Microsoft launches Loop, its competitor Notion, in public preview

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Microsoft Loop, a Notion-like hub for managing tasks and projects that syncs across Microsoft 365 apps and services, launched in public preview today.

Loop is available for users with a Microsoft account or Azure Active Directory account. A companion app for iOS and Android is coming soon; Microsoft has not given a fixed timing.

Unveiled at Ignite 2021, Loop is, in a way, Microsoft’s answer to Google Workspace Spaces, which provides dashboards for real-time, digital-first project collaboration. As with most team-based productivity platforms, Loop has tools for tracking project progress and two-way syncing with services including Trello.

So what’s unique about it? Well, Loop consists of three main elements – Loop components, Loop pages, and Loop workspaces – that can be used together to paste real-time content blocks into apps like Outlook, Microsoft Teams, and Word. (My colleague Frederic Lardinois once compared the experience to the ill-fated Google Wave.) Microsoft says it was designed to bridge the gaps of virtual team working — gaps that became increasingly apparent during the pandemic, when Loop was developed.

Microsoft Loop

Image Credits: Microsoft

Loop components are essentially JavaScript widgets that allow users to collaborate on the fly, such as in a chat, email, document, or online meeting. Components can be as simple as lists, tables, and notes, or as complex as Customer Opportunities from Dynamics 365, and they always stay in sync across all Microsoft 365 apps.

Thanks to the synchronization capabilities, operations of Loop components, such as tables, appear wherever they are embedded or shared. In the future, Microsoft says it plans to add Loop components that facilitate business workflows, starting with Dynamics 365 records, and allowing developers to build fully custom Loop components.

As for Loop pages, they are flexible canvases where users can organize their Loop components and pull in elements such as links, files, or data. (Loop offers a number of page templates for quick setup.) Loop workspaces are broader in scope and represent shared platforms where users can see and group everything that’s important to their projects.

Conveniently, Loop can find and recommend relevant documents and colleagues when creating a workspace. Up to 50 people can edit a workspace at a time and respond to edits with emojis and comments, but Microsoft recommends teams of two to 12 so the interface doesn’t feel too claustrophobic.

Microsoft Loop

Image Credits: Microsoft

Also note that Microsoft is building its new Microsoft 365 Copilot system in Loop. Right now, during private testing, the AI-powered Copilot will provide suggestions to create a brainstorm or blueprint and allow one or more users to edit the suggestions and then share them across apps like Outlook and Teams.

It’s an impressive array of features, but can Loop compete with Notion? That remains to be seen. Like The Verge’s coverage of Loop notes, Notion just hasn’t rested on its laurels, recently launching an AI-powered system that analyzes meeting notes, creates summaries, pulls out key information, and even rewrites and generates text.

It’s early days for Loop, but Microsoft – while it does benefit from the huge built-in Microsoft 365 user base – still has a lot of work to do.

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