Microsoft had fallen behind on the collaboration front as Google, Slack and Trello began taking over. But after purchasing LinkedIn, Discord and launching Teams, it's clear the company feels that collaboration tools are an area it wants to dominate. And Microsoft plans to continue its front with the launch of a new program called Loop.
In a blog post (opens in new tab), Microsoft 365 announced Microsoft Loop, an evolution of the company's current Office suite that aims to enhance collaboration among its current array of productivity apps. It will integrate into Teams, Outlook and One Note, but a dedicated Microsoft Loop app will be available in the coming months.
It's a little confusing, but the best way to understand Loop is to break it down into three elements.
There's Loop components, which are dynamic tools that can be added into a team's collaborative chat to help reach consensus or organize ideas.
For example, let's say a team is chatting in Microsoft Teams and the team wants to decide on a new slogan for their company. With new Loop components, a team member can dynamically add a poll to the chat so that the rest of the team can vote.
Or, let's say a team leader needs to know the status of where the current assignment is. The leader can add a Status Checker box in the middle of the chat where other team members can check off on what's been accomplished.
And for companies with specific tools or workflows, it will be possible for specific components to be made and integrated. This custom functionality will be explained in grater detail at the Microsoft Build developer conference next year.
Loop pages is the next element in Microsoft Loops. Think of it as a blank canvas or whiteboard where teams can move around elements, files, links and data to help organize thoughts. Apparently it will have high-fiving Emojis.
Lastly, Loop workspaces are a shared space where teams can group what's important to a project, get an idea of where everyone is at with the project, react to people's ideas and track other goals.
Microsoft also unveiled a few more tools in the blog post linked above. These include Context IQ, which is an AI-based feature that automatically predicts, seeks and suggests information people might need. So, for example, when writing out an email in Outlook, if you say "please read the contract document," Context IQ will automatically suggest to attach said document.
Microsoft acquired (opens in new tab) Clipchamp earlier this year and will be integrating the clip creation tool into Office. Not only that, but PowerPoint will have a record feature to record audio for presentations. Both of these features will land in 2022.
Microsoft is also expanding Office.com to include more features and functions to compete with Google's suite of productivity apps. Users will see a new look for Office.com, and additional functions to match the native Office experience.