June 6, 2023

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Microsoft has launched Loop, its competitor to Notion, in public preview

Image credits: Tim Heitman/Getty Images

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

Loop is available to users with a Microsoft account or an Azure Active Directory account. A companion app for iOS and Android is due to arrive soon; Microsoft has not provided a firm timing.

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

So what sets it apart? Well, a loop consists of three main components — loop components, loop pages, and loop workspaces — which together can be used to splice blocks of real-time content into applications like Outlook, Microsoft Teams, and Word. (My colleague Frederic Lardinoi once compared the experiment to Google’s ill-fated wave.) Microsoft says it’s designed to fill business gaps in virtual teams — gaps that became increasingly apparent during the pandemic, when Loop was developed.

Image credits: Microsoft

Loop components are essentially JavaScript tools that allow users to collaborate during a workflow, for example in a chat, email, document, or online meeting. Components can be as simple as lists, tables, and notes, or as complex as a Dynamics 365 Customer Opportunity, and they always stay in sync across Microsoft 365 apps.

Thanks to its synchronization capabilities, edits made to loop components – for example, tables – will be reflected wherever they are embedded or shared. Microsoft says that in the future it plans to add Loop components that streamline business workflows, starting with Dynamics 365 records, and allow developers to create fully custom Loop components.

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For Loop pages, they are flexible canvases where users can organize their Loop components and drag items such as links, files, or data. (Ring provides a number of page templates for quick setup.) Ring workspaces are broader in scope, and are the shared platforms where users can see and group everything important to their projects.

Neatly, Loop can search for and recommend relevant documents and co-workers when creating a workspace. Up to 50 people can edit the workspace simultaneously, and respond to edits with emojis and comments, but Microsoft recommends teams of two to 12 people so the interface doesn’t feel claustrophobic.

Image credits: Microsoft

It should also be noted that Microsoft is building the new Microsoft 365 Copilot system in the Loop. In private testing right now, the AI-powered Copilot will make suggestions to create a brainstorm or chart and let one or more users edit the suggestions and then share them to apps like Outlook and Teams.

It’s an impressive set of features, but can Loop compete with Notion? That remained to be seen. Like The Verge’s coverage From the Notes Loop, Notion hasn’t quite rested on its laurels, recently launching an AI-powered system that analyzes meeting notes, creates summaries, highlights important information, and even rewrites and generates transcripts.

It’s early days for the Loop, but Microsoft — while acknowledged benefiting from Microsoft’s huge built-in 365 user base — has its work cut out for it.