Teams is Microsoft’s new workplace chat app built primarily to rival the likes of Slack. If your organisation is moving to Teams, you shouldn’t find the experience too different from existing enterprise chat solutions. In this quick tour around the app, we’ll get you acquainted with Teams’ core features so you’re ready to start collaborating.
Teams is available on the web and as a dedicated app for iOS, Android, Windows and Windows 10 Mobile devices. To get started, download the app on your platform of choice and login with your Office 365 account credentials. For this guide, we’ll be focusing mainly on the Teams app for desktop and web devices. In most cases, the same principles apply on mobile but not all Teams features are available yet and the interface may differ by platform.
On desktop, the Teams interface is made of three key sections. On the far left of the screen, there’s a vertical navigation menu that lets you switch between the core areas of the app. We’ll explore each tab individually in a moment. At the bottom of the menu, you can click your profile picture to access Teams’ settings and change the theme.
The pane to the left of the navigation menu lets you switch between different chats and groups. After using the main menu to change area in the app, you use this pane to select the resource to view.
The chat you’re participating in appears in the rest of the window, on the right-side of the screen. This also houses Teams’ tabs functionality which lets you pin websites, documents and important links to your Teams conversations.
The first time you use Teams, you’ll land in the “Chats” tab. This is where you can talk one-to-one with other members of your organisation. You’ll also find “T-Bot” here, the built-in Teams chatbot that offers basic information on using the app.
To send a message, click any of your contacts. The conversation will open up in the right pane. As you start chatting, you’ll see the screen begin to fill with messages. Teams automatically divides the thread into distinct timeframes so you can quickly browse the conversation. You can send GIFs, files and stickers using the composer at the bottom of the screen. If you want to call your contact, there’s buttons for both voice and video at the top-right of the screen.
The Teams section is where you’ll spend most of your time. This lets you participate in group conversations. Teams uses a threaded view where you reply to messages to start new discussions. This contrasts with Slack’s predominantly one-line format.
You can add a new team by clicking the “Add team” button at the bottom of the list of teams. If your organisation has already set you up with Teams, you should see the groups you have access to appear once the initial sync is complete.
Each team can have multiple ongoing discussions that appear as “channels” in the Teams list. By default, teams are created with a “General” channel for everyone to participate in. Click any of the channels in the teams list to dive in and check on the conversation.
You can send a message using the universal composer at the bottom of the screen. To mention a user, use the “@mention” syntax and type their name, or just the first few letters and select their name, and hit tab. You can like messages with the thumbs-up icon in the top-right of each response card or save it to act on later using the bookmark icon.
The Activity tab is where Teams collects all your notifications. You can see when people mentioned you, liked your messages or replied to a conversation you’re involved in. Incoming notifications will flash up on your desktop as they arrive. These alerts will also display on your mobile device but Teams is smart enough not to send them if you’re already actively using your PC.
Meetings and Files
The last two sections of Teams let you schedule meetings with your co-workers and browse your team’s files. Meetings gives you a space to collaborate by starting a voice or video call with your colleagues. You can share files and show content on your screen, letting you avoid going to a meetings room and using a projector. While in a meeting, you can use the Files tab to access resources uploaded directly to Teams conversations or available on your company’s OneDrive.
Teams: Picking up the slack in chat
Microsoft Teams offers a different approach to team chat that’s focused predominantly on thread-based conversation. By offering rich integration with existing Office 365 services, Microsoft hopes it can pull companies away from rivals like Slack and Google Hangouts if they’re already using its other products. Teams is simple to get to grips with while offering powerful functionality that lets you adapt the app to fit your own team’s needs.