Updated: 30 November 2021
The hoo-hah surrounding the announcement of the Microsoft Loop app at Microsoft’s Fall 2021 Ignite event missed a very important point. Microsoft released Loop (or Live) components in preview for Teams chat (November 30 update: Loop support in Teams chat is now generally available). When I originally wrote about Teams and Live components in July, Microsoft hoped to roll out the feature in mid-August. Perhaps the advent of the Microsoft Loop app delayed matters a tad, but I suspect that Microsoft also had other work to do to make loop/live/fluid components work smoothly in Teams. In any case, Loop components can now be used in chats. That is, if you remember to enable it for your tenant by running PowerShell, connecting to SharePoint Online, and updating the tenant configuration by executing the command:
Set-SPOTenant -IsFluidEnabled $True
Based on what Microsoft said at Ignite, OWA is probably the next app to gain Loop components. Sometime in 2022, we’ll see the Microsoft Loop app and be better able to organize components in workspaces and pages.
Microsoft says that a loop component is an “atomic unit of productivity,” meaning that it’s designed to do one thing without reference to other components. Each component is a container for a type of information. Hence, we end up with the set of components available in Teams chat (Figure 1).
When you create a loop component in Teams chat, its physical representation is a fluid file stored in your OneDrive for Business account. A chat message containing a loop component can’t contain anything else.
When you send the chat message containing a loop component, its fluid file is shared with the chat participants to allow them to edit the content and see updates as they occur. The sharing applied to loop components sent in Teams chat is the default sharing link defined in the SharePoint Online sharing policy for the organization. Obviously, you can edit the sharing link to use whatever permissions you want, subject to the settings in the sharing policy.
The dependency on OneDrive for Business means that guest users participating in a chat cannot create messages containing loop components. However, they can update loop components created and sent by tenant users.
Figure 2 shows three loop components, each in its own Teams chat message:
- Paragraph: a text box with some basic formatting capabilities (headings, bold, underline, strikethrough, bulleted list, numbered list. Insert web link). You can also paste graphics and add emojis, so life is good.
- To do list.
Anyone used to Microsoft Office editors will be at home with inputting text into Loop components.
You can read and edit loop components in the Teams mobile client (iOS and Android). A small delay happens the first time you access a component, but afterwards the interaction is smooth (Figure 3).
Another interesting aspects of loo[p components is that they can be nested. Type the slash key (/) when composing a loop and a pop-out menu appears (Figure 4) to allow you to choose a loop component to insert. You can insert as many loops a you like, with the exception being that it doesn’t seem like you can insert a paragraph inside another loop.
Fluid Files in OneDrive
The fluid files (the containers used by Loop components) for Teams chats are in the Microsoft Teams Chat Files folder of the author’s OneDrive for Business account (Figure 5). When Loop components become more generally available in Teams and other Microsoft 365 apps, I anticipate that personal fluid files will remain in OneDrive (albeit in different folders, such as one used for components in messages sent by OWA) while shared components (like those in Teams channel messages) will be in SharePoint Online.
The synchronization used to make updates available to everyone with access to a loop component is like the autosave mechanism used by Office apps, but much faster. Possibly this is because synchronization occurs more often (as each character is typed) and process smaller amounts of data in each transaction.
Nested loops exist inside the host fluid file. Separate fluid files are not created for each of the components nested inside a loop.
Preview Users Only
Users must be in preview (have a P shown at the top right-hand of their user photo) and use a desktop or mobile client. If not, they’ll see that a live component is in a chat but won’t see its content (Figure 6).
The user can click the link to access a read-only version of the content in a browser. The good news is that changes made by other users continue to synchronize to the browser to allow the user to see updates and who’s making the changes (Figure 7).
The browser interface is also invoked if you click on a fluid file in OneDrive. However, in this case, you can edit the component content.
When a user includes a loop component in Teams chat, the substrate generates a compliance record in the user’s Exchange Online mailbox. Unfortunately, the compliance record contains no content from the loop component. Instead, it’s just a pointer to the .fluid file stored in the user’s OneDrive for Business account. Microsoft Search does index these files, so they are included in results generated by content searches. I’ve updated my note about the difficulties involved in Teams backup to include this information.
Loop components in Teams chat is a preview. As Teams is the first mainline application to incorporate loop components, you can expect to run into some glitches. However, the quality of the implementation is much improved over what I experienced after Microsoft originally announced Fluid components for Teams.
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