Microsoft is now letting anyone preview Microsoft Loop, a collaborative hub offering a new way of working across Office apps and managing tasks and projects. Much like Notion, Microsoft Loop includes workspaces and pages where you can import and organize tasks, projects, and documents. But what sets the two apart is Loop’s shareable components that let you turn any page into a real-time block of content that can be pasted into Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Word on the web, and Whiteboard.
Loop components are constantly updated and editable for whoever they’re shared with. Imagine a table that you’re working on with colleagues; you can drop that as a Loop component into a Teams message or Outlook email, and any edits to the table will be reflected wherever it’s embedded or shared.
Microsoft Loop is designed with collaboration and co-creation in mind. The main interface looks a lot like Notion, a workspace app that is used by Adobe, Figma, Amazon, and many other businesses. Loop pages are like blank canvases where people can share and collaborate, with initial templates designed to help you get going.
Loop will even search for all the relevant Office documents you’ve been working on when you create a workspace, making it easy to add ones you need to organize a project. You can use the “/” command to add labels, images, emoji, tables, and more right inside where you’re typing in Loop pages. The “@” shortcut lets you link up suggested files or tag co-workers or friends.
Much like a collaborative Word document or Google Docs, the Loop preview will support up to 50 people editing a workspace at once. Microsoft has tested this with hundreds to ensure Loop can scale to those types of demands, but typically this is designed for teams of two to 12 people working closely on a project so the interface doesn’t feel too overwhelming with lots of people editing at the same time.
The project and task management features are largely what you’d expect here. You can create progress trackers and custom labels and even sync stuff up to Planner and To-Do. If you’re used to using something like Trello, you can also import a board from there and then export it back out once you’re done working on it more collaboratively in Loop.
It’s the collaborative parts of Loop that look the most impressive. Microsoft developed Loop during the pandemic and the increase of hybrid work to help fill the gaps of working in virtual teams. That led to nudges, a way to drop an emoji on a canvas that animates to show appreciation for co-workers or even as a way to highlight something important in projects. If, like me, you’re old enough to remember nudges from MSN Messenger, then they aren’t too dissimilar.
“Nudges was kind of our ‘let’s get increasingly out there with just trying really different forms of tone and expression to allow people to be over the top,’” says Shane Chism, a product manager for Microsoft Loop.
Microsoft is also bringing Loop to mobile. While your phone isn’t always the best way to create documents, it’s often useful to be able to check in on the go or jot down an important note you thought of away from your PC. The mobile Loop app is designed for capturing photos, ideas, and more. “This was not about trying to just replicate the desktop experience, but really thinking about how do we make it easy for you mostly to consume and do light edits on mobile,” explains Ron Pessner, a director of program management working on Loop at Microsoft.
Loop is the end result of years of work from Microsoft to create a new kind of Office document. Known previously as Fluid, Microsoft’s core idea is to transform the tables, graphs, and lists that you typically find in Office documents into living, collaborative blocks of content that exist anywhere.
Microsoft is also privately testing its new Microsoft 365 Copilot system inside Loop. You’ll be able to use AI-powered suggestions to create a brainstorm or blueprint, with Microsoft adapting its Copilot to support a multiplayer mode where you and your co-workers can all ask the AI chatbot questions and manipulate the responses. The neat thing is that the responses are a live canvas, so you can start editing them freely and then share them in Outlook and Teams.
Notion has a similar AI-powered system that goes much further. You can use it to analyze meeting notes, create summaries, surface important information, and rewrite or generate text. Notion also has a neat web clipper feature that lets you import any page on the web.
Microsoft is now opening up Loop to public preview, allowing businesses and even consumers to get access to an early version of the software. If you have a Microsoft Account or Azure Active Directory account, you can get access through the web app, and iOS and Android versions will also be available to businesses today and consumers soon.