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Loop Components in Channel Conversations
Message center notification MC681251 (13 October 2023, Microsoft 365 roadmap item 123491) announces support for using Loop components in channel conversations in both the classic and new Teams client. Targeted release is due in November 2023 with standard release tenants getting the new capability toward the end of the year.
About two years ago, Teams chat became the first application to support Loop components, and the components are currently supported in other clients like OWA and Outlook desktop in addition to the full Loop app. We’ve also seen developments such as Microsoft enabling support for the Loop task list component in Planner and the code block component and recently had the surprise that Microsoft will only include access to the Loop app in certain Microsoft 365 product SKUs. You can say that there’s been a lot of activity since November 2021.
Pop-up Announcement for Loop in Channels
Recently, I’ve complained about the number of “helpful” (aka irritating) pop-ups that Teams insists in showing to users. The arrival of Loop components in channels was dutifully announced in a new pop-up (Figure 1).
In this instance, the pop-up was helpful because informed me how to invoke a Loop component in a channel message by using the Actions and apps button to find the Collaborate with Loop option (Figure 2). The same set of Loop components available in Teams chat can be used in channel messages.
If an organization has disabled Loop components for Teams, the option to use them in channel conversations won’t appear.
Including Loop Components in Channel Messages
When composing a channel message, you can incorporate Loop components with text and other elements. Figure 3 shows a message being composed with a Loop table component, some explanatory text, and the compulsory emoji. The image used to highlight the announcement post was created using Microsoft Designer (see this article).
When a user posts a message including a Loop component, Teams stores the Loop component in the channel folder of the SharePoint site belonging to the team. All team members have access to the Loop component. The other message elements are in the Teams message store.
Working with a Loop component in a channel conversation is just like working with these objects in other applications. Anyone with access to the component can change its content and the other users with access see the changes in almost real-time (Figure 5).
Anyone participating in the channel conversation can copy the Loop component into another app and reuse the information there. For instance, they could copy the component into an Outlook email sent to someone for their comment. That recipient can update the component without being a member of the team. This is a really nice way to bring additional wisdom into a discussion.
To allow access non-team members who receive a component through another app, I suspect that Teams generates a sharing link. The link uses the default type of sharing link for the organization, which in my tenant is “only people in your organization” and the default permission, which is edit. I base this on Microsoft’s documentation for known issues with Loop, one of which is what happens when the default sharing link is for specific people only. I could be wrong, but that’s what it seems is happening.
Support for Loop components is available in all channel types (regular, private, and shared). However, guest members of the team cannot access Loop components stored in private and regular channels and external members can’t use them in shared channels.
The Teams iOS and iPadOS clients support view-only access to Loop components in channel messages. The same support isn’t currently available for the Android client. No mobile client can create a Loop component in a channel message.
Loop for Whiteboard
According to message center notification MC681250 (13 October), Microsoft is also bringing Loop components (task lists, tables, voting tables, progress trackers, and checklists) to Whiteboard for the web, the Whiteboard app in Teams (apart from Teams Room devices), and Whiteboard for Windows. Deployment should be complete by the middle of November 2023.
No Access for External Collaborators
The continuing lack of support for external access to Loop components is a major frustration with the technology. Support for sharing with external people is obvious available because it works for guest access to Office documents stored in the SharePoint Online sites used by Teams. Those documents support co-authoring where the applications synchronize content frequently to update co-authors.
The current restriction might be due to the more frequent synchronization model used by Loop. Extending to people outside the tenant might create synchronization difficulties and detract from the Loop experience. Another obvious issue is that guest accounts don’t have to belong to Microsoft 365 tenants, so the necessary infrastructure might not exist for some guests to interact with Loop. For instance, what does a guest account with a Gmail account do?
Collaborating through Loop components in Teams channels is a powerful tool for working with people within the same organization. Regretfully, its usefulness for some tenants is limited by a lack of support for external team members. I hope that Microsoft lifts that restriction soon, perhaps initially for guests from other Microsoft 365 tenants. That would certainly make Loop components in channel conversions much more interesting to me.
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