Microsoft Teams is Microsoft’s solution for communicating with friends and colleagues. It facilitates the exchange of voice and video calls, messages, files, and the occasional kitten animated GIF.
Still, Microsoft Teams is somewhat more complicated than your average instant messenger. Let’s see how to use it to chat and collaborate with others on Windows 11.
Downloading and installing Microsoft Teams
If you’re using Windows 11, Microsoft Teams should already be installed and ready to use.
In some cases, especially older versions of Windows 11, Teams wouldn’t launch. Usually, downloading and re-installing Microsoft Teams can solve such problems.
- Visit Microsoft Teams’ official page and choose Download for desktop.
- Choose the version of Microsoft Teams you need. For this article, we’ll stick to the Windows 11 version.
Note: depending on your OS, some functions or GUI elements might not be available.
- Install the app by running the downloaded file and following the on-screen prompts.
Signing-in and Syncing
Since Microsoft Teams is a networking app, you need two things to use it: a Microsoft account and contacts.
- With Microsoft Teams installed on your PC, locate it among the rest of the apps in the Start menu, and launch it. Next, click on Sign in on its welcome screen.
- You need a Microsoft account to sign in to Microsoft Teams. We should note that the term “Microsoft account” refers to many Microsoft solutions. It includes Microsoft’s Outlook email as well as Office 365 accounts. If you don’t have any such accounts, you can Create an account from Microsoft Teams’ sign-in window. However, we won’t cover that process here.
- After signing in, Microsoft Teams will ask you to define “how you will appear”. That’s the point where you can enter your name or an alias. Are you using Microsoft Teams for work? It’s better to use the same information your professional contacts know to make it easier for them to find you. Do you want your Outlook and Skype contacts available on Microsoft teams? Leave Sync Outlook.com and Skype contacts to find people I know on Teams enabled. Microsoft Teams will “pull out” information for all your contacts from those apps. Then, it will locate them and add them to your Teams’ contact list, too. Thus, you can bootstrap your Teams experience and skip manually adding hundreds of contacts one by one.
Note: It’s wise to avoid granting others access to your entire contacts list. Still, importing your contacts from Skype and Outlook to Teams isn’t particularly a security risk as the same company, Microsoft owns all three products.
Microsoft Teams’ primary use is chatting with others. So, it’s no surprise that this is the first option presented on its Welcome screen. You can also schedule a meeting or invite others from this window. For now, though, let’s see how chat works in action.
- Microsoft Teams’ chat window isn’t different from what you’d expect from other messaging apps. On the left, you can find lists of recent chats and contacts. You’ll also find options to a) Sync and b) Invite to Teams more contacts. The chat itself takes up the largest area of the window. It’s empty on our screenshot since we’re just getting started with the app. At the bottom of the window, there’s the entry field where you can type new messages. Under it, and on a menu line while typing, you’ll find extra controls. With those, you can tweak the messages’ structure and looks.
- To invite more people to Teams, use the options on the left. You can also add others to an ongoing chat by clicking on the people icon on the top right of the window. From there, select Add people from the menu that pops up. Then, type their name, email, or phone number in the entry field. Finally, click on Add, and they’ll get an invitation to join you.
- Microsoft Teams will assign a generic name to each chat. After a while, you will find yourself trying to make heads or tails in a sea of similar chatroom names. That’s why it’s worth changing each chatroom’s name. To do that, first, click on the edit button with the pencil icon. It’s next to the chat’s title at the top of the window. Then, type a new Group name to make the particular conversation easier to identify.
- You can also assign a small picture to a chat to render it easier to identify. To do that, click on the little icon on the left of its name. An overlay will pop up, allowing you to choose from a small list of emojis and other icons. If you don’t like the available options, use the Upload picture button to use any local image.
- For an easy way to invite more people to Microsoft Teams, click on the people icon on the top right of its window. Then, click on Get link to chat. You can use that link afterward wherever you want to invite others to join that chat. You can, for example, send it to a contact with an email or share it on a forum.
Microsoft Teams has more features than your average chat app. Among them is its options for “styling” your messages using proper text-editing controls.
- As you can see in our screenshot, you can mark text strings as bold, italics, underline, or strikethrough. Various font sizes, bulleted or ordered lists, quotes, and links are on the menu, too.
- Do you want to share a file with other people in the same chat? You can use the button with the paperclip icon under the text entry field to select and attach it to a message. It’s even easier to drag and drop a file from another app (like Windows File Explorer) on the text entry field.
- Microsoft Teams doesn’t treat images like other attached files. Instead of links to the files, Microsoft Teams shows previews for all images uploaded to the chat.
- By clicking on an image preview, Microsoft Teams will display the entire image in an overlay over the chat. You can use the buttons on the top right of this overlay to zoom in or out, crop, or download the image.
- The third button under the text entry field gives access to a vast collection of emojis. You can go through them to locate the one to use. However, it’s easier to comb through them with the buttons at the bottom of the emoji window. Alternatively, you can use the Search function at the top of the window.
- Embedding an animated GIF from GIPHY works similarly to emojis. You can use the search field at the top of the floating window to locate the GIF you want to embed in your message.
- The fifth button under the text entry field allows you to create and add polls to your messages.
- You can click on any text string in the poll window to customize it. To add more answers to the poll, use Add option below the answers list. If you want others to be able to choose more than one answer, flick the switch Multiple answers to its On state. Finally, click on Preview to check how your final poll will look.
- While previewing your poll, click on the Edit button if you wish to tweak it further. If you’re happy with how it looks, use Send instead to publish it to the chat.
- After a conversation goes on for a while, you and others might have uploaded many files or photos. You don’t have to go through the whole discussion, scrolling up and down, to find them. Instead, use the Files and Photos groups next to the active chat’s name.
- The Photos list presents previews for all images in the particular chat.
Identity & Status
You can easily change your identity (name/alias) on the app and change your online status in case you need to leave the chat temporarily. Click on your account’s thumbnail on the top right of the window to access this section.
- You’ll see the default Available status below your account’s name and thumbnail. Click on that if you want to change it to Appear Away or Appear Offline.
- The Set status message option allows you to define a custom status message. You can type anything you wish, as long as it fits within 280 characters. Leave the dropdown menu set to Never to keep this message forever, or choose when you’d like it to “reset”.
Video and audio calls
Chatting through text is the best option for large teams. However, audio and video are better for small groups and one-on-one communication. It’s more straightforward and more direct. And like most of its peers, Microsoft Teams supports voice and video calling.
You can start an audio or video call by clicking the appropriate icon at the top right of the chat window. Audio/video calls appear in a separate window.
At the top left of the window, you can see how long you’ve been in the video chat. Various buttons are on the top right of the window (and a menu). Those are, from left to right:
- Show participants in the chat.
- Show conversation (text chat)
- More actions menu, from where you can:
- Change device settings.
- Place a gallery at top.
- Focus on content.
- Expand the video chat to full screen.
- Apply background effects to obfuscate your actual background.
- Turn on live captions.
- Turn off incoming video.
- Place the chat on hold.
- Turn camera off to stop streaming video to the other participants.
- Mute your microphone to stop transmitting audio.
- Share content to transmit a video stream of a window or the whole screen to the other chat members.
You can click on Leave to exit the video chat.
If you’d like more control over how Microsoft Teams works, it’s time to look into the app’s settings.
- Click on the button with the three dots on the top right of the Microsoft Teams window and select Settings.
- Microsoft Teams’ settings are organized in groups, accessible from a list on the left. The General category contains only one option, from which you can choose if you’d like Microsoft Teams to launch automatically.
- From Settings > Notifications, you can control message previews and notifications. You can also change how notifications look and sound from Windows notification settings.
- On Appearance and accessibility, you can change the app’s theme. You can also turn animations on or off and change the app’s display language.
- Settings > Privacy is where you can manage contact sync settings and blocked users. From Sync contacts, you can choose the sources where your contacts can be “pulled” from and added to Microsoft Teams – for example, mobile devices, Outlook, Skype, etc. The Manage blocked users entry enables you to add annoying users to a “black list”. They won’t be able to call or see you in Microsoft Teams. You can also choose which of your contact details will be “searchable” to control how others find you. Enable or disable Read receipts to be updated when others read your messages. Keep in mind that they’ll be able to tell when you have read their messages, too.
- Finally, we’ll skip the Plans and upgrades page. That page’s sole purpose is to provide a path for upgrading the free Microsoft Teams app to its “Premium” tier. The paid tier comes with functional upgrades, like increased OneDrive storage.
Calendar & Meetings
Today’s modern “workplace” is spread all around the globe, among multiple timezones. Microsoft Teams is great for chatting with others but useless if nobody’s around for a chat. That’s why it includes the ability to schedule meetings – and, to an extent, manage your whole calendar.
- On the left of its window, click on Calendar to see Microsoft Teams’ take on an Outlook-like calendar view. If you’ve signed in to Microsoft Teams with your Outlook account, you’ll find it has automatically imported your Outlook calendar here.
- Is your calendar pre-populated with events “pulled” from an existing Outlook calendar? You can click on them to see more details or edit them. To create one from scratch, click on the New meeting button on the top right of Microsoft Teams’ window.
- When creating or editing an entry Microsoft Teams’ presents a Details page. From there, you can define a meeting’s name, starting/ending time, location, and add some extra notes.
Teams as an Instant Messaging Solution
Do you find Microsoft Teams too convoluted for your liking? You can ignore most of its features and use it as a straightforward instant messenger!
- Click on the button on the top right of a chat to have it pop out into a separate, uncomplicated window.
- This standalone window hides most of Microsoft Teams’ features one could deem “confusing”. Instead, like a simple messaging solution, it only offers the essentials for exchanging messages.
- Left-clicking on its Windows 11 taskbar icon launches Microsoft Teams in its simplified form. To get the complete Microsoft Teams experience, you’ll have to launch the app from the Start menu or a desktop shortcut. Alternatively, you can click on the app’s taskbar icon and select Open Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft Teams is only getting more popular as more people upgrade to Windows 11. Yes, there are alternatives, and depending on your needs, some might be better than Microsoft Teams. But it’s good to have messaging software already available on your OS.
Microsoft Teams is also available on older versions of Windows (from 8.1 and up), macOS, Chrome OS, Linux (in .deb and .rpm formats), iOS, and Android. So, even your coworkers who won’t jump to the latest version of Windows will be able to use it.