How to Use Microsoft Teams on Windows

How to Use Microsoft Teams on Windows

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.

  1. Visit Microsoft Teams’ official page and choose Download for desktop.

    Microsoft Teams Download for Desktop
    Microsoft Teams official site and download link for the desktop version.

  2. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Download Version
    Microsoft Teams download versions

  3. Install the app by running the downloaded file and following the on-screen prompts.

    Microsoft Teams Installation
    Microsoft Teams installation

Signing-in and Syncing

Since Microsoft Teams is a networking app, you need two things to use it: a Microsoft account and contacts.

  1. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Sign In
    Microsoft Teams sign-in window.

  2. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Signing In With Microsoft Account
    Signing in with a Microsoft account

  3. 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 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.

    Microsoft Teams Alias and Contact Syncing
    Microsoft Teams alias and contact syncing

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.

Basic Chat

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 Welcome Screen
Microsoft Teams welcome screen
  1. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Chat Window
    Microsoft Teams chat window

  2. 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 Invitation in Chat
    Microsoft Teams invitation in chat

  3. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Group Name
    Microsoft Teams setting the group name

  4. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Group Picture
    Microsoft Teams setting the group’s picture

  5. 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 Get Link To Chat
    Get link to the chat to invite others

Chat Extras

Microsoft Teams has more features than your average chat app. Among them is its options for “styling” your messages using proper text-editing controls.

  1. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Text Editing
    Microsoft Team’s text editing features in action

  2. 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 Attach File
    Uploading (attaching) a file to the chat

  3. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Attach Image
    Adding images to the chat

  4. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Full Image View
    Microsoft Teams full image preview

  5. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Emojis
    Adding emojis to the chat

  6. Do you want something more impactful than an emoji? The fourth button under the text entry field allows you to embed animated GIFs into your messages. The GIPHY service powers the feature. So, to use it, you’ll be first prompted to accept GIPHY’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

    Microsoft Teams GIPHY Accept
    Microsoft Teams GIPHY prompt

  7. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Animated GIFs
    Adding animated GIFs to the chat

  8. The fifth button under the text entry field allows you to create and add polls to your messages.

    Microsoft Teams Polls Overlay
    Creating a poll in Microsoft Teams

  9. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Custom Poll
    Customizing a poll

  10. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Final Poll
    Customized poll ready to add to the chat

  11. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Chat Files
    Checking files uploaded to the chat

  12. The Photos list presents previews for all images in the particular chat.

    Microsoft Teams Chat Photos
    Checking out the photos uploaded to the 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.

  1. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Status
    Changing user status

  2. 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”.

    Microsoft Teams Set Status Message
    Setting a new status message

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.

Microsoft Teams Video Call
Microsoft Teams video call 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:

  1. Show participants in the chat.

    Microsoft Teams Show Participants
    Video call – show participants button

  2. Show conversation (text chat)

    Microsoft Teams Show Conversation
    Video call – show conversation button

  3. 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.

    Microsoft Teams More Actions Background Settings
    Adding background-altering effects in Microsoft Teams

  1. Turn camera off to stop streaming video to the other participants.

    Microsoft Teams Turn Camera Off
    Video call – turn camera off button

  2. Mute your microphone to stop transmitting audio.

    Microsoft Teams Mute
    Video call – mute mic button

  3. Share content to transmit a video stream of a window or the whole screen to the other chat members.

    Microsoft Teams Share Content
    Video call – share content button

You can click on Leave to exit the video chat.

Teams Settings

If you’d like more control over how Microsoft Teams works, it’s time to look into the app’s settings.

  1. Click on the button with the three dots on the top right of the Microsoft Teams window and select Settings.

    Microsoft Teams Settings Entry
    Accessing Microsoft Teams’ settings from its main menu

  2. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Settings General
    Microsoft Teams settings – “General” page

  3. From Settings > Notifications, you can control message previews and notifications. You can also change how notifications look and sound from Windows notification settings.

    Microsoft Teams Settings Notifications
    Microsoft Teams settings – “Notifications” page

  4. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Settings Appearance and Accessibility
    Microsoft Teams settings – “Appearance and accessibility” page

  5. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Settings Privacy
    Microsoft Teams settings – “Privacy” page

  6. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Settings Plans and Upgrades
    Microsoft Teams settings – “Plans and upgrades” page

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.

  1. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Calendar
    Microsoft Teams calendar with imported meetings from Outlook

  2. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Calendar Entry Details
    Checking a calendar entry’s details

  3. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Calendar Entry Editing
    Customizing a calendar entry (meeting)

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!

  1. Click on the button on the top right of a chat to have it pop out into a separate, uncomplicated window.

    Microsoft Teams Display Chat in Standalone Window
    Display Microsoft Teams chat in a standalone window

  2. 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.

    Microsoft Teams Chat Standalone Window
    Microsoft Teams chat as a standalone window

  3. 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 Windows 11 Taskbar Integration
    Microsoft Teams Windows 11 taskbar integration

Integrated Communication

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.

Erik is a full-time product quality engineer at the IBM who has a passion for teaching others (and always learning) about technology. He has a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science and Engineering from Eindhoven University of Technology. Erik is the chief editor for Windows, Linux and coding tutorials.

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