At the Microsoft 2020 Build Conference, a team built a puzzle demo where thousands of users were asked to work on jigsaw-like puzzles in real-time. All the users were allowed to see the result of thousands of minor edits and updates. The reason behind showing off the power of high-scale and high-performance collaboration capabilities was to unveil Microsoft’s then-new Fluid Framework. Now, Microsoft has started to roll out what is called the most significant change to Office made in decades.
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Fluid Framework is a tool built for very low latency collaboration and synchronisation. Using it, developers can create robust applications with the help of familiar programming patterns and cooperation. With Fluid Framework, when any single user makes a change in their browser, every other user will be able to see it almost instantly. Additionally, Fluid components allow tables, graphs, lists—things that are static and usually bound to specific platforms and documents—to live independently across the web. Thus, Fluid Framework would make an application more accessible to multiple users and allow them to edit it simultaneously whilst also making such content easy to share across applications.
Google Docs, but in a bolder font
Like Google Docs– a tool known for its collaborative properties, Fluid Framework is rapid, with no sync time. However, Microsoft’s tool goes a little further than Docs. Google Doc still involves creating a new document, adding tables or charts or tasks to it (all of these usually made elsewhere, saved and then added to the Doc) and sharing it with others. However, Fluid Framework is Microsoft’s attempt to shift from the age-old concept of creating and saving documents. Fluid components can be made in any application and shared immediately, without switching to another app. As per Maya Rodrig, Principal Programme Manager for this platform, “It is about helping people achieve a particular task” without needing to decide which document to return to or which app to go on.
Microsoft looks at Fluid as a vital element to the future of productivity. The Silicon Valley giant also open-sourced its work last year to allow people everywhere to shape its creation.
Microsoft will roll out Fluid Framework in Microsoft Teams this year, where it will be embeddable in meetings and chats. Doing so makes sense given the increase in remote and in-person hybrid workplaces. As a part of this, every Microsoft Teams meeting will soon come with a built-in notes experience tool. It will be present in Teams meetings or Outlook calendar and allow everyone invited to type notes in real-time. The platform will immediately sync these notes to one’s tasks across Microsoft 365 and Outlook Calendar.
Besides this, Microsoft will also be allowing Fluid components on its Whiteboard app. It will comprise new collaboration cursors on Whiteboard, enabling users to see any additions made to documents by their coworkers and vice-versa in real-time. Microsoft will also add new reaction stickers and a virtual laser pointer to make these remote and hybrid workplaces more interactive. Finally, individuals can also embed aspects of Fluid such as tables and task lists to Whiteboard—making the entire app look and feel the same across every device and platform. This will allow users to edit elements whilst using Whiteboard as a dashboard.
Microsoft sees the launch of its Fluid Framework as the ‘Start of a community built around developer technologies for building collaborative applications.’ It is highly likely for users to see Fluid components first on Teams and then on web aspects of MS Office before finally having them be commonplace on desktop platforms. One has to wait eagerly for this novel spectacle. Until then, individuals can also check out Microsoft’s Fluid Framework demos to get started.