Microsoft Flow allows apps to all work together

Get notifications and sync data between apps from Microsoft or third parties

Microsoft sign
Julien Gong Min (CC BY 2.0)

Microsoft has tried in the past to make apps communicate, like with Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) in the 1990s. It worked, but in a limited fashion, allowing for linking data between Word and Excel. But if you wanted to share data from non-Microsoft apps, you were out of luck.

Now, however, Microsoft has come out with a service (it's not right to call it an app) called Flow, which brings the If This Then That (IFTTT) functionality of the Web to desktop apps. IFTTT is a feature for Web services that generates actions based on conditions. It's how Twitter informs you when someone follows you, likes your tweet or responds to your tweet, for example.

Microsoft Flow connects apps and services and automates tasks, so data is automatically moved from one app or service to another and you are notified of changes or updates. This eliminates the hassle of checking for updates in apps or copying and pasting data.

Flow connects Office, Office 365 and SharePoint, among other Microsoft apps, to non-Microsoft services such as Twitter, Slack, Google Drive and Dropbox. As part of the launch of Flow, Microsoft is offering a number of templates, such as generating SMS alerts from emails, pulling tweets into Excel or getting Slack notifications when a file is uploaded to a Dropbox folder.

Flow went live last week with more than 35 services supported. Some of them are pretty neat, too, such as saving email attachments on Dropbox, getting a text notification if your boss emails you, creating Salesforce tasks based on emails, getting alerts from Twitter based on keywords and creating tweets from Facebook posts.

The preview currently supports Office 365 account or a email address. For some reason, Microsoft doesn't support its own accounts. You can sign up at the Flow site.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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