Loop Components Appear in OWA

First Step Along the Path in Loopifying Email

Nine months after Loop components first appeared in Teams chat, the same components are available to include in OWA messages (message center notification MC360766, Microsoft 365 roadmap item 93234). The general availability date of June 2022 on the roadmap item is a tad optimistic as tenants configured for targeted release are only just seeing Loop components show up in OWA now. I have not seen Loop components show up in Outlook for Windows, bit according to Microsoft, general availability for Loop components in both OWA and Outlook for Windows is expected in July. That goal seems like quite a stretch.

The concept behind Loop components remains the same as in Teams chat. The author of a message inserts a component and edits its content. The physical instantiation of the component is a fluid file stored in the Attachments folder in the author’s OneDrive for Business account.

When they access a loop component, message recipients use a web sockets connection to receive changes made by others in almost real-time together with indicators to show where people are actively editing the content and where changes are made. A link in the message points to the file stored in OneDrive for Business and the app displays the content of the file in an inline editable frame.

Implementing Loop for OWA

If you have used Loop components in Teams chat, there’s not a lot to explain about the implementation in OWA. However, I did note a few points of interest:

  • When you add a Loop component to a message, OWA adds your email address as a CC recipient. I don’t know why Microsoft does this as all the action does is deliver an unnecessary (and possibly unwanted) copy of the message to your Inbox. Some will like this approach because receiving a copy of the message in their Inbox reminds them that they’ve shared an editable component with others, but I think it’s a poor implementation. If you need to update a Loop component in a message you send, find the copy of the message in the Sent Items folder, and edit the component there. Alternatively, open and update the fluid file stored in OneDrive for Business.
  • Despite Microsoft positioning Loop components as a new way to collaborate, OWA sets the Loop components in emails to allow read-only access to recipients in the same organization. This is dictated by the Files and Folders Links setting in the SharePoint admin center. That setting is focused on document sharing rather than editable components, and I think a separate setting is probably needed for Loop sharing links. Message authors can change the access to allow recipients to update components they receive in email, but it seems like an unnecessary step.
  • You can include multiple Loop components in a single email and mix them with normal text. For instance, you could have a paragraph component as an introduction to a message followed by a task list. Each component has its own fluid file stored in OneDrive for Business. This is different to Teams chat where a Loop component must be the only thing in a message. OWA has always been able to deal with multi-part messages, so this isn’t too surprising.
  • You can copy a Loop component from OWA and paste it into another app (only Teams chat for now) and the component is editable in its new location. Changes made in Teams show up in OWA and vice versa. This shouldn’t be surprising because you’re essentially copying the link to the component and pasting it into a different app, but it’s nice that it works so smoothly.

Figure 1 shows a Loop component in a message in the Sent Items folder that was pasted into a Teams chat and updated there.

 A Loop component in an OWA message
Figure 1: Editing a Loop component in an OWA message

For Now, Loop is Focused on Internal Collaboration

Generally, the Loop implementation in OWA does what you expect and is very usable. The big downside for now is that Loop components in OWA messages only work with people inside the same organization. The technical challenges of controlling access to recipients in other Microsoft 365 tenants (including hybrid deployments) and non-Microsoft email servers must be understood and addressed before you’ll see seamless interaction using Loop components for people inside and outside your tenant.

You can add non-tenant addressees to a message containing a Loop component, but when you send the message, OWA detects that the links in the message won’t work and signals the error (Figure 2).

Some recipients of an email can't access a Loop component
Figure 2: Some recipients of an email can’t access a Loop component

If you go ahead and send anyway, external people will receive messages containing links to Loop components that they won’t be able to open. Sometimes, you might see the kind of message shown in Figure 3, which comes from an Exchange Online system mailbox in the tenant to notify a message sender that some problems occurring in granting access to Loop components in an email.

OWA can't set access rights for a Loop component
Figure 3: OWA can’t set access rights for a Loop component

Given that we’re in the early days of emailed Loop components, I’m sure that the issue seen in Figure 3 is a glitch that Microsoft will soon iron out.

The Need for Client Updates Will Slow Adoption of Loop Components

Unlike Teams, the Outlook clients don’t share a common code base. This is what the One Outlook project aims to achieve, but for now the set of email clients in use ranges from those usually up to date (OWA) to those that often aren’t up to date (Outlook desktop). Even within the same organization, if a recipient uses an email client that’s not “Loop enlightened,” they’ll see a link to the fluid file instead of the fully-rendered content. People can use the link to open and interact with the Loop components, but that’s hardly the intended inline editing experience that Microsoft wants to deliver.

The list of email clients that can’t handle Loop components includes Outlook mobile, any other mobile client (like the Apple mail app), and older Outlook desktop clients. Even after Microsoft updates Outlook desktop, experience proves that it will take a long time before every Outlook client used in an organization can interact with Loop components. Perhaps Microsoft hopes that the existence of Loop components will convince customers to use recent versions of Outlook. If that is the hope, it might be a long shot.

Finally, before rushing to use Loop components, remember that some compliance issues remain unsolved. This is evidence that Loop components are still an unproven and immature collaboration technology, which might remain the case for several years to come.

So much change, all the time. It’s a challenge to stay abreast of all the updates Microsoft makes across Office 365. Subscribe to the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook to receive monthly insights into what happens, why it happens, and what new features and capabilities like Loop components mean for your tenant.

7 Replies to “Loop Components Appear in OWA”

  1. I think doing CC is logical. If you use Loop component, you want to see updates. having to go to Send folder is not that obvious and convenient. And here it automatically appears in your Inbox and you can take a glance.

    1. It might be logical to some, but not to many who never CC themselves on outbound email. After 40 years or so of using email, going to Sent Items to find a copy of a message is pretty natural to me!

      And you can always go to OneDrive to access the fluid file if you like…

      1. Seems like MS adding a new default folder at the level of Inbox, Sent, etc. “Loops” would be user-friendly. It would go bold if there was a change to any email loop components.

  2. The default permission for the Loop depends on your organisational settings for sharing links, set in the SharePoint Admin Center.
    If an organisation has set the “permission that’s selected by default for sharing links” to be “view” rather than “edit”, the receipient of an emailed Loop will only have view access to the Loop.

    The default sharing behaviour of Loop is also affected by the SharePoint setting controlling the “type of link selected by default when a user shares files or folders from SharePoint and OneDrive.”
    When I set an organisation to create sharing links using “Specific people” as the sharing default, a Loop shared in email will share with the people the email is addressed to. But if the organisation default is “People in [my organisation], the Loop will be shared with a link that can be used by people within the same organisation.

    Loops in Teams chat allow us to choose the permission for the sharing link before we send it into the chat. The control was left out of the Loops in Outlook UI and I think it would be helpful to add it back in. It gives visibility of the permission applied to the link before you send it, and allows you to change it if the organisations default isn’t the level of collaboration you wish to facilitate.

    1. I should have made it clear that the control comes from the sharing policy in the SharePoint admin center. Nevertheless, I hold to my view that read-only is an odd choice for editable components. Many organizations have the setting in place for document sharing, but it’s not a good choice for Loop and an extra setting is probably needed to control this.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.