Configuration - How to set the SharePoint address of a data source with a variable

When we build SharePoint based apps that we need to move between environments or tenants, a best practice is to store the list addresses in variables. This enables us to easily update the target data source when we move the app to a different location. This post walks through how to carry out this task.

When we build canvas apps that are based on a SharePoint data source, it can be very useful to store the SharePoint in a location that we can later modify. We can accomplish this by storing the site address and list names in environment variables

The reason why this is important because it supports the process of building apps against a DEV SharePoint site, and moving the changes to a LIVE site at the end of the process. It also supports the use-case where third parties build SharePoint based Power Apps for clients or customers.

This post describes how to build an app that's based on a SharePoint site, and how to store site address and list names in variables. We'll move the app to a different environment, and walk through the process of how to update these variables in order to point the app to a different target SharePoint site.

The overview of the required steps are:
  1. Create a solution
  2. Add a canvas app to the solution and develop the app
  3. Export the solution
  4. Import the solution into the target environment/organisation
  5. Update the environment variables to point to the new target SharePoint address

Step 1 - Creating a Solution

To develop a canvas app with a configurable data source, it's necessary to create the app from within a solution. A solution is a package that enables us to move resources between environments and tenants.

To create a new solution, we click the solutions menu item from the left-hand menu of the Maker portal and click the 'New solution' button from the toolbar.

Next, we create a new canvas app from within the solution by clicking the New > App > Canvas app option from the menu bar.

Step 2 - Build the app

Once we add a new canvas app to the solution, we can edit the app from the solution and add our required functionality.

From the settings of the canvas app designer, we should first confirm that the 'Automatically create environment variables when adding data sources' setting is enabled.

When we add now a SharePoint data source to the app, we'll see a notification that informs us that environment variables have been created for the data source.

For this example, we'll add three SharePoint lists from a SharePoint site. The names of these lists are Property, Issue, and Property Type.

We can now continue to build our app and to add our functionality.

Step 3 - Preparing the solution for deployment, and export the solution

Once we complete the development of our canvas app, we can return to our solution. Here, we discover the environment variables that correspond to our data source.

There is an environment variable that stores the SharePoint site address, and three environment variables that store the names of the Property, Issue, and Property Type lists.

When we're ready to move or to redeploy our app, we should modify each of these environment variables and remove the values. As the screenshot beneath illustrates, the help for the variables specifies that we should remove the value if it shouldn't be used in other environments.

Once we update all the variables, we can export the solution as an Unmanaged solution by clicking the 'Export' button from the toolbar of the solution. There are more details in my book on how to use solutions, and what the differences are between managed and unmanaged solutions.

Step 4 - Importing the solution into our target environment.

After we export our solution, we can log onto the target environment and go to the Maker portal . From here, we can open the solutions area, and click the option in the toolbar to import the solution.

Once we import the solution, we can modify the environment variable values to point to our destination SharePoint site and lists.

At this stage, we can publish our solution. The app will appear in the apps list and when we run the app, it will connect to the SharePoint site and lists that are specified in the environment variables.


When we build canvas apps that we need to move between environments or within organisations, it's good practice to store the SharePoint list name and site names in variables. This simplifies the deployment process and makes it possible to reconfigure an app to use a different target SharePoint site (or data source).