Outlook for Windows Gets Loop Components

Now in Preview and Coming Soon

In July, Fluid components made their appearance in OWA. Now they’re available in Outlook for Windows (Microsoft 365 apps for enterprise). According to Microsoft 365 notification MC360766 (updated September 21, 2022), Microsoft now expects general availability for Loop components in Outlook (OWA and Outlook for Windows) in November 2022. There’s no word about availability of Loop in Outlook for Mac and they won’t be available in the Outlook perpetual versions like Outlook 2019. Loop is very much a cloud application.

To check things out, I used build 2209 (current channel preview) and discovered that things worked very much like OWA (no surprise there!). Figure 1 shows the Loop components displayed in Outlook’s create message window.

Loop components in Outlook for Windows

Loop components in Outlook
Figure 1: Loop components in Outlook for Windows

Like OWA, Outlook for Windows adds the sender as a CC recipient when a message contains a loop component. Apart from ensuring that the sender receives a copy of their own message, this doesn’t seem to make any sense. The copy of the message held in the Sent Items folder contains the loop component, and any change necessary to the component can be made through that message. As a matter of practice, I remove the CC recipient from any messages with Loop components that I send. So far, the world (or Outlook) hasn’t come to a crashing halt.

Loop Sharing Permissions

When you create a Loop component in Outlook, its physical manifestation is as a fluid file stored in the Attachments folder in your OneDrive for Business account. This is the file that users edit whose contents synchronize to keep everyone who has the component open see changes almost immediately. Of course, people can’t make changes unless they have the permission to do so.

I was bothered when I discovered that OWA sets the default sharing permission for Loop components to read-only. Outlook does the same thing and there’s no good reason for this either. The very reason why you might use a Loop component is to create a shareable canvas to collaborate with the recipients of a message. Setting the sharing permission to read-only reduces the value of components to be no better than static text pasted in from Word or Excel or created from scratch in Outlook.

Being forced to update the sharing link is an unnecessary step, but it’s relatively straightforward. Click the link to the fluid file to reveal the link settings and change the link to allow edit access as necessary. For instance, it makes sense to allow message recipients to edit a Loop component received in email (Figure 2). At least, it makes sense to me.

Setting access for Loop components in Outlook for Windows
Figure 2: Setting access for Loop components in Outlook for Windows

Multiple Loop Components in Outlook Messages

Like OWA, multiple Loop components can exist in a single message, mixed with normal text. For instance, you could have some introductory text followed by a checklist component, some further text, and then a table component. 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.

You can copy a Loop component from Outlook or 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 Outlook 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.

Loop Components in Outlook Mobile

One thing I hadn’t tried before was editing a loop component from Outlook mobile (iOS). When I clicked on the component, Outlook called the Office app and opened the loop component to allow me make changes, which then synchronized back to Outlook desktop. Although Outlook mobile doesn’t yet support full integration with loop components, it’s good that a solution exists to access and edit components on a mobile device.

Loop Forward

Microsoft is making steady (but slow) progress to make Loop components available in Microsoft 365 apps. Email poses different challenges to Teams in that email is a more outward-facing collaborative application with a large proportion of messages usually sent outside the organization. Even though Teams supports external access for chats, most of its traffic is inward-facing.

Currently, you can’t send a message with Loop components to external recipients. At least, Outlook protests when you add an external recipient. You can make Loop components accessible to external recipients, but the experience of accessing the components is not seamless, and that’s why Outlook warns against adding external recipients to messages containing Loop components. Obviously, this is something that needs to change to make Loop more amenable to email. Maybe that’s coming. We wait developments with bated breath.

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