13 New Microsoft Teams Features that Enhance the User Experience

Microsoft is constantly making updates and improvements to Microsoft Teams. With Teams continuously evolving, it can be difficult to stay on top of product enhancements. Over the past year, there were several exciting upgrades made to Microsoft Teams that caught our eye that we want to share with you!

If these updates didn’t catch your attention, or you missed out on them, you may want to give them second look so that you’re not missing out on a feature that could be beneficial to your organization.


Creating tasks from messages on Microsoft Teams

We’ve all been there – someone messages you on MS Teams asking you to do something and it gets lost in a conversation or you completely forget about it. But this year, Microsoft made it so that you won’t miss a task by enabling users to create a ‘to do’ task out of a MS Teams message automatically.

Prior to this feature, Teams users had to copy and paste the information manually to create a task. Now, users can quickly assign tasks directly from any chat/channel conversation in Microsoft Teams, eliminating the need to switch apps or windows.

Microsoft has also made the process as simple as possible. All you have to do is navigate to the message you wish to turn into a task, click ‘More Options,’ and click on ‘Create Task’. From there, a Planner window will open prompting you to fill in the details. Once you’ve created the task, it’ll appear in the Tasks app, Teams, and Microsoft Planner.

We love this feature because it makes task management easy and seamless, ensuring you never forget a ‘to do’.

Pinning chat messages for quick reference

Have you received a message before with important information you wanted to access again, but couldn’t find it? Same.

Microsoft has made it easy for you to access an important post in a channel by giving you the option to pin it. Whether you want to pin something for yourself to reference later or pin an important announcement for others to quickly reference in Teams, it’s now available and easy to do.

Navigate to the message you’d like to pin, click the ‘…’ menu on the message and select ‘Pin’. All pinned items in a channel can be found in the channel info pane.

We find this feature extremely helpful and convenient because it makes referencing an important message easy, quick, and efficient.

Approvals App in Teams

If you frequently need to get approvals from your coworkers, or they need you to approve things, Microsoft’s new Approvals App for Teams is going to save you a lot of time and hassle.

No more attaching a document to an email and sending it off for approval, resulting in an endless chain of emails everyone needs to slog through, making it almost unavoidable that something will get lost, ignored, or misinterpreted. The Approvals app brings the approvals process right into Teams, where we’re communicating and collaborating already. It’s cleaner and easier to view all the comments and get an idea of where you are in the process at a glance. Plus, it’s quick and easy to create an Approval template using out-of-the-box templates, or make your templates right in the app, so you can keep approval requests uniform.

This is something a lot of users had been requesting, so it’s great to see Microsoft respond to the demand.

Accessing files on the go from mobile devices

Whether you’re on the road traveling for work, or simply away from your computer, you likely have run into a situation where you’ve needed to access files but haven’t been able to due to connectivity issues.

Microsoft Teams now allows you to access files offline from your mobile device! This enables you to access shared files, including Office documents, without an internet connection so you can continue to collaborate effortlessly from anywhere.

Why do we love this feature? It simply makes life easier. Being able to access files and documents from a mobile device whether we do or don’t have WIFI ensures that there is no interruption or delay when working.

Microsoft Teams on PhoneChange the default method of opening Office files

 Previously, when a colleague shared a Word doc, Excel sheet, or PowerPoint presentation with you via Teams, the file would automatically open in Teams by default. For a variety of reasons, this isn’t always the best option.

Thankfully, with this update, you can set a default method of opening Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files within Teams. If you’re using the Teams app, you can set files to open by default in your browser, desktop app or view within Teams. If you’re using Teams on the web, you’ll be able to choose to open in the browser or opening within Teams. This may seem like a minor change, but it’s little improvements like this that really add up to impact user experience in a positive way.

Recognizing colleagues for a job well done with Praise

Sometimes if an employee or colleague goes above and beyond, a simple ‘thank you’ just doesn’t seem like its enough. Microsoft Teams enables you to publicly (or privately) recognize a colleague for a job well done with Praise.

Praise is a fun way to give someone a shout-out by allowing you to send Praise badges in chat and/or teams/channels. You can choose a Microsoft pre-made badge or create a custom badge.

MS Teams makes it easy and fun to recognize colleagues for their outstanding performance. All you have to do is select the user(s) you wish to send praise to, enter a personalized message to go with the badge, choose/create the badge and send!

This feature is great because it encourages employees to recognize their peers for doing good work whichcreates a positive culture of recognition. It then creates a domino effect; the more colleagues see others get recognized, the more they are going to want to go above and beyond to contribute and participate.

We can’t sing this feature’s praises enough 😉

Setting an out of office status in MS Teams

With more people relying on communication and collaboration apps such as Microsoft Teams, it’s greatly reduced the number of internal emails that are being sent. With Microsoft Teams, communication can be instantaneous, whereas with email there is a delay.

Because of this, team members are sooner going to try to contact you via MS Teams than email. But what if you’re away from your desk for a long period of time, or out of office entirely? Sure, you can set up an automated OOO email… but your colleague isn’t likely to see it when they aren’t relying on email to communicate. Enter: out of office status in Microsoft Teams.

Now you can set an OOO reminder in MS Teams. What this does is notifies other team members that a specific user is unavailable by sending an automated OOO message when reached.

Setting this up is easy and similar to how you would do it with an email. First, you navigate to their profile. From there, you can select ‘Set Status Message’ and write the automated message you’d like to be sent out. You can also enter the date range you’ll be OOO and have the message expire on a specified date.

We like this feature because it’s a quick way to figure out a team member’s availability, without having to check multiple different programs.

Real-time meeting captions & speaker attribution

With the rise in remote working throughout the pandemic, many organizations began to rely on video messaging platforms for meetings. Video messaging has made the transition to remote work smooth, however, it doesn’t always go perfectly. Sometimes people’s WIFI connections can be unstable or they don’t have the best computer equipment, such as mics and speakers. And for whatever reason, it can be difficult to hear.

Recently, Microsoft Teams unveiled live captions for video meetings. This enables captions to appear in real-time as the speaker is talking. Microsoft took it a step further and also enabled speaker attribution—so you’ll not only see what’s being said, but who is saying it.  This is a great feature, especially for any hearing-impaired meeting participants. MS Teams also gives you the ability to select the language of your captions, with it supporting up to 28 languages.

To use this feature, simply go to your meeting controls and select ‘more options’ and then ‘turn on live captions’. From there, you can change the language of the captions by selecting ‘caption settings’.

Alerting meeting participants of chat messages in Teams meetings with chat bubbles

When on a Teams meeting, it isn’t always noticeable when the chat is being used. Because of this, comments or questions relevant to the conversation could be missed. To overcome this, Microsoft introduced the chat bubble feature earlier this year (July 2021).

The chat bubble feature makes it so that chats sent during a Teams meeting will appear on the screens of all meeting participants, making it easier to see chat messages during a meeting.

We like this feature because it allows all meeting participants to get involved in the conversation without having their questions or comments unintentionally skipped.

You don’t need to do anything to access this feature as it is enabled by default. However, if you don’t want to use it, you have the option to disable it. To disable it in a meeting, use the ‘more’ button in the Teams meeting action bar and select ‘don’t show chat bubbles’.

Enhancing the meeting experience with Standout Mode

Microsoft Teams recently introduced several new presenter modes for meetings that enhance the video meeting experience and, in our opinion, make meetings more engaging and less boring (sorry not sorry). One of those is Standout Mode.

Standout Mode essentially lets the speaker float above the meeting content as a silhouette on top of a slide deck so your video feed is overlaid to your content. This is similar functionality to social media apps TikTok and SnapChat when a user can choose a background and overlay their live image onto it.

We love this feature because it just makes meetings and webinars that much more engaging. It gives you the ability to really customize your video feed and presentation content, bringing your presentation to the next level.

Using Standout Mode is simple. All you need to do to access it is during an MS Teams meeting or webinar, click on the ‘sharing screen’ icon and from there click on ‘standout mode’. That’s it!

Accessing post-meeting attendance and data in an easy-to-view dashboard

Whether you’re using Microsoft Teams for internal meetings, online education or sales webinars, you’re likely to have benefitted from being able to pull a clear report of who attended. Earlier this year, Microsoft made that possible with their new post-meeting attendance dashboard.

With this dashboard, meeting organizers can access the attendance report data in a more organized and aesthetically pleasing format. It makes it easier for meeting organizers to see attendance data, especially those hosting webinars. You can see how many attendees registered, how many actually attended, and if any non-registrants attended.

You can access this information by navigating to the ‘attendance tab’ after the meeting is finished.

Pre-creating breakout rooms and pre-assigning participants

Now that so many organizations have gone fully remote due to the pandemic, group workshops can be trickier to execute. If you’re hosting a company-wide virtual meeting and wish to create specific breakout rooms for workshops that have at least one person from every department in them, creating a breakout room often just randomizes the participants.

However, Microsoft Teams recently rolled out the ability for meeting organizers to pre-create breakout rooms with assigned presenters. This gives you the ability to create rooms in advance of a meeting and carry out participant assignment tasks prior to the meeting.

Before a meeting starts, meeting organizers will be able to access a new tab in the scheduling form called ‘breakout rooms’ that will enable you to pre-create breakout rooms in advance and pre-assign participants.

Saving meeting recordings on OneDrive instead of Stream

Finally, we wanted to mention that MS Teams meeting recordings now save on OneDrive instead of Stream. This doesn’t affect any of your previously recorded meetings as you’ll still be able to access them in Stream. But any meetings recorded after August 16th will show up in OneDrive.

This is a welcomed update because of the increased storage space in OneDrive. It’s also much easier to set permissions and sharing in OneDrive, so you can ensure that certain meetings can only be accessed by the intended audience. And overall, OneDrive just makes meeting recordings available quicker.

In Conclusion…

Over the past year, Microsoft Teams has seen many improvements, upgrades, and feature releases that enhance the overall user experience. We’ve been loving these 13 features and wanted to highlight them for our readers to make sure you’re getting the most out of your MS Teams.

Let us know in the comments which of these features you’ve been enjoying or are excited to use!

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