Choosing between Canvas and Model-Driven Power Apps can be a bit challenging for those unfamiliar with Microsoft’s Power Platform. After all, to some extent, they’re both the same thing.
Both Canvas and Model-Driven apps are low-code options for creating business applications. They share similar components and the end results are pretty much the same.
What is Canvas?
Canvas apps are mobile applications built using a drag and drop function in Microsoft’s Powerapps Studio. You’re provided with a blank canvas that you then drag and drop elements onto to design a user interface.
You have full control of all the elements of Canvas. You can resize, reformat, and add images and objects to your unique specification.
Canvas allows for a high level of creativity and flexibility, allowing you to build a highly branded application that drives user interactions.
An added advantage is that Canvas apps can interact with over 350 data sources right out of the box, among them are Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, and SharePoint. You can also integrate the app with one or more data sources using basic Excel-style formulas.
Canvas Apps Use Cases
Canvas is ideal for creating a task-based application. Canvas apps are focused solely on solving one problem. Examples of Canvas app use cases include:
- Vacation requests/approvals
- Parking spot reservation
- Event registration
- IT helpdesk ticketing
- Time tracker
- Employee recognition
Canvas Apps Pros
No complex coding required
Canvas requires a low level of coding skills. If you’re familiar with Microsoft PowerPoint and Excel, you’ll be able to create a Canvas app without a problem.
Canvas can pull data from more than 350 Connectors, which makes it more flexible to use than a Model-Driven Power App.
Ability to be creative
Canvas lets you flex your creative side with individual designs. No two Canvas apps will ever be the same.
Perfect for task-based solutions
A Canvas app is particularly ideal if the end user won’t need to use the full Microsoft suite.
Canvas Apps Cons
Canvas apps are limited to mobile devices and are not responsive by design. You have only two basic orientation/layout options: Landscape and portrait.
To make a Canvas app responsive, you’d have to manually adjust the size and position the components and controls to match the desired screen size.
However, you must repeat this process for each of the components and controls within the app. And if there are hundreds of them, the task can be tiresome and time-consuming.
What Are Model-Driven Apps?
As the name suggests, Model-Driven apps take a more data-first approach than a Canvas app. A model-driven app’s user interface is created based on the Common Data Service (CDS), or Dataverse, and executed in Dynamics 365.
In other words, a Model-Driven app is controlled by the data entered. Users have limited control over the layout and functionality compared to Canvas apps.
Even so, there’s room to add or edit individual elements such as dashboards, charts, forms, and more.
Model-Driven applications are responsive by design and thus accessible from both desktop and mobile devices. Moreover, developers have numerous features to customize the application to meet specific business needs that would otherwise not be met with out-of-the-box solutions.
Model-Driven Apps Use Cases
As Model-Driven apps are more sophisticated than Canvas apps, they’re ideal for more complex business applications including:
- Customer Relations Management Systems (CRM)
- Inventory Management System (IMS)
- Asset Tracking System (ATS)
- Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS)
- End-to-end solution
Model-Driven Apps Pros
Suitable for more complex business applications
Because Model-Drive apps rely on data, they are great for building applications that require complex business logic.
Perfect for creating end-to-end solutions
For example, once a customer service support ticket is generated, it needs to be routed to the relevant department, addressed, updated, and marked as complete.
Responsive by design
Model-Driven apps render themselves across mobile and desktop devices.
Model-Driven Apps Cons
Requires a connection to the Dataverse
Model-Driven apps must be connected to the database and may not support offline interactions.
Rigid in design
A Model-Driven app is typically more rigid because its UI components focus on data. However, there are numerous features for developers to customize the application to their needs.
Canvas vs. Model-Driven Power Apps – Which Is Better?
Whether to use Canvas or Model-Driven Power Apps will boil down to your unique business needs and processes.
If you are developing an application to solve a single task or role, then it might make sense to use Canvas apps. The enormous flexibility and user control provided by Canvas apps make them more suitable for building simple, goal-oriented applications.
Model-Driven apps are a great option if you have well-structured data in Dataverse, and are looking to drive the interaction through complex business logic instead of the interface.
A Model-Driven app removes the need to spend too much effort on the user interface, speeding up the application design and development considerably.
Ultimately, Canvas apps and Model-Driven apps do not compete with each other but complement each other. You can use both types of solutions at different stages of the app development cycle.