Back in the Loop
Microsoft's collaborative co-creation app is now in Public Preview (and your Outlook WebApp)
Currently in Public Preview, Microsoft Loop is a new collaborative knowledge-management tool — or co-creation app in Microsoft’s words — that will be bundled with Microsoft 365.
The basics of Loop are pretty simple. If you’re familiar with Notion, it’s a very similar concept. In Loop, you have a dashboard where you can create Workspaces for different projects or needs. My dashboard, for example, has workspaces for my department’s shared notes from our weekly meetings, study notes for Microsoft certs I’m prepping for (SC-400 and SC-300), and shared training notes from other members of the department. These workspaces are designed with ease of real-time collaboration as a guiding principle. While the note-taking aspect of the tool looks most similar to Notion, the place I think it will have an impact the most is with OneNote users. In my experience, OneNote is fantastic for information that tends to be static and more centrally created and then shared. There are certainly features in OneNote for collaboration and information sharing, but they’re clunky and ill-defined, especially with differences between the various OneNote clients. I cringe every time I see a ticket about OneNote, because there’s almost always a phantom issue of it not syncing appropriately between users or devices. In contrast, it’s quick and easy to add a workspace and add collaborators and see updates in real-time with Loop.
Inside the workspace, there is a simple, intuitive interface. On the left-hand navigation pane, you can create sections and subsections (or Pages and Subpages in Loop terminology). There are also a variety of pre-made templates available for creating pages. The “Meeting Notes” template gets a lot of mileage with my group, but the Project Planning and Project Brief templates are also really well-made.
Inside a workspace, you can also use one of my favorite Notion features of using markdown for formatting. For example, hitting the key combination of
will create a bulleted list.
Other hotkeys include /h for heading (arrow between H1 to H3), /c for checklist, /d for divider, /da for date, /t for table, /tas for tasklist, /v for voting table, /p for progress tracker, /e for emoji picker, etc.
The hotkeys above give some insight to other Loop features that set it apart. The voting table inserts a table like below, where members of your loop workspace can vote on options:
Similarly, task list lets you create and assign tasks and due dates to different members of your Loop:
Even without the Loop Public Preview enabled, many of these features are also now available in Microsoft 365 in the Outlook Web App. Using the Loop icon in Outlook, you can select from a list of Loop components. The Voting Table in email alone is worth the time you’ve spent reading to get here:
Selecting Voting table allows you to use the feature in loop inside a regular email without having Loop or being in a workspace:
When the email is sent, the recipient just needs to click on the option they want to vote for.
Back in the sender’s mailbox, they see the updated voting action. They can also view the results on a dedicated page reached in the M365 portal by clicking on the “Loop Component” link in the email. It’s like Doodle, but without all the obnoxious ads.
Why use Loop instead of Notion?
Although these tools are all in the same neighborhood of use cases, they have their benefits. I always go by the adage that the best tool is the one you’ll use. For me, being a part of the M365 ecosystem makes Loop an attractive choice for me. The feature set with Notion is similar, but the M365 collaboration aspects are an added value for me, and it means I don’t have to pay for the premium version of Notion I was using.