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Over the past few years, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been touting the productivity benefits of democratizing technology in business. Recent studies suggest that the concept, implemented with low-code development tools, does have merits and is being used successfully by enterprises all over the world. These new tools allow employees to build business applications on the fly without consuming costly development resources.

One of Microsoft’s primary tools for achieving the democratization of technology is Power Automate and its use of the robotic process automation (RPA) system. Since its introduction at the 2019 Microsoft Ignite Conference, Power Automate has grown steadily, but not enough to satisfy the company’s ambitions apparently. So, as of March 2, 2021, the desktop version of Power Automate is available as a free download for any Windows 10 user.

SEE: More robot and robotic system deployments expected across industries (TechRepublic Premium)

Power Automate is free to all Windows 10 users

Just to be clear, the Power Automate desktop app itself is available at no additional cost. However, the RPA system that the tool uses to create low-code apps is, unfortunately, not free. A subscription to the cloud-based systems that drive Power Automate costs $15 per user per month. A free trial with limited functionality is available.

SEE: 5 robotic process automation tools to eliminate tedium in your organization (TechRepublic)

RPA makes it possible to automate workflows across applications on your desktop by recording actions such as mouse and keyboard clicks. The system works like the macros you may have created in Word or Excel. By recording repetitive actions from your desktop across multiple applications, you can save time and improve productivity.

To get the desktop version of Power Automate for yourself right now, download it directly from Microsoft. Power Automate will be included in Windows Insider Preview builds in the coming weeks and will eventually become an integral feature of all updated versions of Microsoft Windows 10.

After downloading the setup file, start the installation process, as shown in Figure A. Then click Next to continue.

Figure A

As you can see in Figure B, the installation includes several significant pieces of software and updates to existing software including Microsoft Edge. Note, you can change the installation folder if you wish, but the default location should be adequate for most users.

Figure B

Agree to the terms and then click the Install button. The installation process will likely take a few minutes.

Once the initial installation is complete, you will be asked to load the Power Automate extension for your preferred browser, as shown in Figure C. If you tend to use more than one browser, you should add the extension for each one.

Figure C

Once the installation is complete and the browser extensions are added, you can launch the Power Automate app, where you will be asked to sign in using your Microsoft account credentials.

Why is Power Automate important?

Low-code business application development, made possible by tools like Power Automate and the accompanying RPA system, are quickly becoming a standard skill set for all employees. Just as most employers expect employees to know how to use word processors, email apps, message systems, and basic spreadsheet tools, so too will they expect a basic understanding of low-code development.

With that in mind, it is important to familiarize yourself with tools like Power Automate. Downloading the desktop app and subscribing for a free trial may give you an edge the next time a job opportunity presents itself. In an ever-changing landscape of job skills, low-code business application development has become a basic job skill you are expected to have and be able to use.

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