Microsoft Loop: A First Look

December 1, 2023
9 min read

Microsoft Loop: A First Look

Introduced in 2021, Microsoft Loop offers a new way to collaborate across Microsoft applications. Loop is a set of dynamic productivity puzzle pieces that enable parallel integration across multiple Microsoft 365 apps, and their content is always up to date for everyone involved. In this article, I will explain the basics of how Loop components work in different M365 applications, where Loop files are stored, how they are shared, and the limitations of sharing Loop components.

The Building Blocks of Loop

Microsoft Loop comprises three pillars: components, pages and workspaces.

A picture with the Microsoft Loop logo in the center of the picture. Below this are three columns, the left column contains an image for Loop Components, the middle column contains an image for Loop Pages and the right column contains an image for Loop Workspaces
Figure 1: The three pillars of Loop: components, pages, and workspaces. | Used with permission from Microsoft

While Loop initially launched with support for Teams Chat and Outlook, it has since been extended to Word Online and Whiteboard. Loop components are small productivity puzzle pieces that map various functions from the Microsoft 365 app world and can be used dynamically across app boundaries. Changes made in a Loop component from a Teams chat, for example, are immediately shown in Outlook or Word Online. 

Loop pages can contain different components as well as static content like URL links. Several pages can be combined into a Loop workspace. Their structure is similar to the notebooks, sections and pages from OneNote. 

Depending on which Loop-enabled M365 app you are using, you can select different components (see figure 2).

A table with 5 columns and 11 rows. The top row contains the logos for Loop, Teams, Outlook, Word and Whiteboard from left to right. In the first column, rows 2 to 11 list the various available Loop components. In the columns for Teams, Outlook, Word and Whiteboard, a green tick indicates which Loop Component can be started in which app.
Figure 2: Table overview of available Loop components in Teams Chat, Outlook, Word and Whiteboard (as of 10/2023). | Table created by Christoph Twiehaus
A team chat window that displays the available loop components in a pop-up. In an enlarged section of the screen is an excerpt showing that a short explanation of the component is displayed for each available loop component when hovering with the mouse
Figure 3: A Teams chat with a list of available Loop components | Used with permission from Microsoft. | View Full Size

Cross-App, Simultaneous Editing

After inserting a component in, e.g., a Teams chat, it is shared with the recipient(s) and can be edited immediately by all participants. 

A team chat window between two people. A loop component can be seen in the chat window. The loop component is a bulleted list with sample text
Figure 4: A Teams chat with an active Loop component. | Used with permission from Microsoft | View Full Size

Any changes are immediately visible to all other participants. In contrast to Office documents, when collaboratively editing a Loop component, there is no need to leave the app that is hosting the component to see its current status. 

Two team chat windows side by side. On the left is the team chat window of user A, on the right the team chat window of user B. A looped bulleted list can be seen in the chat windows. In the left window, User A is editing the Loop Bulleted List; in the right window, User B can see the change instantly live
Figure 5: A split screen of two users in a Teams chat showing an active Loop component. As users edit, everyone will see the changes instantly. | Used with permission from Microsoft | View Full Size

Everyone can see in real time who is making changes and where in the Loop component. Not only is the component as a whole a dynamic element in the M365 world, but so are the individual parts; you can rearrange things via drag and drop. 

Two team chat windows next to each other. On the left the team chat window of user A, on the right the team chat window of user B, in the chat windows you can see a Loop Bulleted List. In the right-hand window, User B sorts the various items in the loop bulleted list using drag & drop. User A can see the changes live in the left-hand window
Figure 6: A split screen with two Teams chats showing modification of  an active Loop component. | Used with permission from Microsoft | View Full Size

Any participant can copy a Loop component from one Loop-enabled M365 app to another. No matter where the component resides for individual users, it will remain fully collaborative; changes made to the Loop component in Outlook (before or after sending) will also show up in Teams Chat and vice versa. 

A split screen. The left half shows an active loop component in which the action button for copying the component has been clicked in the top right corner. The right half shows an Outlook window with an email. The copied, active loop component is inserted into the email body.
Figure 7: A split screen with a Loop component on the left side and a new email with the copied Loop component in the email body on the right side. | Used with permission from Microsoft | View Full Size

Changes made to the Loop component in Outlook (before or after sending) are also reflected in Teams Chat and vice versa. 

An email with an active loop component in the email body and a team chat with the active loop component next to each other. In the chat window, you can see the changes made in the email body within the loop component
Figure 8: A split screen with a modified Loop component in an email body on the left side and a Teams chat showing the modified Loop component on the right side. | Used with permission from Microsoft | View Full Size

Loop components facilitate dynamic collaboration across app boundaries. Each person can use their preferred app, so the information is exactly where people need it. 

For each Loop component, you can see in the upper right corner in which apps and in which places (e.g. Teams chats, individual emails, Word files etc.) it has been inserted. 
 

An active loop component with an open submenu for the shared locations. The submenu shows the name of the loop component and all M365 apps used in which the component has been inserted. In this case, two emails and a team chat.
Figure 9: A Loop component with the shared locations view open. | Used with permission from Microsoft | View Full Size

Clicking on one of the entries will jump directly to the corresponding Teams chat, email, etc. 

Loop Files

For each component, Loop stores a corresponding file in the creator's OneDrive. Components initiated in a Teams chat are stored in the Microsoft Teams Chat Files folder; Outlook stores them in the Attachments folder; Word stores them in the Word Loop Files folder; and Whiteboard stores them in the Whiteboards folder.

OneDrive Online can be seen in a browser window with the my files view. In the middle you can see the four folders Microsoft Teams Chat Files, Attachments, Word Loop Files and Whiteboards, among others
Figure 10: OneDrive Online showing the My files page | Used with permission from Microsoft | View Full Size
Figure 11: OneDrive Online showing the My files > Microsoft Teams Chat Files folder. | Used with permission from Microsoft | View Full Size

Loop files behave like any other Office files in M365. They appear as applicable in the various sections on the M365 Home page and in OneDrive; they are included in the M365 full-text index; and users can share them, mark them as favorites, delete them, and restore them from the trash. Also like Office files, the M365 basic principle of automatic saving and versioning also applies to Loop files. 

The Microsoft 365 start page in the browser after a user has logged in. The Quick Access section in the lower third shows a list of the most recently opened files from M365. In addition to other files, the overview also contains Loop Component file
Figure 12: The Microsoft 365 Home page, with Loop files in the Recommended and Quick access sections. | Used with permission from Microsoft | View Full Size

The individual Loop files can be opened in M365 with a click, just like Office files. 

An open loop file in the browser window of the Loop app.  The file contains a Loop Component Bullet List. The storage location of the loop file is displayed in the center at the top.
Figure 13: The Loop web app showing an opened Loop component. | Used with permission from Microsoft | View Full Size

When a Loop file is opened directly, it does so in the Loop Web App. If the tenant administrator has deactivated the Loop App, the file is displayed in a light version of the Loop Web App. 

Extending Loop Components

An existing Loop component can be extended by additional Loop elements either directly in the Loop file or in the Loop component. Pressing / opens the extension menu, then various extension options are available.
 

An active loop component with an expanded submenu for inserting further loop elements. The submenu shows a selection of different loop elements. A scrollbar can be used to display further loop elements in the submenu
Figure 14: A Loop component with the open additional extension menu. | Used with permission from Microsoft

The extension options include not only the initial Loop components from the above overview, but a variety of other options such as objects from the area of text styles, communication or media. Microsoft is constantly developing both the initial Loop components and the extension options; the M365 Evergreen approach of constant further development also applies here and a regular look at the Loop components and the extension options is worthwhile.

No External Sharing

While Microsoft Loop has some fantastic collaborative capabilities, that collaboration is only available within a M365 tenant. Sharing with external parties or access to Loop by external parties is not possible. It is also not possible to create a Loop component in a Teams chat with external users or to insert it as a copy. And while it might appear that you can include a Loop component in an email to an external user, they will not get access to either the Loop component in the email body or to the underlying Loop file. A few minutes after sending the external email, you will receive a system email stating that external recipients cannot access parts of the content. If you use the M365 data release dialog, you can enter external parties as recipients of the release link, but they will have no access to the Loop file despite its supposed release. The exclusively internal access to Loop components is especially important when sharing Word files that contain them. The actual document can be shared with external parties, but the Loop components within the document are not visible to external parties. 

Christoph Twiehaus

Christoph Twiehaus

Christoph, aka #MrRedCap or #MrRedShoes, is known for his red baseball caps and sneakers beyond the Microsoft community borders. He is a Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for Microsoft 365 Office Apps and Services. Experience in a German insurance group, at a medium-sized IT consulting firm for Microsoft technologies and at Microsoft itself have shaped his professional career. Digital transformation and its influence on people and companies is Christoph's hobbyhorse. For him, people and their needs in the context of digital transformation are in the foreground alongside the daily new technological challenges.

Christoph also likes to swim against the tide sometimes. There is not THE solution for THE customer. Everything must and may be questioned on a daily basis in order to achieve an optimal result. Since every customer and every project is different, you can't copy everything one-to-one.

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