Microsoft launches 'Fluid Framework' to transform the traditional Office document

Goodbye Word, Excel, et cetera; hello, web-based collaboration.

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft’s Fluid Framework may be the future of Office—a future where the walls between applications melt away, and collaboration is routine. If this sounds familiar, that’s because in 2014, Microsoft experimented with a web-based collaborative app called Sway that combined web publishing, Word, and presentation software into an engaging mess of text and images. 

We should find out more about Fluid Framework during Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella’s keynote kicking off the company’s Build developer conference on Monday morning. From a product standpoint, Microsoft expects to deliver the “first Microsoft 365 experiences powered by Fluid” later this year, alongside a software development kit for third-party developers.

In a briefing before Build, Microsoft described Fluid Framework as a way for Microsoft and developers to build “flexible, web-based distributed applications.” What Microsoft appears to be doing is trying to break down the concept of a document as a discrete object, and enable a “free-flowing canvas” where multiple users can collaborate on a document quickly on the web, with artificial intelligence or agents assisting behind the scenes. These agents, according to Microsoft’s vice-president of communications Frank Shaw, would perform tasks like fetching content, providing photo suggestions, translating data, and even co-authoring in places.

“On this canvas, we have a different way of looking at these artifacts,” Shaw said. “Is this a document or a presentation or a spreadsheet?  The answer is yes, and you don’t have to worry about that.  Everything is just adapting in the background.”

According to Shaw, one example of a Fluid Framework application would be in the global collaboration of a corporate HR manual, written in multiple languages. “The Fluid Framework could allow for real-time translation across those teams as they’re co-authoring in the manual,” Shaw said.  “A procurement management could create a document that marries words with calculations in the same document, with those calculations being updated by someone else on the team.” 

surface pro 3 review Microsoft sway Mark Hachman / IDG

Here’s a look at the Sway.com interface, which I originally used to remix an existing Surface Pro 3 review in a different layout. Will Fluid Framework pull from this?

Whether Fluid Framework ends up looking like Sway is hard to say, though Nadella should clarify things. Sway was noteworthy for living wholly on the web at Sway.com, and for exerting a fair amount of control over the design of the document. For example, you simply assigned an image a particular “weight,” and Sway would decide where to place it according to a generalized layout. If the author didn’t like the result, they could click a button to “remix” or reorganize the final result into another layout. If Fluid Framework is based upon Sway, it’s likely to be much more sophisticated. We’ll have to see how much detail Nadella provides, and whether Fluid Framework’s influence extends to the Office apps millions use every day.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Mark Hachman

Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?