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Creating Private Planner Boards with Microsoft Loop

Alex Henry 2023-06-05
Creating a Private Planner Board using Microsoft Loop
Planner may not have changed much since my last rant blog post back in 2022. Since then, the product team has added a few features from the backlog, including repeating tasks, grid view, suggested attachments, and something more appliable to today's topic - the ability to use Planner boards without a Microsoft 365 Group.
In this article, I wanted to introduce you to how the integration between Microsoft Planner and Loop works, and how to set it up.
Before we get into the good stuff, check out this video by Collaboration Coach if you're unfamiliar with Microsoft 365 Groups (formally "Office 365 Groups" and "Outlook Groups).  Don't forget about Microsoft's own documentation too.
If you're unfamiliar with Microsoft Loop, this video will get you caught up quickly:
With the housekeeping out of the way, let's get down to business.

Setting Up a Loop Workspace

A list of cloud policies that must be enabled to use the Microsoft Loop app during public preview(source: Microsoft)
After your new cloud policies are setup, it may take a day or so before you can login to the Microsoft Loop app, so hold tight!
After you've made it into the app, create a new Loop workspace.
From the landing page of the Microsoft Loop app, click the "+" button to create a new workspace
Your new workspace will be private by default.  If you plan to collaborate with a few colleagues, you can invite them too.
screenshot of a window in the Microsoft Loop app, showing a list of members and a field to invite members
Next, create a new page in your workspace.  To help you get started, Microsoft has provided a few templates you can try.
In your Loop workspace, click the "+" button to create a new page.  Then try one of the templates provided by Microsoft to get started

On your new page, add a "Task list" component
to the page, and then assign yourself a couple of tasks.
The "Task list" Loop component allows you to quickly capture and assign tasks as you write
Next, open up the Planner web app.
Within a few moments, you'll see a new Planner board added to the left-hand navigation under the 'Recommended' section, complete with a bucket with your tasks from Loop.
In the Planner app, new boards created from Microsoft Loop will appear on the left-side navigation under "Recommended"
Easy enough, right?   Create the task list and instantly get a Planner board, you can choose to use or ignore.

The "Loop-Connected Planner Board" Experience

On a side note, I hope I'm the first to coin the term "Loop-connected Planner Board".
This new Planner board is mostly identical to a 'classic' Planner board. The majority of bells and whistles are available to you here, but not ALL of them.
What's Different About Loop-Connected Planner Boards?
The core difference is that there is no Microsoft 365 Group behind this board. This means certain features are not available, including attachments and task comments.
In Planner tasks connected to Loop, most features are present, except task comments and the ability to upload files
Planner tasks still support the addition of URLs, so there's nothing stopping you from pasting links to shared files here. In fact, 'Suggested attachments" are still available for your convenience.
One other difference is that the 'Tasks for Planner and To Do' app in Microsoft Teams does not support Loop-connected Planner boards. However, you can leverage Microsoft To Do's smart list "Assigned to Me" to see all tasks with your name on them.
In the 'Tasks by Planner and To Do" app, you can see tasks assigned to you from the "assigned to you" smart list, but you cannot see Loop-connected Planner boards
What features are available in Planner?
Aside from what I listed above, the rest (or most) of Planner features remains intact.
In tasks, things like notes, labels, recurring tasks, checklists, and the progress fields are all still available to you.
Additionally, the task name, 'due date' and 'assigned to' fields are synced with the task list in Loop.
The task name, people assignments, and due dates are synced between Microsoft Planner and Loop
Planner board features like smart backgrounds, custom buckets, Outlook calendar syncing, and the rest all still work as expected.

How do I "close" a Loop-connected Planner Board?
As per Microsoft's documentation, the board is deleted when the last person leaves. 
If you are the only member of the board, you can simply delete it.
You can delete a Planner board from Board settings
What happens if the page in Loop is deleted? Well.. nothing! I don't fully understand why, but the Planner board and tasks are unaffected - even after the page and the Loop component are gone.
Just remember that when dealing with Planner - when something is deleted, it's gone and cannot be recovered.

Closing Thoughts

This new integration with Microsoft Loop and Planner is a very welcome addition.
While this update doesn't resolve my past (and current) gripes about Planner, I believe this integration adds value to Microsoft Loop. 
You can start with a simple task list in Loop while planning a project, and then break out the Planner board during execution.