As Microsoft Build 2020 starts today, the tech titan is expanding its Fluid Office technology, which it announced will be coming to Office.com in the next months.
Think of Fluid Office as a super-powered building block that you can slot into a wide array of documents. In a blog post (opens in new tab) announcing Fluid's upcoming arrival in Outlook and Office.com, Dan Zarzar (a Head of Product at Microsoft) writes that Fluid "is designed to make collaboration adaptable, flexible, and focused by breaking down the barriers between apps."
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It's best to think of Fluid elements not as a kind of doc, but as a building block that takes all sorts of shapes and forms. Zarzar writes "Fluid Components come in many forms – tables, charts, task lists, and more," enabling you to "Easily insert a wide range of components right into emails and chats."
In a preview video online, Microsoft showed how a pie chart could live in Word, PowerPoint and Outlook at the same time. This chart becomes a living document that can be updated by those who have been given the appropriate privileges.
As you interact with Fluid elements, you see the avatars of your other coworkers, just like in Google Docs. This way, your projects become living, breathing entities, and you can provide updates to team members throughout the process. And unlike in Google Docs, you won't have to update multiple documents to make sure every chart and table is consistent across pages.
Jon Friedman, corporate vice president of design and research at Microsoft told The Verge (opens in new tab) that Microsoft is thinking about Fluid on a large scale, saying "It’s truly real time for 5, 10, 15, or 100 people to do things at the same time."
Developers can find out more at the Microsoft Fluid preview (opens in new tab) site, but regular users like myself with regular Microsoft.com accounts won't be allowed in.