blog.frederique.harmsze.nl my world of work and user experiences

May 31, 2020

Developments I like in Microsoft Teams

Filed under: Digital Workplace — Tags: , — frederique @ 10:54

Microsoft is accelerating the development of Teams, to cater for our needs in remote meetings and conversations. Teams was already the go-to tool for online collaboration for the enthusiasts. But now that so many of us are working from home, it has become indispensable for a lot of people. So it is absolutely necessary that the tool works easily, seamlessly and robustly. After all, there are so many new users who are not particularly computer savvy and who just want to get their jobs done in these difficult circumstances. Well, Microsoft is working on it! There are quite a few new and newish developments. Let us discuss a few.

In Team meetings

1.Raise your hand

Large online meetings get very messy if everyone just activates their microphone and jumps in. What you need is a moderator who can give people the floor – or rather: the microphone – one by one, when they want to ask a question or contribute something.

Fortunately, we now have the option to raise our hand digitally: you use the hand icon and the label explictly says this is to raise your hand. Very classroom isn’t it? I would not be surprised if this option was asked for by the educational community. But it is also handy (sorry…) to be able to raise your hand in an enterprise meeting. I recently attended a Teams meeting where I did not have permission to use the chat, as I was not a member of the Team where the meeting was organised, but I was still able to ask my question by raising my hand and activating my microphone when the speaker addressed me.

Click the hand in the toolbar to raise your hand; clicking again lowers it. The presenter/moderator is prompted with a number on the people icon that somebody raised their hand, and sees who it is.

Click the hand in the toolbar to raise your hand; clicking again lowers it. The presenter/moderator is prompted with a number on the people icon that somebody raised their hand, and sees who it is.

2.Up to 9 video feeds in the main screen

When I am conducting a meeting, I often share my screen to allow the participants to see my presentation or my demo. But we also have “talk meetings”, where we just have a conversation without any slides or demo or anything. For example, the virtual coffee breaks that we are having regularly these days…

In Microsoft Teams, you could see up to four video feeds of participants, in a 2×2 format. Since two weeks, we get see up to nine video feeds in the main screen of the meeting: 3×3. And if there are less people, the video tiles are distributed neatly. Ok, if you have more people in your meeting than nine, the participants who do not talk are still only displayed as thumbnails at the bottom. But still, nine is better than four, and it is just matter of time before we get more…

3.Choose your own background in your video feed

I am working from home these days, and conducting my meetings online. I often switch on the camera, so that I can look my colleagues in the eye. After all, this is the only way we can see each other. But that does not mean that I want to show them my messy home office. Or the living room where I’ve also put my laundry out to dry.

Fortunately, showing my face does not imply I have to show my room. Earlier this year, we got the option to blur the background of our video feed. And a month or so ago Microsoft added the option to select a background image, to make your video feed more attractive.

So far, however, there is no button to upload your image, to make your video feed not only more attractive but also more personal. But you can “hack” the image collection and add your own photos via Windows Explorer: just put your pictures on your computer in C:\Users\[you]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads (please note, most people don’t see the Appdata folder, so go there by entering %AppData% in the address bar. I have resized and cropped my photos to the same size as the Microsoft images: 1920×1080 pixels, because otherwise the horizon was in the wrong place.

Teams-Meeting-MyBackground-app

Click the ellipsis (the …) to get the option to use background effects. There you can select an image.

Update June 2020: And now we also have a button to add our new photos from the Teams-meeting.

Upload your own image to your backgrounds gallery

Upload your own image to your backgrounds gallery

In the chat

4.Read receipts in the chat

I sometimes check if my colleague has read my chat message yet. Since January this year, I get a checkbox icon if the message has been delivered and an eye icon if my colleague has seen my message. Of course seeing does not automatically imply understanding or taking action or anything, but it is a first step towards confirmation.

Note: Only the latest message that has been seen gets an icon, to avoid clutter in your conversation.

Teams-Chat-ReadReceipt-ann

When your colleague has seen the message, you get the eye icon. If he or she has not seen it yet but the message has been sent, you get the check icon.

Also note: You only get these read receipts in the Chat section of Microsoft Teams. Not in a Team channel, where the posts are open to all team members. In a group chat with more than one colleague in the chat section, it looks like the message only counts as read if all participants have seen it.

Teams-ChatGroup-ReadReceipt-add

In a group chat with more than one person, everyone needs to see the message before it is labeled as ‘Seen’.

5.Pop-out a chat

I like multitasking while I am in an online meeting. I know, I have to pay attention to that meeting and I do! But it is efficient if I can ask another colleague for some details or prompt him to finish a related task in a 1-on-1 chat, while still having a full view of, for example, the shared screen in the Teams meeting. I usually have enough space on my monitor to do this. But up until now, the meeting was minimized when I opened a chat.

Fortunately, now I can pop out the chat window and position it next to my Teams window with the meeting. I had already read about it, but I literally saw it for the first time in my environment just now ;-) For now, we get this option in the desktop app; not in the online version or the mobile version of Teams yet. See also Microsoft’s support page Pop out a chat in Teams.

Teams-Chat-Popout-ann

Click the icon to pop out the chat in a separate window, that you can move and resize. If this functionality is available to you, you will see the icon at the top right of the conversation and in the overview when you hover your mouse over the item.

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