The decision to use a Canvas or Model Driven App is not straightforward and, whilst the following information is useful to consider, it is up to you which is the best choice. Microsoft is working hard to create a unified view which means that in the future, hopefully we won’t have to choose. It will all just be a Power App!

Model Driven App

Model Driven App


Canvas App

Canvas App

Canvas Apps are what are defined as “Pixel Perfect” Apps; they are super easy for anyone used to PowerPoint and Excel to create and they are great fun to make. You can control everything about the app; from the colours, logos, style, what happens if you click Button X or even how Button X should act if a user has responded to Question A in a particular way.

Canvas App Design Screen

Canvas App Design Screen

Model Driven Apps aren’t as flexible as Canvas Apps, in terms of style, but are definitely more secure; they work off of Forms, Views, Dashboards and Business Process Flows using Customer Service, Sales, Field Services, Project Services or Marketing. If you are already using the Dynamics 365 framework,  you are already using a Model Driven App!

Form Looking Like Canvas App

The new Form Designer – Looking more and more like a Canvas App!

Whilst there is no checklist which can help you to decide Canvas versus Model, the following questions will get you started on your journey.

  • What device are you operating the app on?
  • Does the app need to be embedded into Microsoft Dynamics 365 Unified Operations?
  • Are you already using one of the Customer Engagement Apps?
  • What are the Data Volumes you are using?
  • Where is the Data Coming from?

What device are you operating the app on?

Are you going to be using the app on a mobile, tablet or computer? Do the users need to access the information offline or will they always be connected? Canvas Apps are beautiful but each app is generally only designed to be operating in one screen setting, such as tablet OR phone OR computer; this is because you control how big each box is going to be and where on the screen it sits. There are some fancy things you can do here to improve that but then it moves slightly away from being a Citizen Developer tool. Model Driven Apps are designed to be switched around between mobile, tablet and computer but the functionality may change between devices and you may not be able to do everything you want in all three views.

Does the app need to be embedded into Microsoft Dynamics 365 Unified Operations (D365UO)

The best thing, as a Finance Consultant, is being able to incorporate Power Platform with D365 UO. Canvas Apps are amazing, in that they can be embedded into your screens, forms and workspaces within D365 UO and can interact with the data. At the moment, you can send one key field that the user is interacting with into the Power Platform and from ther your options are open to your imagination of what you can do! Enhance your Item Setup with Attribute information held outside of D365 UO; update related orders for a Customer or Vendor record from the Customer form; enhance the click and collect process; review surveys and forms about a production order; the choices are endless! Model Driven Apps, for the moment, can’t be embedded into D365 UO but I await eagerly for that to change.

Are you already using one of the Customer Engagement Apps?

If you are already using one of the Customer Engagement offerings, then it makes complete sense to create a Model Driven App! As we have limited control over the look and feel of a Model Driven App (in comparison to a Canvas App), it makes sense to have all of your apps looking and behaving the same way to keep in line with corporate branding.

What are the Data Volumes you are using?

What sort of volumes is the app expected to process or view? Canvas Apps do have a 2,000 record (at maximum the default is 500) limit which, if you are dealing with any sort of transactional database, could be a blocker. The more data, the bigger the app will be on a user’s phone and quite possibly the slower it will react. Filters are really your best option but make sure they work with large datasets (avoid the yellow triangle) otherwise the cap will only filter your first 2,000 records. Model Driven Apps are designed for the larger quantities and can really take a bashing!

Where is the Data Coming From?

Saving the most important to last – where is the data being stored? Model Driven Apps only work off the Common Data Service (CDS); if you already have Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement, you have CDS. Whilst this may change in the future, this is the here and now. Not to worry though as there are hundreds of connectors and plenty of integration options available to get your data into CDS. CDS is a secure environment with complete IT control; if security is your concern (and why shouldn’t it be). Canvas Apps can use any of the 200+ connectors, out of the box, or you can create your own if you are handy with a web call. You can also embed a Canvas App into a Model Driven App if Model Driven Apps suit 90% of your needs, with the exception of one little function.

What next?

Even if you don’t know which is the best tool to use, you can always contact HSO to help you plan out your app! Our experts will come and meet with you to hold a brainstorming session where they will talk about the Data that makes up your app (Data is the spine of any solution). They will also cover all of the above points and your current and future plans for how the Microsoft Power Platform can help you to enhance your business.  

Julia Simpson,
Senior Consultant , HSO