Microsoft’s NEW Loop Feature to Challenge Notion


Microsoft Loop is the next best thing since… well productivity and note-taking app ‘Notion’. This Week in IT, I look at how Microsoft is planning to challenge Notion and how current features are building towards a big update that customers have requested from Microsoft.

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Microsoft Loop is the next best thing since, well, note-taking and productivity app Notion. This Week in IT, I look at how Microsoft is planning to challenge Notion and how current features are building towards a big update that customers have requested. Stay tuned to find out the latest.

Welcome to This Week in IT, the show where I talk about everything connected to Azure, Microsoft 365 and Windows. But before I get started today, I’ve got a quick favour to ask you. About 57% of the people who watched last week’s video weren’t subscribed to the channel.

Now, as we go live today, we’re on about 3,940 subscribers, so I’d really love it if we could push that up to 4,000 this week. So if you want to help us meet our goal, then subscribe to the channel and don’t forget to hit the bell notification to make sure that you don’t miss out on the latest uploads. So if you haven’t come across Notion before, it’s a note-taking and productivity app on steroids and it’s been a trendsetter in the remote work and collaboration space over the last four or five years.

There are many small businesses and start-ups that run their entire businesses on Notion and there’s a huge ecosystem built around it, especially the template market. Now, Microsoft Loop has a very similar look and filter notion and it’s clearly Microsoft’s answer to Notion because they had to do something to attract all of these small businesses and SMBs that are really into Notion and would prefer to use it.

It was released in preview in November 2021 based on the Fluid framework and it became generally available last year. Now, if you already have a Microsoft 365 subscription, it might seem like a no-brainer to use Loop and it may well be.(…) And Loop and Notion, obviously, Loop is still in its infancy as a product. Notion is already a mature product but Microsoft has done pretty well at building out Loop but there are still pros and cons to both of these solutions.

But one of the disadvantages of Loop at this stage is that it doesn’t have a database feature and that’s one of the capabilities of Notion that makes it such a powerful solution. Now, Notion implements what is essentially a lightweight database feature as part of tables and Loop also has tables but they’re not a database as they stand today. And databases can be embedded into a Loop page from other applications but it’s not the same as having a native database functionality. On the latest episode of UnplugIT, Darrell Webster interviewed Rebecca Keys who’s a program manager on the Microsoft Loop team.

And as part of that interview, she revealed that Microsoft is working on adding database functionality to Loop. Now, I don’t believe Microsoft has publicly said that anywhere before and I spoke to Darrell a little bit about it during the week and he said one of the problems is that like most other products in the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, there’s no roadmap for Loop and apparently MVPs have been asking for that. So hopefully it’s something that Microsoft will implement in the future for Loop so that we can see what features are being worked on. But in my mind, this is really big news.

If Loop gets that database functionality that Notion has, then this is going to be a real game changer for Microsoft. Now, it’s interesting what Microsoft is currently doing with tables in Loop because you can see that they’re gradually starting to build out what will eventually be part of the database functionality. So you can see on my screen here that I have got the show notes for this episode and I format everything in a table. We do this together with our news director, Rabia, so we collaborate on this document.(…)

Now, the filter function is something that’s been added very recently to tables. And if you have a look at the table here, the icons across the top, you see we’ve got a new one called filter. Now, if I click on that, I can add one or more rules to determine what I’m going to be shown in this table. And here I can add one or more conditions to determine what I see in the table. So for instance, I could select the notes column. I select a condition here so if it contains a particular piece of text, here I had to remind myself that I should credit Darrell for this news. And you can see here this is the row where Darrell is mentioned in the text. And I can go back and add another filter if I want, make this as simple or as complicated as I like, and just clear all there.

So that’s a really useful new feature for filtering what you can see in a table, especially if you’ve got very large tables, of course. Now, another interesting thing which I stumbled across recently, and I don’t know whether this has been there from the beginning or if it’s something new there added, I suspect it’s been added at some point, is that you can go intovany column in a particular row, right click, and you’ve got the option to open detailed view.(…) Now you can actually edit this information in this row here, just like you might do in a database.

And I’ve been using this a bit recently actually, and it looks very, very similar to what you see in Notion, of course. So in my mind, this is another step that Microsoft is taking to build out the database functionality in tables in loop. And filtering functionality also works with sync components like task lists or third-party integrations such as GitHub, Trello and Jira. Now, if you’ve been following this channel for some time, you probably know that I’m a big loop fan.

And I occasionally go back to using OneNote because I have some legacy things in OneNote and I still add to those notebooks. But what really reminds me about how dreadful OneNote can be is the synchronization story. You don’t have all of this kind of instant collaborative(…) technology like you have in loop and the ability to share components.(…) And synchronization in Microsoft OneNote, to be honest, is just broken. And I would say that after Teams, loop is the second most used application in Microsoft 365 for me personally. It’s just the go-to place now where I need to take notes.

If I need to collaborate on anything with somebody, unless it’s something very specific that needs to go in a Word document or in an Excel spreadsheet, for instance, loop is always the starting place for that kind of work. Now, of course, database functionality would seriously change the game for loop, I think, in comparison to Notion, of course, especially. But it’s not the only thing that’s missing from loop.

But what with the power automate integration, the filtering abilities and the upcoming database functionality, this is all really starting to come together as a very powerful solution. In my mind, the only thing that’s really stopping loop from taking over the world, if you like, is the lack of an open marketplace for workspaces. Of course, there’s a big ecosystem built around Notion. You can go out onto YouTube, you’ll find lots of people talking about specific templates for workspaces that they’ve set up.(…)

And you may think that’s not really a big issue, but it is a big issue because these Notion workspaces, they represent entire processes and systems that people are set up to run their businesses. And people market these templates, they sell these templates, they give them away for free.

And that’s part of the attraction of Notion, is that it’s easy to import particular systems and workspaces through this template system. Now, loop does have templates at the moment, but it’s restricted in a couple of ways. So templates only apply to individual pages rather than an entire workspace.(…) And it’s a closed market, if you like, it’s only templates that Microsoft is offering. There are no third-party templates available or can be added at this stage. But if Microsoft can change that to make it a workplace template and an open marketplace, then I think there’s really no stopping loop from being a major challenger to Notion.

What do you think about these changes that Microsoft is planning to make to loop? Do you think they go far enough to challenge Notion? Or do you think that loop doesn’t really stand a chance? Let me know what you think in the comments below. If you found this video useful, I’d really appreciate it if you gave it a thumbs up because that helps to get the video seen by more people on YouTube.

But before I leave today, I’m going to leave another video on the screen about Windows 10 Extended Security Updates and the pricing for those that Microsoft announced recently. But that’s it from me today and I’ll see you next time.