Microsoft's New Language - Power FX
Written by Janet Swift   
Wednesday, 03 March 2021

As if we didn't have enough computer languages, Microsoft has just announced yet another - Power FX - but it isn't as new as it might sound and you might want to argue that it isn't even a language.

The new language was announced at Microsoft Ignite 2021, but it has been around for a while:

"Microsoft Power Fx is the new name for canvas apps formula language. This overview article and the associated articles are a work in progress as we extract the language from canvas apps, integrate it with other products of the Power Platform, and make it available as open source."

Currently it is difficult to know what the standalone version of the language is going to be like, but it is described as:

"[it] is the low-code language that will be used across the Microsoft Power Platform. It is a general-purpose, strong typed, declarative, and functional programming language."

Well all the right buzz words are there, but it claims to be an Excel-like, formula-based language. This would make it yet another reactive language where expressions are re-evaluated if any of the data that they involve changes - sort of extremely strong data binding of the sort you find in many UI frameworks. Another way to look at it is as a spreadsheet but without the data grid. Personally I've never seen what was wrong with the conventional spreadsheet approach to computation, but this might make the same approach work in other contexts.

If you know your spreadsheets, and in particular have written VBA macros, then you will find nothing new in Power FX. Indeed if you are familiar with any event-oriented language you will find nothing new. It is more a matter of changing the way you think about things. There is also a suggestion that Power FX can be a "no-code" environment by making the UI generate the formulae and the data needed for the computation. This too has been tried before.

It also has an escape route planned if low code needs some code:

"Power Fx formulas can be stored in YAML source files that are easy to edit using Visual Studio Code, Visual Studio, or any other text editor and enables Power Fx to be put under source control with GitHub, Azure DevOps, or any other source code control system."

"YAML" oh yuk... When will language promoters realize that tools matter more than morst other things.

I really don't see Power FX becoming much of a power in the land of languages - it has been done before. It will probably hang around for a few years if it's lucky and then the plug will be pulled when fashions change.

Personally I'd like to see Microsoft giving some love to VBA - it's not perfect, but the object model it works with is still current. Why they abandoned their almost excellent glue language and have been trying to replace it ever since. is a mystery to me.

excel

More Information

https://github.com/microsoft/Power-Fx/blob/main/docs/overview.md

Introducing Microsoft Power Fx: the low-code programming language for everyone

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 03 March 2021 )