

There are no undo and redo buttons within the new designer; however, versioning is coming to Power Automate, which may be why this functionality wasn’t carried across! No official release dates have been announced yet, suggesting the feature is still being worked on, but this is very exciting news for Power Automate.

Not all Flows can Use the New Designer

One thing to note if you are wanting to test the new designer is that it is not available for all flows, if you aren’t able to use the new designer you will get a ribbon message with the reasoning.

Some of the other reasons can be that your flow is using another user’s shared connection and that the flow was made in an older format, or sometimes flows that are part of a solution can’t use the new designer due to connection references.

Summary

To summarise, many new features have been added to the new designer, and existing functionality has been extended and improved. However, there are still known limitations, but there is always the choice to switch back to the classic designer if needed. We are excited to see where Microsoft takes this new designer and how they will continue to infuse AI into Power Automate and develop the product’s functionality.

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Author
Sophie Charlwood

Technical Evangelist

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