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Automating Manual Data Entry: An Introduction to Microsoft Power Automate

January 28, 2024

Are you facing the daunting task of manually entering hundreds or even thousands of records? It’s a scenario that can drain your time and energy, leading to decreased productivity and increased risk of errors. What if there was a way to automate this tedious process, freeing you up to focus on more productive and meaningful aspects of your job? Enter Microsoft’s Power Automate, a solution designed to turn this tiresome chore into a streamlined, automated workflow.

The Traditional Approach: Export, Edit, and Import

In a perfect world, updating something like a large list of customer contacts would be as simple as exporting the data to a spreadsheet, making your changes in bulk, and then re-importing it back into the system. This method is straightforward and effective when the system supports easy data export and import functionalities. You simply export the list, apply your updates in a familiar spreadsheet environment, and import the data back, with all changes reflected in the system.

The Challenge: When Export/Import Isn’t an Option

However, in many real-world scenarios, this ideal process isn’t always available. Some systems may lack the capability to export and import data efficiently, or data format issues might make this process more complex than it’s worth. In those cases, you are left with the only option of manually accessing each customer record, making the necessary changes, saving the record, and then proceeding to the next. This method could drive you mad if the system is slow to respond or if it takes a bit to save each record.

The Power of Microsoft 365’s Power Automate

Power Automate, specifically the desktop app, is a formidable tool that allows users to create automated tasks on their Windows desktops. From simple data entry to complex business processes, it can handle a wide range of tasks. There is a bit of a learning curve, but you can easily automate workflows without the need for extensive programming knowledge or any coding.

There are two primary ways of using Power Automate. You can utilize the various features to integrate just about any web service. There are tons of templates that are ready to go too. Here are a few examples:

  • Convert Word files in OneDrive (Business) to PDF and store in SharePoint
  • Save email attachments from to Dropbox
  • Email yourself News on X for a certain keyword
  • Save Gmail attachments to your Google Drive
  • Get notified of new OneDrive files

Setting up templates like these is super easy. All you really have to do is sign into the services you are connecting and customize the new flow.

The other way to use Power Automate, and the focus of this article, involves the desktop application. Here are the three main use cases:

  • Web Automation – Automate web applications, populate forms, extract structured data from web pages, and create reports using web data.
  • Excel Automation – Extracting and storing data into excel and manipulating cells and spreadsheets.
  • Desktop Automation – Automate your daily desktop routine, launch applications, interact with Windows, and extract data for further processing in your flows.

The true magic of Power Automate for Desktop lies in its ability to mirror human interactions with the computer, making it incredibly versatile. Whether it’s navigating through applications, inputting data, or even performing complex sequences of tasks, Power Automate can mimic these actions flawlessly. This capability extends to virtually any task you perform on your computer, no matter how specific or unique it might be. While Power Automate for Desktop offers a vast world of automation opportunities, the task of building custom workflows can be challenging.

The Addition of Copilot: A Game Changer

With Copilot, mastering the art of automation becomes an achievable reality, not just a distant possibility. It marks a significant milestone in the evolution of automation. Copilot, with its AI-driven insights and guidance, acts as a virtual assistant, further simplifying the creation and optimization of automated workflows. This integration is particularly beneficial for users who may find the vast possibilities of Power Automate daunting or those looking to refine their automations with more nuanced, intelligent functionalities.

Copilot’s AI capabilities enable users to describe the tasks they wish to automate in natural language, making the technology more accessible to non-technical users. This means you can simply tell Copilot what you need and it will guide you through building your automation. Here’s an example:

We asked Copilot in the Power Automate Desktop App, “How can I extract images from a PDF file?”, and this is what it gave us:

TO extract images from a PDF file using Desktop Flows, you can use the “Extract images from PDF” action. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Open Desktop Flows and create a new flow.
  2. Add the “Extract images from PDF” action to your flow.
  3. Specify the PDF file from which you want to extract images. You can enter the file path or use
    a variable containing the file. Specify the pages from which you want to extract images. You can choose to extract images from all pages, a single page, or a range of pages.
  4. Provide a name for the extracted images. You can define a naming convention for the images,
  5. Specify the location where you want to save the extracted images. You can provide a folder
    path or use a variable containing the folder.
  6. If the PDF file is password-protected, you can enter the password in the action properties.
  7. Save and run your flow to extract the images from the PDF file.

Here’s a screenshot of setting it up:

This specific automation will run in the background and extract the images it finds in the PDF, but what if you have an automation that doesn’t run in the background.

The Robot at Your Desk

You built your new workflow, hit the start button, and go grab a cup of coffee. When you return you find a robot at your desk working diligently on your assignment. To tackle manual tasks, Power Automate essentially commandeers your mouse, keyboard, and screen. Now, you could call it a day, but I don’t think your boss will appreciate that and it’s not all that productive. You’re now free to work on other tasks, but you can’t work on anything until that robot is done. If only you had another computer the robot could work on.

Dedicated Automation Machines

Here at TOPGUN PCs, we’ve created a lineup of Drones that are purpose build for remote work and automation tasks just like this. All they require is power and a wired or wireless connection to the network. You can access them from your primary desktop, set them up to work on any automation task, and notify you when they are ready for the next.

If you don’t have access to a TOPGUN PCs Drone you may be able to use an old computer. Old laptops work great if you have some extra desk space. If you have a desktop with a Pro edition of Windows you configure for remote access. Once that’s done it just needs power and a network connection. Our Drone systems are configured to be accessible 24/7, so you may want to change some settings on yours to keep it awake and connected.

Coming Soon

We’ll be publishing an in-depth guide to leveraging power automate soon. This new download will walk you through the entire setup and configuration process. It will require a clearance level of SECRET or higher. If you need to request an elevation click here.

If you need immediate assistance with automation you can email or call 855-700-6871.

You can also learn all about Power Automate here: