Microsoft announced its Fluid framework last year and gradually started rolling it out to its suite of Office apps. Fluid, as the name suggests, aimed to offer a fluid and seamless hybrid-workplace experience that synchronized data across apps and devices, allowing teams to easily collaborate on projects. Today, at the Ignite IT Pro Conference, we finally got a follow-up on that and the company is turning it into a whole new app called “Microsoft Loop“.
The Fluid framework and its importance
For ages, Microsoft was insistent on innovating an outdated idea, the desktop-focused app, when the web app was clearly the future. That’s why things like Google Docs prevailed in the face of Office because it offered an online synchronized experience that didn’t force you to save and then share the content for collaborations. Instead, you could just share a link and anyone would be able to easily join in, and collaborate in real-time.
Soon enough, Microsoft did realize this and that was the birth of the Fluid framework. Fluid’s main attraction was its components, blocks of live content that could be edited by anyone in the team without having to switch apps. Since those blocks were independent of each other, they could live freely in the workplace and not need specific apps. For instance, someone could create a chart in Outlook, and if a team member were to put that in Word and add new information to it, it would update in real time in Outlook (and everywhere else) as well.
Fluid components were first made available to Office.com last year and they made their way over to Microsoft Teams earlier this year. But now, Microsoft is betting big on Fluid by essentially giving it a home of its own. A home where all the Fluid components could sit and be shared across a unified project management suite.
Fluid—now Loop—was supposed to be the biggest upgrade to Office in decades. Instead of trying to innovate the ancient save-and-share document editor, the company would reinvigorate new life into it by converting it all into a free-flowing interactive workspace. A workspace that felt more like a web app with multiple services/apps seamlessly embedded into one, rather than a particular app that was limited to only doing certain things.
So what is Loop, then?
Loop is simply the new name for the Fluid tech, but more importantly, also the name of the new project-management app coming soon. To put it simply, the Loop app will be like a weird amalgamation of Notion and Google Docs, providing a unified workplace which contains interactive blocks and encourages real-time collaboration. As Microsoft puts it: “a new app that combines a powerful and flexible canvas with portable components that move freely and stay in sync across apps—enabling teams to think, plan, and create together“.
These interactive blocks, known as components, would be live across the board, meaning anyone, including multiple people simultaneously, can work on them in real-time and share these components across Loop and other Microsoft applications (as can be seen in the video above). Like Fluid, this is Loop’s main selling point and one of the three core features of the app. Speaking of which, let’s talk about those three features, shall we?
We’ve already talked extensively about these so I’ll keep this necessarily brief. As Microsoft defines them, “atomic units of productivity“, Components are like blocks of live data that are updated in real-time across Loop and other Microsoft applications. These Loop Components are interactive so everyone can work on them separately and they’ll stay updated across the board. Or, you can involve multiple people and work in a component simultaneously as well, all in real time.
Components can be anything from tables to charts to graphs, and even complex Microsoft 365 Dynamics. You can also create and share components of classic Office apps such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more. That being said, Microsoft is adding three new Loop Components with today’s announcement, all of which will be coming to Loop at launch, but we’ll see them across other Microsoft apps first.
The three new Components include a new voting table, which does exactly what is sounds like it does. It allows team members to “ideate, drive consensus, and finalize decisions together“, or—in layman terms—allow multiple people to create and vote on miscellaneous things simultaneously in real-time.
Then there’s the status tracker which helps teams keep track of their goals. Just like the voting table, this updates in real-time so if anyone completes their task and checks it off the status tracker, others would be able to know that task has been completed, allowing the entire team to stay on the same page.
Lastly, Microsoft will be eventually adding Dynamics 365 records to facilitate business workflows. What this feature does is basically allows you to share entire projects in Components form with your team. This feature goes a lot deeper as it enables a whole new world of collaborative possibilities by making things like fully-fledged customer plans available at a glance.
Loop Components will be a native part of the Loop app but they’ll also begin rolling out to other Microsoft apps starting this month. The Redmond giant gave no word on release dates but the Loop components are supposed to come to Teams, Outlook, OneNote, and Office.com soon. Apart from that, since Loop is built on Fluid framework, its open-source nature will enable other developers to create their own Loop components in the future as well.
Moving on, Pages is another element of Loop which constitutes the actual space where you’ll get all your work done, including sharing all those nifty Loop components. Think of it as Discord channels or Notion’s individual pages. Inside pages you’ll be able to share links, files, documents, and other data that will help your team work effectively. Microsoft defines Loop Pages as flexible canvases and that’s an apt definition of what these are. Another way to look at Loop Pages is as an extremely advanced and powerful version of whiteboards where the whole team can chime in and work together.
Not only that, but inside pages you’ll be able to share and collaborate on Loop Components that have been created in other apps outside of Loop. Or, you could create a component and share it with a colleague on Outlook, and they’ll be able to work on it in real-time right alongside your other team members inside Loop pages. A single workspace can house many different Loop Pages to accommodate specific needs. Speaking of workspace…
By now, you’ve probably guessed what this is. Workspaces are where all the Loop Pages are housed and represent the main hub which umbrellas everything inside Loop. Think of these as glorified Discord servers where there can be multiple servers inside the app, within which there are multiple channels. Therefore, you won’t be restricted to just one workspace and can join multiple.
Workspaces allow you to keep an eye on different tasks and goals, see what everyone else is working on, and just stay up to date on company progress. It’s like a big shared space where the possibilities are endless. The Loop Workspace can also be seen as a direct competitor to the Notion Workspace, I mean the similarity is literally right there in the name. However, Loop Workspaces are purportedly a lot more intricate and feature-packed.
Loop is set to make its debut in Teams, Outlook, and OneNote this month in the form of Loop Components. The Loop app itself has no concrete release date yet and Microsoft is not ready to share one anytime soon. So, expect a 2022 release at the earliest. Hopefully, we’ll get to see more of Loop roll out gradually over the course of the next few months before the app’s inevitable release.
Loop represents a landmark change in direction for Office and even Microsoft as a whole. Finally putting the desktop-focused Office apps in the backseat and enabling the future of hybrid work by embracing a web app-like structure. It’s clear to see that Fluid evolved into Loop after the pandemic changed the way we work, but it was years in the works already. So, it’ll be interesting to see how Microsoft fairs against modern workplace pioneers such as Notion when it finally launches at a later date.