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Power Apps Portals: Notes vs Timeline Metadata – Comparison

In this series of blog posts, I’m looking at the ways to enable an asynchronous conversation between Dynamics/Power Apps users and portals users. The two most common techniques I see use Entity/Web Form Metadata – either the Notes or Timeline metadata option. This post covers a comparison between the two.

Similarities

  • Both options are included out-of-the-box with Power Apps Portals and require no custom code to implement.
  • Both Portal users and Dynamics/Power Apps users can add text-based comments/notes, as well as view/upload file attachments.
  • The date/time of the note/comment, as well as the author, is recorded.
  • File attachments are stored as Notes.
  • Neither allow for configuring the create/edit experience.

Differences

  • Users can edit or delete notes they’ve created (if configured). Users cannot edit or delete Portal Comments.
  • The author of a Portal Comment is tracked via a real relationship. For a note, it’s based on a specific convention that includes the name and ID of the contact stored in the title.
  • The Timeline metadata displays various activity times, in addition to Portal Comments
  • Notes must contain *WEB* to be displayed on the Portal. Portal Comments must be marked as completed/resolved to display on the Portal.
  • In Dynamics/Power Apps, the description of a note is HTML/Rich Text, whereas the description of a Portal Comment is plain text.
  • You can create “private” notes, which are only visible on the Portal to the user that created it. Similar functionality does not exist for Portal Comments.

Recommendations

In general, I find that Timeline metadata is my go-to option. It’s the default option on cases in any of the Power Apps Portals templates (Customer Self-service, Employee Self-service, Community and Partner). I like that the author of comment has a real relationship to the record, as opposed to having to rely on a naming convention like is required for notes. I also find users tend to forget about adding the *WEB* to notes to make them appear on the Portal.

Typically, I still see notes being used for implementation that have been around a long time. This includes when Dynamics users are more familiar/comfortable with using notes, or if there are existing integrations that already use notes, and would require re-work to use Portal Comments.

Other Options

If using the Notes or Timeline Entity/Web Form Metadata doesn’t meet your requirements, another option is to use the subgrid functionality. You can use this technique with Portal Comments, another activity type, or a custom activity/entity. Then you can configure both the subgrid columns, and the Entity Form use to view/edit the records.

I covered this technique as part of this blog post.

Guest Contributors

I’d like to acknowledge the individuals who have provided invaluable assistance to this series of posts, including providing their comments, insights, experiences and review:

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Engineered Code is a web application development firm and Microsoft Partner specializing in web portals backed by Dynamics 365 & Power Platform. Led by a professional engineer, our team of technology experts are based in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.