We're just a couple of days away from the general availability of Microsoft Teams, but Microsoft has rolled out this week a significant update to its chat-based workspace in Office 365. The latest version of the app brings much awaited features such as public teams, bots in channels and more that will help close the feature gap with competitor Slack.
First of all, the addition of public teams will finally give the ability for guests outside of a team to participate. You'll be able to choose "public" or "private" when creating a team, and users from your organization will see a collection of public teams that they can browse and join when they try to create a new one.
Microsoft is also adding email integration to channels: each of your channels can have its own automatically-generated email address, and emails sent to this address will appear as new messages in the channel. Fortunately, it's possible to disable this feature or choose who is allowed to send emails to the email address.
If you're not a fan of the OneNote integration in Microsoft Teams' channels, it's now possible to use the new Notes tab which provides a more lightweight experience. You can create several notes tabs with a custom name, and you can use them to collaborate, draft documents, share ideas, and chat all in one place.
With this new update, it's also possible to discuss with Microsoft Teams bots in channel chats by using @mentions. You can easily add bots to your channels by clicking on "Discover Bots" in the search box. For now, there are 25 different bots in the directory including Tribble, UPS, AzureBot, and KAYAK, but you'll also find some not so serious additions such as the emoji-focused Emojify.
The last important new feature is the scheduling assistant, which lets you know when your teammates are available for a meeting. You can use the assistant to schedule a private meeting with anyone in your organization, and a calendar view of the coming week has also been added to show the availability of all team members.
Overall, this is a pretty massive update and you can check the full list of changes by heading to Chat >T-Bot >Release Notes. As a reminder, Microsoft Teams will be generally available to all Office 365 customers on Tuesday, March 14 and Microsoft will celebrate the launch with an online event starting 8:30 AM PST.