It’s no secret that Microsoft Teams is designed to enable collaboration. From compatibility with SharePoint and OneDrive allowing for effortless file-sharing, impressive video conferencing capabilities and deep synchronicity with other Microsoft 365 platforms such as Planner and Outlook; Teams really is the only collaboration platform you’ll ever need.
Despite its capabilities, however, many users overlook some of the platform’s most simple yet useful features. From shortcuts embedded in the chat feature to document co-authoring capabilities, let’s look at some of the handy features that often go unnoticed.
Instant messaging – Chat and Posts
You may have noticed that there are two ways to conduct a discussion in Teams…
- Using the group ‘Chat’ feature, located on the left of the Teams interface.
- By posting communication under the ‘posts’ tab of a specific channel.
This begs the question; what’s the difference?
The ‘chat’ feature is essentially designed for more informal chats, whereas channels are optimised for more project-led discussions. Some important differences to note include…
- Chats send notifications, whereas Channels are quieter by default. Sending a message in a group chat alerts everyone involved. To get someone’s attention in a channel, you have to use the ‘@mention’ feature. Group chats can therefore be quite distracting, but thankfully you can mute a chat if it gets a bit too noisy.
- Channel discussions feature more app integration. Channels support a greater number of app extensions than group chats. For example, Planner can be added to a Channel discussion – a tool that can’t be pinned to a group chat.
- Channel discussions are better for document sharing. SharePoint integration makes channel discussions more convenient where document sharing is concerned. Sending a file in a Channel presents a link to the associated SharePoint location, whereas a group chat doesn’t have a SharePoint site associated with it…
- Channels let you post targeted replies. In a group chat it can be difficult to distinguish between multiple discussion threads, often leading to confusion. Channels allow you to reply to a specific message, allowing a few people to converse publicly without getting every team member involved.
Paying attention to these differences is important in order to get the most out of each discussion tool. Use ‘group chat’ for those water-cooler chats, or in situations where you simply need a speedy reply. Channel posts are a great way to cut down on email – use ‘@mentions’ as an alternative to email ‘CC’ing, and keep your files in sync with the conversation thanks to Sharepoint integration.
Additional features to note…
If you make heavy use of Teams your activity tab will likely become flooded with notifications on a regular basis. Fortunately, you can apply filters to your activity feed to focus-in on the notifications that demand your immediate attention. Simply navigate to the Activity tab, click on the filter icon, and then select ‘@mentions’ from the ‘more options’ menu. This will display notification where you have been tagged.
Did you know that you can send emails to a Teams Channel? This discreetly concealed feature lets you send and forward emails to the channel’s chat feed so that all topic-specific communication can be viewed in a single space. Email messages sent to the channel, including any attachments will be automatically saved in the channel’s associated SharePoint site for ease of retrieval. To obtain a channel’s email address navigate to the ‘more options’ menu at the top of the channel and select ‘get email address’ from the drop-down menu.
Bookmark important messages
This simple feature available in both group chats and channels allows you to distinguish important messages and follow-up on them at a future date. Locate the ‘more options’ menu (identifiable by three dots) beside a message and then select ‘save this message’ from the drop-down menu.
To return to your saved messages, click on your user icon in the top right of the Teams window and select ‘saved.’
Live document co-authoring
As long as a file is stored in the cloud and edit permissions are enabled, multiple contributors can edit a file in real-time. This powerful feature keeps your files securely stored in the cloud (avoiding the loss of files through the email wormhole) and helps expedite the editing process.
Teams is a great way to access this feature. Find your desired file in your Sharepoint or OneDrive and choose where you want to open it from the ‘show actions’ menu indicated by three dots ‘…’
When other members of your team are collaborating on a document you have open, you’ll be notified through the presence of their user icon in the top right and the appearance of coloured cursors in the document to highlight the area they’re currently working on…
Comments, follow-ups and ‘reviewing mode’ allow document changes to be suggested without the body of a document being altered.
‘Comments’ allow you to draw attention to, and pose questions about part of a document. To post a comment simply highlight the relevant text, right-click and then select ‘new comment’ from the drop-down menu. Comments then appear on the right-hand side, immediately left of the text or part of a document that is being queried.
‘Follow-ups’ are similar to comments, allowing sections of a document to be highlighted for editing purposes.
‘Reviewing mode’ allows the user to suggest widespread changes to a document without altering the underlying text. This mode can be activated by navigating to the ‘view mode’ box at the top of the window and selecting ‘reviewing’ from the available options.
Alterations made in this mode will be highlighted in red. The document owner can then review all changes, choosing whether to implement or reject suggestions by right-clicking on the selected text.
Co-authoring within Teams
In addition to the co-authoring features discussed above, editing a file within teams also allows a conversation to be started alongside the document. Select ‘conversation’ from the banner at the top of the document and a chat window will appear on the right.
While deceptively simplistic on the surface, Teams’ user-friendly interface belies a huge range of useful features designed to make collaboration easier. Taking a little time to explore some of these productivity-boosting tools could help make your remote team more effective.
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