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How to use Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams is proving to be a very robust competitor to Slack and Zoom. Integrations with other Microsoft apps and cloud services make it a great choice, and learning how to use Microsoft Teams isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think (even for large companies). We put together this quick beginner’s guide for those new to the platform. Here you’ll learn all of the basic tasks you need to know, plus a few advanced tutorials for things like virtual meeting backgrounds and more.
Microsoft Teams lets you create teams and channels, schedule and host meetings, share your screen and presentations, and install third-party apps.
JUMP TO KEY SECTIONS
- What is Microsoft Teams?
- Is Microsoft Teams free?
- Microsoft Teams pricing
- Download the Microsoft Teams apps
- How to create a Team
- How to start a Microsoft Teams chat
- Create a meeting
- How to join a meeting
- How to share your screen in a meeting
- Delete a chat message
- Install third-party apps
- How to change your Teams meeting background
What is Microsoft Teams?
Microsoft Teams is a productivity and collaboration tool that integrates into the larger Microsoft 365 platform. It has features for communicating with organizations, private chats with individuals and groups, video meetings and conferences, etc.
Teams replaced Skype for Business and Microsoft Classroom, incorporating all those features into a single platform. It’s an excellent option for both companies and educators, competing with Slack, Facebook Workplace, and even G Suite.
In addition to all of the standard chat and video call options that you’d expect from a program like Skype, Teams lets you set up teams of people. One team can contain up to 500,000 individual users. You can then break these teams down into more specific channels with threaded posts to keep everything organized.
Is Microsoft Teams free?
Microsoft Teams is entirely free to use, although paid plans have more features. The free version includes meetings and video calls, 2GB of storage per user, and web access to popular Office apps like Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.
The paid version adds meeting recordings, more storage per user (up to unlimited, depending on the plan), desktop versions of all Office apps, better security, and more administrative tools for your Team. Depending on what you want to use Teams for, you may be able to stay with the free version indefinitely.
Microsoft Teams pricing
For businesses, or if you want even more out of Microsoft Teams, three paid Microsoft 365 pricing plans are available. The cheapest starts at $6 a month (if you pay for a year upfront) and adds valuable features like meeting recordings and more storage (up to 1TB per user) for shared files. You also get more security features and 24-hour support.
Jumping up to the Microsoft 365 Business Standard plan will unlock desktop versions of all popular Office apps. This makes it ideal for many businesses, although it doesn’t add any new Microsoft Teams-specific features compared to the cheaper plan.
The final plan is aimed primarily at large businesses and, again, doesn’t add much to the Teams experience. The only significant additions are unlimited cloud storage and the ability to host online events for up to 10,000 people. Learn more about pricing plans at the link below.
How to download the Microsoft Teams app
Although you don’t need to download the desktop or mobile apps to use Microsoft Teams, staying connected is convenient. To get it, click here and select the right option for you. You can also download the mobile apps directly from the Google Play Store or iOS App Store.
How to create a Team
The first thing you need to do (unless you’re joining an existing team) is creating a team. Even if you are joining a company team, you may want to make another one to chat with groups of friends.
- Open the Teams tab on the left-hand side.
- Click Join or Create a team at the bottom of the screen.
- Choose whether to Build a team from scratch or pull in contacts from an existing group or team.
- Select privacy settings: Private, Public, or Org-wide.
- Enter a name and description.
- Click Create team.
Once in the team, you’ll see the main team chat with a list of channels below. Channels are group chats around a single theme. You can also have private chats with individuals or groups.
How to start and pop out a chat
Channels are great for sharing information with your entire team, but chats are the better option for quick questions to colleagues. They’re private, easy to keep organized, and much more likely to get a response than a channel post.
Here’s how to start a Microsoft Teams chat:
- Open the Chat tab on the left-hand side.
- Click New Chat at the top of the screen.
- Enter the person’s name and write your message.
- Hit the send arrow.
The steps for creating a group chat are virtually identical. Just click the small arrow on the right-hand side to give the group a name, then enter all participants in the To field. You can also add more people to a one-to-one or group chat by clicking the Add People button. You can even choose whether or not to include the chat history.
You can do a few other things to make chats even more convenient. The first is pinning them by mousing over the chat, clicking the more options icon, then Pin. This will make sure it’s always at the top of the list.
Another helpful thing to learn is how to pop out a chat in Microsoft Teams. This gives that chat its own window so that you can have more than one chat open at a time. Click the more options icon, then Pop-out chat.
How to create a meeting
Chatting is great for quick messages, but sometimes a face-to-face conversation is a better option. Thankfully, it just takes a moment to learn how to create a meeting in Microsoft Teams, whether it’s with one person or 20.
Read also: How to look your best for webcam meetings
There are two ways to set up a meeting — starting one instantly or scheduling one for a later time. The easiest way for quick calls is to open a chat and click the Schedule a meeting button (it looks like a calendar with a plus sign). This automatically invites the other party and works in group chats as well.
For everything else, the process of setting up a meeting in Teams is similar to what you’re used to from Outlook:
- Open the Calendar tab on the left-hand side.
- Click New Meeting in the top right corner.
- Enter the details of your meeting.
- Click Save.
You can also create a meeting from a channel, automatically inviting all channel members. If you’re having trouble finding a suitable time, you can check the scheduling assistant tab at the upper part of the screen to see the invitees’ schedules. You can create and share a Teams meeting link if you like.
How to join a meeting
Joining a meeting is even easier and works just like you’d expect if you’ve used Outlook:
- Open the Calendar tab on the left-hand side.
- Select the meeting and click Join.
- Adjust your video and audio settings.
- Click Join Now.
You can also click the Join Microsoft Teams Meeting link in the email invite. Depending on the meeting settings, you’ll join the meeting right away or enter a waiting room until someone lets you in. Don’t forget to change your Teams background if you want to look more professional (or less professional, depending on the background you choose).
How to share your screen in a meeting
Sharing files in a Microsoft Teams channel is great, but you need to share your screen in a meeting if you want to run through it in person. Teams make it easy to do this. It even has built-in integration with PowerPoint for easy business presentations.
- In a meeting, click Share at the top right corner next to the Leave button (you may need to move your mouse).
- Select the screen, window, or document to share.
- A red border appears around the content you’re actively sharing.
- When finished, click Stop Sharing in the bottom right.
If you don’t have the document you want to share open, you can also click the Browse button in the sharing menu to find it. In general, it’s better to share a specific window or document instead of your whole desktop.
How to delete a chat
Whether you want to clean up your Chats tab or get rid of mistaken messages, there will come a time when you need to learn how to delete Microsoft Teams chats. You have two options — delete specific messages (only your own), or hide the entire chat.
To delete a specific post in a chat or channel, mouse over it and click the more options icon, then click Delete. If you do this by mistake, you can also undo the deletion. Again, you can only delete your own posts, and any nested replies from your colleagues will still appear.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to delete an entire chat in Microsoft Teams, but you can do the next best thing — hide it. Just mouse over the chat, click the more options icon, then Hide. It will now disappear from your list, cleaning up visual clutter. This works for channels, but they’ll all be hidden in a list.
How to install apps
Apps and connectors are a great way to add specific functions to Teams. They take a second to install, and you can add them for just yourself or your entire team. There are three places to install apps, and each of them performs a different function.
The first is in the sidebar, which is customized just for you. If someone else in your organization adds the same app, they may share information (with apps like Trello, for example), but others (like OneNote) will only show your files. You can add these by clicking the apps button at the bottom left of the screen.
The second place to add apps is a tab, which shows up for everyone in a Team at the top of the page. There are a few default tabs like posts, files, and wiki, but just to the right of those is a plus icon, which is how you can add more. Apps may not look or work the same depending on where they’re added.
The final place is directly in the chat window, appearing next to options for formatting, emojis, attachments, and more. Just click the more options icon, then select the app to add. Teams will automatically pull up the list with the messaging filter applied if you click more apps.
How to change your Teams meeting background
In the current era of telecommuting and working from home, it’s likely that your home office isn’t exactly the most professional environment. This is usually fine, but you might want something discreet for client meetings or video conferences with your boss. That’s where Microsoft Teams virtual backgrounds come in.
There are two ways to change your Teams meeting background: One with a simple blur or one with a background image. Both take just a few seconds to set up. Not all hardware supports this, so you may need to upgrade your camera if the option doesn’t appear.
You can change your background before or after a meeting starts, but the steps are pretty much the same:
- In the meeting controls menu, click the more options icon.
- Select Show background effects.
- Choose a blurred background or virtual background image.
- (Optional) Click Add new at the top of the background settings window to add your own photos.
If you add your own image, make sure it’s sufficiently high quality, or it may look too blurry. For business use, you should also avoid using copyrighted photos or imagery.
Yes, Teams is HIPAA and GDPR compliant, but administrators may need to take some extra steps. An Office 365 E5 business subscription includes access to the Office 365 Security & Compliance Center, which provides a host of tools for data management. Learn more here.
Yes, Teams has a few trivia games available as apps. A few popular options are Kahoot! and Quizlet. You can also play Pictionary using the whiteboard feature.
Yes, but you need to set it up in Outlook. Your Out of Office status will carry over to Teams, but your message will appear under your profile instead of an email reply.
Yes, Teams is a part of Microsoft 365 and is included in all subscription plans.
All Microsoft Teams meeting recordings are stored on OneDrive and SharePoint.