What are Variables in Power Automate, and How to Use Them?

Power Automate Power Platform

What are Variables in Power Automate, and How to Use Them?

Variables are one of the most powerful tools in Power Automate. They allow users to store and manipulate data and perform actions based on that data. Variables of Power Automate can be of any data type, from strings and numbers to objects.

They can be initialized from an array or existing variable or just by providing a name and value. Once a variable is initialized, it can be used to set and retrieve values, perform calculations, and even invoke other flows.

In this tutorial, we will explore how to use Power Automate variables, including creating, setting, and initializing variables of different data types, increment and decrement values, and using them with power automate variables expression.

We will also discuss how to use the initialize variable power automate action to quickly create new variables of the same data type. And we also discuss how to select and apply numeric values to Power Automate variables. And use the Select Increment Variable and Select Initialize Variable actions to quickly create new boolean and string variables.

What is a variable in Power Automate, and how is it used?

A variable in Power Automate, formerly known as Microsoft Flow, is a temporary storage location that holds a value or data of a specific type (e.g., numeric, text, boolean, array, etc.) during the execution of an instant cloud flow.

Do you want to know more how you can use Power Automate? Read our detailed article: What is Power Automate? An example-based guide for beginners

Power Automate variables are essential components that enable users to create dynamic and adaptable flows. They can be used to store, modify, and perform operations on data throughout the flow.

In this Power Automate tutorial, users will learn how to create, initialize, and utilize variables effectively in their flows. Here are the key steps and components involved in using variables:

1. Create a new instant cloud flow: Create a new cloud flow in Power Automate. Choose the “instant cloud flow” option, add power automate input variables triggers if necessary, and give your flow a name.

2. Initialize a variable: Create a variable using the “Initialize Variable” action. Provide a name for the variable, select the appropriate variable type (e.g., numeric data type, array data type, etc.), and set an initial value. The initial value can be a constant value, dynamic content from previous actions, or an expression.

3. Set variable action: Use the “Set Variable” action to change the value of a variable throughout the flow. This action allows you to assign a different value to the variable or perform operations such as increment or decrement.

4. Perform operations with variables: This software variable can be used to perform various operations, such as arithmetic, comparison, or concatenation, using expressions in Power Automate concatenate variables. They can also be manipulated using the “Compose” action. Which allows you to create new data or modify the existing variable value using JSON format, square brackets, or other available functions.

5. Add variables to dynamic content: You can add variables to dynamic content using the “Add dynamic content” option available in various actions. This allows you to use the variable value in other actions or as input for other operations.

6. Array data type: If you need to store multiple values in a variable, choose the “Array” data type when initializing the variable. Use square brackets ([]) to define an empty array or provide initial values within the brackets. You can add or remove items from the array, loop through its elements, or perform other array-specific operations.

Variables iAutomate variables expression are temporary storage locations for holding data of various types during the execution of an instant cloud flow. They enable users to create dynamic and adaptable flows, which can be used to store, modify, and perform operations on data throughout the flow. Initializing variables, setting their values, and using them in dynamic content or operations are essential to use variables effectively.

What are some of the different types of variables that you can create in Power Automate, and how are they different from each other?

In Power Automate, variables are essential for holding temporary data of various types during the execution of a flow. There are different types of variables that you can create based on the type of data you want to store. The most common power automate variable types are:

1. String: A string variable is used to store text or alphanumeric data. It can hold any combination of characters, including special characters and spaces. For example, storing a user’s name, a site address, or the content of a text file.

2. Integer: This variable type is used to store whole numbers, both positive and negative. Integer variables are suitable for scenarios where you need to count items, perform arithmetic operations, or loop through a range of numbers.

3. Float: A float variable stores decimal numbers, i.e., numbers with decimal places. This variable type is suitable for storing values like percentages, currency amounts, or any numeric value requiring precision beyond whole numbers.

4. Boolean: A boolean variable stores a true or false value. It is useful for representing the outcome of a comparison, storing the status of a task, or controlling the flow of execution based on conditions.

5. Array: An array variable stores a collection of values or objects. Arrays can hold data of the same type or different types. They are useful for storing lists of data, such as items in a SharePoint list or rows returned from a database query. You can loop through the elements of an array using the “Apply to each” action in Power Automate.

6. Object: An object variable is used to store complex data structures that consist of multiple properties and values. Objects can contain other power automate variable object or arrays, allowing for hierarchical data storage. They are commonly used to store the output of actions that return complex data, such as responses from APIs, JSON data, or parsed XML content.

To create and work with variables in Power Automate:

  1. Initialize: Use the “Initialize Variable” action to create a variable, set its type, and provide an initial value.
  2. Assign: Use the “Set Variablepower automate set variable based on condition” action to assign a new value to an existing variable. This can be a constant value, dynamic content, or an expression.
  3. Use: Variables can be used as power to automate input variables in various actions or expressions to perform calculations or manipulate data.

For example, to store the URL of a login page, you would initialize a string variable with the site address as its initial value. To count items in a SharePoint list, you could initialize an integer variable and update it using the “Set Variable” action within a loop that iterates through the list items.

How can you define and initialize a variable in Power Automate, and what are the best practices to follow?

In Power Automate, you can define and initialize a variable using the “Initialize variable” action. Here’s a simple method to achieve this:

1. In your flow, Click on new flow and then select instant cloud flow.

And then click on “+ New step.”

2. Search for “Initialize variable” in the action search bar and select it.

3. Fill in the required fields:

  • Name: Provide a unique and descriptive name for the variable.
  • Type: Choose the data type of the variable (e.g., String, Integer, Boolean, etc.).
  • Value: Set the initial value of the variable.

Best practices to follow when working with variables in this online software:

  1. Use descriptive and unique power to automate dynamic variable names to make it easier to understand their purpose.
  2. Choose the appropriate data type for the variable to ensure proper data handling.
  3. Group variables and actions within a “Scope” action when they are closely related to improving readability and maintainability.
  4. Use comments to provide more information about the variable and its usage.
  5. Initialize variables as close to their usage as possible to make the flow easier to follow.
  6. Be mindful of the potential power automate dynamic variable name conflicts, especially when using nested flows or actions that may share similar variable names.

What are some of the ways in which you can manipulate and update variables in Power Automate, and what are the benefits and drawbacks of each approach?

In Power Automate, you can manipulate and update variables in several ways. Here are some common methods, along with their benefits and drawbacks:

Initialize Variable:

  • Use the “Initialize Variable” action to create a new variable, define its name, type, and initial value.
  • Benefit: Provides a starting point for using variables in your flow.
  • Drawback: Must be used before other actions that require the variable.

Set Variable:

  • Use the “Set Variable” action to update the value of an existing variable.
  • Benefit: Allows for easy updates to variable values during the flow execution.
  • Drawback: Requires that the variable be initialized beforehand.

Variables in Expressions:

  • Use expressions to manipulate variables, such as concatenation, arithmetic operations, and string manipulation.
  • Benefit: Provides more flexibility and complexity when working with variables.
  • Drawback: Can be more challenging for non-technical users to understand and implement.

Input Variables:

  • Use input variables to pass data between different flows or actions.
  • Benefit: Enables sharing data between flows, making your automation more modular and efficient.
  • Drawback: Requires a clear understanding of the data structure and flow dependencies.

Desktop Variables:

  • In Power Automate Desktop Variables, use desktop variables for storing and manipulating data within desktop flows.
  • Benefit: It provides a way to work with variables specifically designed for desktop automation.
  • Drawback: Limited to Power Automate Desktop and not available in the cloud-based version.

Conditional Operations:

  • Use the “Condition” action to set variable values based on specific conditions.
  • Benefit: Allows for more dynamic and responsive flows based on variable values.
  • Drawback: Can increase the complexity of the flow, making it more challenging to maintain and debug.

Power Automate offers various ways to work with variables, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Choosing the right approach depends on the specific needs of your automation and your familiarity with the platform.

How can you use variables in combination with other features of Power Automate, such as conditions, loops, and arrays, to create more complex workflows and automations?

In Power Automate, using variables in combination with other features such as conditions, loops, and arrays allows you to create more complex and dynamic workflows. Here are some examples of how you can leverage these features together:

Variables and Conditions

Use variables within conditions to evaluate expressions and make decisions based on their values. For example, you can use a variable to store a threshold value and then compare it with a data point to trigger different actions based on the comparison result.

Power automate initialize variables and loops

Use variables as counters or accumulators in loops to perform iterative actions. For instance, you can use an “Apply to each” loop to iterate through an array, updating a variable’s value with each iteration, such as calculating the sum or average of a list of numbers.

Variables and Arrays

Utilize array variables to store and manipulate collections of items in your flow. You can use actions like “Append to array variable” or “Filter array” to add items, filter, or manipulate arrays. This is particularly useful when processing large datasets or working with complex data structures.

Nested Conditions and Loops

Combine conditions and loops with variables to create nested logic in your flow. For example, you might use a “Do until” loop that iterates until a specific condition is met, such as a counter variable reaching a particular value. Within the loop, you can have conditional statements that perform different actions based on the variable’s value.

Using Expressions with Variables

Apply expressions to variables within conditions, loops, or arrays to perform more advanced operations. For instance, you can use expressions to filter an array based on a variable’s value, manipulate strings, or perform arithmetic operations on numeric variables.

Dynamic Content and Variables

Use variables with dynamic content to make your flow more flexible and adaptable. By storing dynamic content in variables, you can reference them in multiple actions, making managing and maintaining your flow easier.

By integrating variables with other features like conditions, loops, and arrays, you can create more sophisticated and efficient workflows in Variables Power Automate. This allows you to handle a broader range of automation scenarios and effectively address complex business requirements.

Summing up

We hope this article was useful. Please let us know in comments if you have any questions – we would be happy to discuss this topic further!

If you you interested in Power Automate and its possibilities, we recommend checking our professional course Power Automate Training: Learn to Automate Your Business Processes.


1. What are the Variables in Power Automate?

Variables in Power Automate are placeholders used to store and manipulate data within a flow. They can hold different types of values, such as strings, numbers, booleans, or arrays. Variables help make your flow more dynamic, reusable, and maintainable by allowing you to reference and modify stored values throughout your automation.

2. How do you use variables in automate?

To use variables in Power Automate, follow these steps:
  • Initialize the variable by adding an “Power Automate Initialize Variable" action to your flow. Define the variable's name, type, and initial value.
  • Use the variable in expressions or actions by selecting it from the dynamic content list or by typing its name within an expression.
  • When needed, update the variable's value using the "Set Variable" action.
You can also use variables in combination with conditions, loops, and arrays to create more complex workflows.

3. How do you set input variables in Power Automate?

You can set input variables using trigger inputs, action outputs, or manually defined inputs. Here are some steps to set input variables:
  • If using a trigger input, the input variable is automatically created when the flow is triggered (e.g., an email's subject or body in a "When an email arrives" trigger).
  • If using action outputs, you can create an input variable by selecting an output from a previous action in your flow. This is available from the dynamic content list.
  • To manually define an input variable, use the "Initialize Variable" action and set its value to a user-provided input, such as a JSON object, string, or number.

4. What is the difference between variable and compose in Power Automate?

  • Variable: A variable is a placeholder storing, referencing, and manipulating data throughout a flow. It can hold different types of values and can be updated using the "Set Variable" action. Variables are useful when storing and modifying data that will be accessed multiple times in a flow.
  • Compose: The compose action is used to create and store a single, static value or expression within a flow. It can hold a value, expression, or function output, but unlike variables, it cannot be updated once set. Compose actions are useful when you need to create a single value from multiple inputs or when you want to simplify complex expressions by breaking them into smaller, more manageable parts.

Comment (1)

  1. Aaron

    No questions, I just wanted to thank you for the detailed blog!

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