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Office & collaboration

In view of the coronavirus pandemic and the associated home office regulation of many companies, Microsoft's collaboration solution Teams is currently very popular. The reason for this is certainly that Teams is part of the widespread Office 365 package and - with limited functionality - can even be used free of charge for chats and video calls. Although not necessarily perfect, the service also offers numerous functions to support spatially distributed workgroups. Here are some tips and tricks on how you can use teams even more effectively in business.

Move communication from teams to Outlook

Even if more and more conversations are taking place there, Microsoft Teams is not necessarily the only communication channel in companies. Outlook is also often used for this purpose. Instead of laboriously copying content into Teams and then packing it into an e-mail in Outlook, simply click on "More Options" within a chat message or a channel and then select "Share with Outlook". As a result, a small mail window opens in which the chat contribution is integrated. Here you only have to enter the recipient, subject line and - optionally - additional text and you can send the email directly.

Assign categories to team members

Tags enable team owners or members to get in touch with a specific group within their team without opening a new sub-team or copying the message into individual chats. To create tags (if the admin has activated the feature for you), click the "Teams" button in the bar on the left and choose your team from the list. Then select the menu item "Manage tags" under "Additional options". Here you can easily assign one or more tags (e.g. product manager, IT etc.) to certain people.

If you or another team member then uses one of the tags in @mentions or any standard channel on the team, everyone assigned that category will receive a notification.

bookmark

Anyone who travels a lot in different groups sometimes has a hard time keeping an eye on all the important news. This makes it particularly difficult if you need to access some again later because they contain important information or attachments. The bookmark function offers a solution to this problem. To do this, simply click on the three dots for "More options" in a message and then select "Save this message". To access the messages again later, simply click on your profile picture in the upper right corner and then click on "Saved".

Pop-up chat

When working with teams, it often happens that you receive a new request from colleagues while you are in another meeting. Or you would like to briefly obtain information yourself without interrupting an ongoing video session. The pop-up chat function is helpful here. The feature allows you to display your individual or group chat in a separate window, which you can then enlarge or reduce, move or close as you wish.

There are several ways to access the feature:

  • Via the chat list: Open the chat list on the left side of Teams and find the chat you want. If you now click on the chat name, not only does the chat open, the symbol for pop-up chat is also displayed next to the name. When you click on it, a separate window opens with the chat.

  • When mouse over a chat: If you move the mouse over the individual chat names in the chat list, the symbol for pop-up chat is displayed. When you click on it, a separate window opens with the chat.

  • In the chat itself: Go to the top right corner and select the Pop-Up Chat function.

  • Via the profile picture of the interlocutor: A double click on the profile picture opens a new chat window

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  • From the taskbar: Enter / pop in the command field at the top of Teams. Select the chat you want to view.

Important: You can expand multiple conversations, but you cannot expand the same chat twice.

Advanced settings for conference participants

Much has been written in recent weeks about the security flaws in Zoom, especially the infamous zoom bombing. At first glance, Microsoft Teams doesn't seem to be doing so well either. In a direct comparison with Zoom, for example, important things such as meeting ID and password as well as additional access restrictions are missing in the settings. The reason for this: With Microsoft Teams, the security requirements are created centrally by the administrator using meeting policies, which then apply to specific users or groups. However, there is also a well-hidden set of fine-tuning settings that the host can access after creating a meeting (!). There are two ways to get here as a host:

  • In teams, press the Calendar button, choose the meeting and click below Join Microsoft Teams Meeting on Meeting options click.

  • In the invitation to the meeting below Join Microsoft Teams Meeting on Meeting options click.

In both cases, an English-language website opens where you can make various settings. For example, you can specify who among the participants is allowed to pass the lobby and enter the conference (everyone, people from your own organization, people from your own organization and trustworthy organizations) and whether callers are put through immediately. An important setting for more discipline in the meeting is also the specification of who is allowed to present (everyone, people from your own organization, specific people, just me).

Record team meetings and group conversations

In the home office in particular, it can be difficult to follow all video conferences and at the same time record the most important information. This is where Microsoft comes to the rescue with the integrated service stream. The tool allows all users of Microsoft Teams to record meetings and group conversations of their teams. In addition to audio and video recordings, this also includes activities while sharing a screen. However, a business license for Office 365 from E1 is required for use.

Create group rooms in teams conferences

Just in time for Christmas, Microsoft rolled out the long-missing function Breakout Rooms in Teams worldwide. The feature enables meeting organizers to create group rooms via the desktop client and to assign these participants - either automatically or manually. In this way, spontaneous (or planned) meetings that run parallel to the main meeting can be implemented quickly and easily. A total of up to 50 breakout rooms can be created.

To use the group rooms function in Microsoft Teams, the organizer simply has to go to the new tab Group rooms click. A pop-up window then opens in which he can specify the number of rooms, name them and assign participants to them. Even during the meeting, new rooms can be opened and closed here or people can be assigned to other breakout rooms. In addition, there is the option here in the settings (...) to specify that people are automatically moved to open rooms or that users are allowed to return to the main meeting at any time. The organizer himself can switch freely between the individual group rooms.

Use correction mode directly in teams

The ability to work on documents together in teams is one of the most important functions of the collaboration suite and is (hopefully) used diligently. What is less well known is that - similar to Sharepoint - you can also use the correction mode in Word documents that have been shared via Microsoft Teams. In this way, it is also possible for several team members to edit a text at different times without having to deal with different versions.

To use the function, simply click on the uploaded Word document in the chat history and, as in Word, select the "Review" tab and then the "Track changes" function.

Add important applications to teams

Team collaboration is not limited to the Office Suite, it can also be expanded to include other applications. To find the app you want, go to the Apps menu item on the left. There you can either search for the app directly or browse through different categories. As soon as you have found the app, simply click on "Add" or "Add to a team". The application can then be added as a tab in channels, group chats or one-on-one conversations.

Pin apps to the left task bar

A lesser-known feature is the ability to pin frequently used apps to the teams app bar on the left for easier access. Users simply find the application, right-click it and choose the Pin option.

Navigate with / and @

As a typical Microsoft product, the functionality of Teams is not necessarily manageable. Instead of seeking help or laboriously navigating through the menu, you can simply use the search and input field at the top. With / you get a number of useful commands like / participate (join a team) or / organigram (shows an employee's organization chart). You can use @ to start communication with another team member or to open an app.

Mute teams conversations

Similar to e-mails, the notifications of new activities in different channels on teams can also significantly impair concentration - especially if you are a member of many teams. As a remedy, there is the option of reducing the number of notifications in a team or switching it to completely mute. To do this, go into a conversation and then select "More options" and then "Deactivate notifications / Activate notifications" in order to be able to do your work in peace.

In order to define in which form and to what extent you want to be informed about activities on a channel, click on the three dots on the right in the top bar and then on channel notifications. You can then choose whether and how you want to be kept up to date on new posts and mentions.

Use multiple Teams instances

For years, users have been waiting to be able to open teams in several windows - for example because they use different accounts or work in several teams at the same time. Until Microsoft reacts, a small workaround helps: You simply open Microsoft Teams as a web app in a Chromium-based browser (e.g. Chrome or Edge). If you want something a little more elegant, you can use apps like Franz or Multiteams. Here, too, basically only the web app is opened in a browser environment.

Use your own background image in teams

Similar to competitor Zoom, Microsoft Teams also offers users the option of using a different background for video conferences. A small pre-selection of backgrounds is already available on the desktop client, ranging from virtual office and home office environments to sandy beaches and fantasy landscapes. You can also add your own images to the selection or blur the background.

There are different statements about the requirements your computer must meet for this. It can be read, for example, that the CPU must be equipped with the instruction set extension AVX2 (Advanced Vector Extensions). Under Windows 10, according to Microsoft's hardware requirements for teams, these functions should also work without the AVX2 extension.

In order to be able to load and try out new background images in peace and quiet, click in Teams on the Calendar menu item and in the top right corner on Discuss now. Now select the background settings option to the right of the microphone switch in the video and audio settings and then simply the function add new. Teams then saves the selected image in .jpg, .png or .bmp format in the local% APPDATA% \ Microsoft \ Teams \ Backgrounds folder and automatically adapts it to a video conference-adequate size (a 6 MB jpg then has only around 1.3 MB).