Microsoft looks to turn the Web into a more collaborative canvas with Fluid Framework

Compound documents are back. Microsoft's newest approach to making them happen is via its 'Fluid Framework,' coming to users and developers late this year.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

On the opening day of its annual Build developers conference, Microsoft is taking the wraps off a new development platform and document model for "shared interactive experiences." That new platform -- dubbed the Fluid Framework -- will launch in software developer kit (SDK) and a handful of new Microsoft-developed apps, late this year. 

The Fluid Framework is meant to better support fast, simultaneous multi-person coauthoring on Web and document content, officials said. The document model will allow authors and creators to "deconstruct content into collaborative building blocks." In turn, these building blocks can be used across applications and combined into new and more flexible kinds of documents. The Fluid Framework also will allow content authors to work with intelligent agents, which can perform tasks like translating text, fetching content, suggesting edits and more, officials said on May 6. 

If you're thinking this sounds an awful lot like Microsoft's old OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) model, you're not the only one. OLE was all about building compound documents, integrating various pieces of data and components.

Microsoft plans to integrate the Fluid Framework technology into apps like Word, Teams and Outlook, as well as to provide the technology to external developers, officials noted. They described Fluid Framework as "the beginning of the free-flowing canvas." 

Microsoft has been beating the collaboration drum for several years, especially with Google making coauthoring a cornerstone of its own productivity platform. 

Credit: Microsoft


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    At Build today, Microsoft also announced a new "AI-powered" capability coming to Word, starting with Word for the Web as a preview this June. That new capability, known as "Ideas," is similar in concept to some of the other AI-fueled features Microsoft has been adding to its productivity applications, like its editing tools research assistant. Ideas is meant to provide smart suggestions about users' writing to make it clearer, more concise and inclusive. It also can help with providing estimated document reading times and explaining acronyms using data from the Microsoft Graph programming interface, officials said. 

  • At the show this week, Microsoft also is making some new development platform updates to its Teams group-chat application to allow partners to create apps and publish them to Teams. The updates include new ways to integrate apps into conversations, along with enhancements to submit and view insights into an app. These updates are in the midst of rolling out.

    Build 2019, the sixth Microsoft Build confab, is happening in Seattle from May 6 to May 8. Microsoft officials said 6,000 are attending.

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