Create Approvals That NEVER Expire

If you are reading this, you likely ran into an issue where you created an approval flow, but it expired before the recipient had time to approve or reject it. The timeout for an approval or any flow is thirty days; then, it stops running. Yes, there are some clever workaround to alert if the flow times out, but who wants to mess with that?

The approach I took to solve this was to leverage some of the existing tooling, then add to them. When you create an approval, a row is created in the dataverse Approval table. As we all know, a flow is trigger-based, so why not create one that simply monitors the Approval table, then handles things from there?

At a high level, here is the basic approach.

Start by creating a simple flow that initiates an approval, then run it. In my example, note the value in the Item Link field; this will come into play later.

Next, navigate to make.powerapps.com, expand the Dataverse section, and click on Tables. After the page loads, click the All link under Tables, then search for approval. If you search for approval and do not get a result, make sure you click the All link.



Open the Approval table; in it, you will see your approval, possibly more depending on how old your environment is or if many people in your company are using approvals. When looking at the data, the takeaway is what is stored in the table and what can be used in the flow that handles the outcome of the approval. In my case, using the Item Link field is key to handling the approval response. With it, I can filter the value and know if I need to take action on the item or not.

When creating the flow that responds to the approval, you can filter it at the design level or in the trigger settings. I went with the trigger setting due to the number of approvals that could be firing across my organization in our default tenant. Why do you need to filter it? Just assume other approvals might be writing to the same dataverse table.

Trigger Conditions

@contains(triggerBody()?['msdyn_flow_approval_itemlink'],'https://www.sharepointed.com/stuff/')

@not(equals(triggerBody()?['msdyn_flow_approval_result'], null))

The above conditions filter the value I passed in the create approval flow (Item Link) and if the item has been approved or rejected.

Here is an overview of the flow that handles the outcome of the approval. I mixed dataverse connector types due to an issue with the trigger condition not working with the green dataverse connector. In the Expand Query field, I used the Fetch XML builder to query over to the Approval Response table to get the comment field; not used in the example, but nonetheless, it’s there. From the Get a row by ID action, the response of the approval is available to use to handle the outcome (Result) of the approval.

To my knowledge, there is no reason why you can’t create an approval that is active for months, if not years.

Notes:
1) You can access and review the approval records using PowerBI, Flow, Access, ___
2) You can bulks update the records using PowerShell, Flow, Access (be real careful), __
3) You can pass items in the Details field, then parse them out when handling the approval. Here is one simple example where I’m passing a SharePoint item ID from the approval and parsing it in the response flow:



Response flow compose statement that parses the Details field.


Expression: last(split(triggerBody()?[‘msdyn_flow_approval_details’],’**SPItemID:** ‘))




YES, this is a lot, but the general idea is simple; create an approval and handle the response.

Create Dynamic Hyperlinks And Send An Email Action

Over the years, some updates to Flow have been better than others, and others, not so much. If memory serves, the send an email action would use dynamic hyperlinks without much work, but something went sideways with one of the updates causing dynamic hyperlinks not to work as you’d want.

Here is a basic example of including a hyperlink in an outgoing email; further down the page, I’ll provide a more realistitc example.


In this example, I setup the Flow to trigger when an item is added to a SharePoint library. The key thing to note in this example is the value of the varHyerplink variable; note the double quotes around the link to item.

Use Power Automate to Update a SharePoint Person Field

Using the SharePoint HTTP flow action to update a person or group field, I kept getting this error:

A 'PrimitiveValue' node with non-null value was found when trying to read the value of a navigation property; however, a 'StartArray' node, a 'StartObject' node, or a 'PrimitiveValue' node with null value was expected.

The field I was attempting to update is named Submitted By, with an internal name of Submitted_x0020_By. Each time I tried to update the field I was seeing the error noted above. It wasn’t until I looked at one of my previous flow runs did I notice what the issue was. It turns out, that the field name I should be using is Submitted_x0020_ById.



Update flow:

Power Automate Convert Time Zone Error

I was in the middle of streamlining an old flow and needed to compare two dates and times. To simplify things, I opted to use the Convert time zone flow action, but it gave me an error that seemed a little odd.

Unable to process template language expressions for action ‘Convert_time_zone’ at line ‘0’ and column ‘0’: ‘The template language function ‘convert timezone’ expects its fourth parameter to be a string that contains a date time format. The provided value is of type ‘Null’. Please see https://aka.ms/logicexpressions#ConvertTimeZone for usage details.’.

Notice that I did not select an option for the Format string field, this is required, but there’s not a red * next to the field.



Select an option for that field, and the universe will be back in alignment.



Power BI Web URL Link

What happened to the Web URL link in Power BI? With the latest update to Power BI Desktop, Microsoft made some UI changes. If you are looking for the Web URL option, make sure your data grid / table is selected, click the Format visual button, expand Cell elements, at the bottom you’ll find Web URL. Switch it to On and you’ll be ready to go!

Add Company Holidays to Your Outlook Calendar Using Power Automate

Below are all the steps required to add your company holidays to your Outlook calendar. This is a simple approach that can easily be updated to pull the holidays and dates from other data sources like Exel, SharePoint, Dataverse…

Overview of the flow that will be created:

All of the holidays (events) will be stored in an array using a compose action.

[
{"Event":"Holiday - New Years","Date":"01/01/2022"},
{"Event":"Holiday - MLK Day","Date":"01/17/2022"},
{"Event":"Holiday - Presidents Day","Date":"02/21/2022"},
{"Event":"Holiday - Memorial Day","Date":"05/30/2022"},
{"Event":"Holiday - Juneteenth Day","Date":"06/20/2022"},
{"Event":"Holiday - Independence Day","Date":"07/04/2022"},
{"Event":"Holiday - Labor Day","Date":"09/05/2022"},
{"Event":"Holiday - Thanksgiving Day","Date":"11/24/2022"},
{"Event":"Holiday - Day After Thanksgiving","Date":"11/25/2022"},
{"Event":"Holiday - Christmas Day","Date":"12/26/2022"}
]

After that, a parse JSON event will be used to make the events available in the apply to each action. Note: after the parse JSON action is added to the flow, click the generate from sample button and paste in the holidays JSON from the step above.

Next, add an apply to each action to the flow. In the action, the output box will hold the body of the parse JSON action.



The convert time zone action is used to standardize the date format. For the base time use the Date field from the parse JSON action.

The last item that needs to be added is the outlook create event action. Note: for the End time property a formula is used: addDays(body(‘Convert_time_zone’),1)






Save the flow and run it.

Flow Error Unable to process template language expressions for action

Unable to process template language expressions for action 'Apply_to_each_sftp_file' at line '1' and column '30517': 'The template language expression 'body('List_files_in_folder')?['body']' cannot be evaluated because property 'body' cannot be selected. Array elements can only be selected using an integer index. Please see https://aka.ms/logicexpressions for usage details.'.

From one day to the next one of my flows stopped working with the error above. The flow is super simple:
Get files from an SFTP folder
Loop through the files
Copy file to another location
Delete file

Looking at the apply to each step I noticed body element was referenced. This might have been related to how I set up the loop or the autogenerated action.

Action the flow was unhappy with:

Updated the flow and it started working:

Note how the ?[‘body’] element is missing from the second picture.

Fix?
Created a new Apply to each loop by first setting a variable to the name of the file I’m looping on, then added my other actions. There might be a better way to fix this, but for now, this is what works.



Flow and SharePoint Online Large Libraries

Using Flow to get or check for files in a large SharePoint library can be a little tricky. If you are sure your library will always stay under 5,000 items the Get Files (properties only) Flow action is a quick n’ simple approach to use. When your library crosses over the mythical 5k mark or somewhere in that neighborhood, the Get Files action will fail to return results without warning. What I’m outlining below are other options when working with large libraries.

Setup:



Option 1: Get Files using an Odata filter query
downside: only use this in small libraries



Result:


Option 2: use the SharePoint API
downside: the lack of transparency from Microsoft related to how often data is crawled.

Result:

Option 3: use the SharePoint API along with a filter action on the library. This option does require that you have metadata set up on the library to filter on and there is not a wildcard / contains option. The filtered value needs to be exact.
downside: you will need to set up your metadata ahead of time or create it after the fact then backfill.

Result:

The more I learn about Flow and SharePoint Online, the more I’m starting to like Option 3 when doing a lookup type of search. SharePoint Search is an extremely powerful tool if the search index is fresh.

Download a File From SharePoint Online Using Python

How do you download a file from a SharePoint Online library using Python?

Items needed to run the script in this example:
Office365 Rest Python Client library:
https://pypi.org/project/Office365-REST-Python-Client/
SharePoint App Only Client Id and Secret:
Microsoft documentation:
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint/dev/solution-guidance/security-apponly-azureacs
You can create an app principle that is limited to a single site, list, library, or a combination of them:
https://piyushksingh.com/2018/12/26/register-app-in-sharepoint/

from office365.runtime.auth.authentication_context import AuthenticationContext
from office365.sharepoint.client_context import ClientContext
from office365.sharepoint.files.file import File

app_settings = {
    'url': 'https://YOURtenant.sharepoint.com/sites/somesite/',
    'client_id': '12344-abcd-efgh-1234-1a2d12a21a2121a',
    'client_secret': 'Oamytacohungry234343224534543=',
}

context_auth = AuthenticationContext(url=app_settings['url'])
context_auth.acquire_token_for_app(client_id=app_settings['client_id'], client_secret=app_settings['client_secret'])

ctx = ClientContext(app_settings['url'], context_auth)
web = ctx.web
ctx.load(web)
ctx.execute_query()

response = File.open_binary(ctx, "/Shared Documents/Invoice.pdf")
with open("./Invoice.pdf", "wb") as local_file:
    local_file.write(response.content)

If the above script does not work, take a step back and make sure you are connected to the site.

from office365.runtime.auth.authentication_context import AuthenticationContext
from office365.sharepoint.client_context import ClientContext
from office365.sharepoint.files.file import File

app_settings = {
    'url': 'https://YOURtenant.sharepoint.com/sites/somesite/',
    'client_id': '12344-abcd-efgh-1234-1a2d12a21a2121a',
    'client_secret': 'Oamytacohungry234343224534543=',
}

context_auth = AuthenticationContext(url=app_settings['url'])
context_auth.acquire_token_for_app(client_id=app_settings['client_id'], client_secret=app_settings['client_secret'])

ctx = ClientContext(app_settings['url'], context_auth)
web = ctx.web
ctx.load(web)
ctx.execute_query()

print("Site title: {0}".format(web.properties['Title']))

Use Flow to Get Files Created or Modified Today in a SharePoint Library

Scenario:
Each day I have a couple of Azure Runbooks export SharePoint list items and upload them to a SharePoint library. If one of the Runbooks fails, I needed to send an email alert that something went wrong.

Basic logic:
If files created today in SharePoint <> X, send an email.

The easy solution would have been to loop through the files, check their created date, increment a variable, then make a condition statement.

More-better way:
Run flow daily at 6:00 PM
Send an HTTP request to SharePoint to get files
Parse the response
Condition statement
— if true, send an email

Uri text from the HTTP call:

_api/search/query?querytext='Path%3Ahttps%3A%2F%2Fsharepointed.sharepoint.com%2Fsites%2Fsitename%2Fsubsite%2Fexports%2F*%20LastModifiedTime%3Dtoday'

Parse JSON schema

{
    "type": "object",
    "properties": {
        "odata.metadata": {
            "type": "string"
        },
        "ElapsedTime": {
            "type": "integer"
        },
        "PrimaryQueryResult": {
            "type": "object",
            "properties": {
                "RelevantResults": {
                    "type": "object",
                    "properties": {
                        "TotalRows": {
                            "type": "integer"
                        },
                        "TotalRowsIncludingDuplicates": {
                            "type": "integer"
                        }
                    }
                }
            }
        }
    }
}