Microsoft first unveiled Flow, a business-focused alternative to IFTTT, in late April. On June 20, Microsoft released the Flow app for iOS, allowing users to keep tabs on the workflow automation service.
Like IFTTT (short for "if this, then that"), Flow can be used to link software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications and Web services. An action or update in one can kick off a series of automated activities in others.
For example, users of the popular IFTTT service can download a "recipe" or template that uploads a file to Google Drive if it is added to Dropbox, keeping cloud file storage accounts in sync. One recipe automatically adds new Instagram photos to a user's Pinterest board. Alternately, users can create and share their own recipes.
Whereas IFTTT is aimed at everyone, from consumers to developers, the Web-based Flow service is reserved for Microsoft's business customers as the initial batch of service connectors and Flow templates illustrates.
"Today, Microsoft Flow is publicly available as a preview, at no cost," stated Stephen Siciliano, principal group program manager for Microsoft Flow, in an April 29 announcement. "We have connections to 35+ different services, including both Microsoft services like OneDrive and SharePoint, and public software services like Slack, Twitter and Salesforce.com, with more being added every week."
Early users could use Flow to automatically copy Salesforce leads to CRM or issue Slack notifications when a file is uploaded to Dropbox. Now, iPhone and iPad users can keep an eye on their flows when they step away from their PC's Web browser.
The app allows users to start and stop flows and run detailed histories on when specific flows were run. They can also configure the app to receive real-time notifications when important events occur, as well as view and filter flow runs by notification type.
Microsoft plans to roll out updates, turning Flow into a more full-featured app, Adi Regev, principal program manager for Microsoft Flow Mobile, said in a statement. "In the coming weeks and months, you will see us releasing new features on a regular basis, enabling many more capabilities like flow creation, triggering, remediation, approvals, and flows that leverage your actual mobile device signals," she said.
Behind the scenes, the company updated Flow with custom API (application programming interface) support and single-sign on support for Office 365 and other services from Microsoft. Flow also features a new email service that no longer requires that users link their email accounts.
Also new are enhancements to the interface that are intended to make it easier for users to get started on creating their own Flow templates. In terms of managing flows, users can now get a complete history of their flows and turn flows off with a simple toggle. For users that find that the Flow Website is less than responsive, Microsoft said it is working on improving the service's speed.