First introduced in 2019, Fluid Framework has made a reappearance at this year’s digital-version of the Microsoft Build conference, and it’s now available for preview with some initial releases for Office.com and Outlook clients coming soon.
But what is this new framework for productivity applications? Here’s why we’re excited about Fluid and the changes it may bring to the way we collaborate and work digitally.
Fluid is a new way to use shared documents, providing a dynamic content collaboration platform that allows components to be seamlessly and simultaneously shared and edited across apps.
Essentially it generates a container for a single piece of your document – think of a pie chart, for example, or a meeting agenda. This container, which has an extension of .fluid, can then be dropped into and edited from any 365 app, or potentially even third party applications. Any changes made in the Fluid component is updated across all instances.
So you can create a pie chart, embed it within an email, and send it to your team. Your team can edit that pie chart and those changes are made live, across the other team member’s copy of the email, and even within the PowerPoint presentation you created the chart for in the first place.
While Office and Microsoft 365 have long allowed collaboration in real-time alongside cloud-based sharing, you still had to open each document in its respective application. You could paste Excel sheets into your Word document, but if you edited that content within Word, the changes would remain in the Word .doc. If you returned to your original Excel .xls, you would have outdated information.
Fluid is about helping you achieve the task at hand, rather than worrying about which app to use or which document you have to locate. Instead, the Fluid document is always updated.
For now, Microsoft is still figuring out the finer details, which is part of why are releasing the source code (more on that in a bit). But you can log into the preview with any 365 account that includes OneDrive for Business today to get started creating.
Create a new Fluid Framework, give it a title, and begin adding components:
You can also format your content with the same general interfaces you are accustomed to in other 365 apps.
You can start using the preview right now, but Microsoft is rolling out Fluid to Outlook for web and office.com “in the next few months,” as long as you have an enterprise 365 license. Look for integration with desktop clients and other Microsoft apps to come later this year or in 2021.
Microsoft as a whole has embraced open-source far more readily under the leadership of current CEO Satya Nadella than probably at any other point in the company’s existence. In the case of Fluid, the organization hopes to work alongside independent developers to come up with more useful and creative ways of using the technology. With the base features and components in place – namely lighting-fast updates to the cloud-hosted Fluid components – third parties may be able to discover even better ways of using them.
As you can tell from the preview features above, Fluid is currently somewhat limited in its formatting and creation options. We’re very excited to see how the technology evolves and changes the way Microsoft 365 users work together.