The complete guide to start using Microsoft Teams in 2021

Quick links to teams topics

Microsoft Teams Basics

Posts Pane  Pin Messages in Teams

Wiki in Teams  Add Apps to Teams

Meetings in Teams  Schedule a Meeting

Chat Pane  Activity Pane


Downloading and Installing Microsoft Teams

If your computer has Teams installed, you are one step ahead of the game.  You can check to see if you have Teams by clicking the Start button and typing Teams.  If you see the Teams application listed, you’re all set.

If you do not have Teams installed, you can download Teams for free by on the Web.

You will be required to log into your business or educational account.  Unfortunately, Teams can’t be used with personal email accounts.

Once you have logged in, you can use the Web version of Teams, but you will have a more feature-rich experience using the app installed version for your operating system.

To use the installed version of Teams, click the link “Get the Windows app”.  Depending on your browser, follow the download to the save location and run the downloaded installer file.

If you wish to receive the latest updates to Teams automatically, you can download and install Teams from the Microsoft Store.

NOTE: Teams is also available for Mac, iOS, and Android platforms.



Getting Acquainted with the Teams Environment

Opening Teams will place you in the Teams section of the App Bar (left side of the screen).  There are several apps to choose from:

  • Activity
  • Chat
  • Teams
  • Calendar
  • Calls
  • Files

Manage app setup policies in Microsoft Teams - Microsoft Teams | Microsoft Docs

Apps can be added to the app list by clicking the Options (ellipse) button at the bottom.

Once an app has been added, you can right-click the app to pin it to the app list to ensure it remains visible.

How to customize the Microsoft Teams app bar - TechRepublic


Enterprise versus Educational

Depending on the email you used to log into Teams, You will either see the Enterprise layout or the Educational layout.

Let’s look at some of the apps in the App List.


The Teams App

In the Teams app, we can see a list of the teams we are assigned to in the List Pane.  We can see in this example that this person is a member of 4 teams.

Usually, each team involves different members.  Your view of the team is dictated by your rights.  The manager(s) of the team will determine what items you have access to and what you can do with those items.


Use Teams Channels

Channels are where you communicate with your team members.  Each channel begins with a default single channel named “General”.

Each additional channel within a team is for a specific task or topic within that team’s scope.

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Add a Channel

To add a channel to a team (1), hover over the channel name to select the Options button (2) and select “Add channel” (3). Give the channel a name and possibly a description.  All team members can participate in the new channel.

The default is that everyone in the team will have access to the channel.  If you would like to restrict the channel to select members, you can set the Privacy level to “Private” (4) which would allow you to curate the members list. To finish click “Next” (5).

Microsoft Teams Private Channel | JiJi Technologies


If you want to add icons to the channel name and you are running Windows 10, you can press the Windows-period key combination to open the Emojis panel.


Adding Members to a Team

If you are the team owner, you can add members to the team by selecting the team Options button and selecting “Add Member”.

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You can add members by typing a portion of their name.  Once located, you can select the member and click “Send Request”.

You can also add someone with an email outside of your company address book by entering their email address.

You can tell a channel has a guest(s) by the guest count indicator located at the top-right of the window.


Unread Conversations

If you see a channel name in bold, it means there are conversations you have yet to read.



The Posts Pane

The Content Pane displays details of the item selected from the List Pane.

The Content Pane displays all the ongoing conversations and allows you to respond in kind.

Hovering over a message reveals a popup that you can react to via emoji or select the Options button to do any of the following:

  • Save
  • Edit
  • Delete
  • Mark as unread
  • Share with Outlook
  • Translate
  • Read with Immersive Reader

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Translation Feature

If you are conversing with users of different languages, you can easily translate the message by selecting the Options button and click “Translate”.

What's New in Microsoft Teams | May 2020 - Microsoft Tech Community

Translated messages are displayed with an icon to indicate they have been translated.

To revert to the original language, click the Options button and select “See Original Message”.

Teams Tip 2: Auto-translating your conversations - Ytria - We Solve Your IT Problems



Starting a New Conversation

A new conversation can be started by clicking the New Conversation button located at the bottom of the Content Pane. You can type your in the box.  NOTE: As the ENTER key will send your message, if you need to add line breaks in your message, use the key combination SHIFT-ENTER.

Send a message to a channel in Teams - Office Support


To reply to a channel message, select the little Reply link underneath the message.


Formatting a Message

Select the Format button will open the text formatting tools.

Format Chats | CustomGuide


Adding Special Features to a Message

Selecting the Options button during message composition will reveal a host of special features that can be added to the message.


Simultaneous Message Posting

If you need to post the same message to multiple channels, click the “Select Channel” button to be presented with a list of channels.

posting the same message to all teams at the same time - Microsoft Community

From here, select as many channels as needed.  This will display the message in all selected channels without the need for writing the same message multiple times.

How to Post to Multiple Channels in Teams - Office 365 for IT Pros


Announcement vs Conversations

By default, messages are displayed as conversations.  You can change a message to an announcement to bring more attention to the message.

The message can have a background color set or even an image added for more visual impact.

Select New Conversation -> Announcement to convert the message to an announcement.

Publishing announcements in Teams | by Juan Carlos González | REgarding 365



Mentioning Others

Tagging is where you have a notification sent to a team member to alert them to your message.  To tag someone, enter an “@”, then select the user from an offered list or enter their name to locate them in the client list.

If you need to send everyone in the channel a notification, mention the channel name.

Posts, Chat, and Meetings | How To KU



Managing Notifications

If you have ever owned a cell phone, you know how quickly you can become overwhelmed by notifications.

To manage your channel notifications, select the Options button for the channel (1), and click “Channel Notifications” (2).

Microsoft Teams Q&A: Your top Teams questions answered

You can turn off notifications, be notified for any channel activity, or create a custom notification scheme to meet your needs.



Pinning a Message

Pinning a message provides a way to return to a message long after it has scrolled out of view.  Think of it like bookmarking a message.

To pin a message, select the Options button for the message and click “Pin”.

Pinned messages will be displayed with a green side-border as well as a pin icon.

If a pinned message is no longer visible due to the progression of the conversation, select the Channel Information icon (top-right of windows) to view a list of the pinned messages.

Clicking on a pinned message will return you to the point in the conversation where that message was presented.

You can UNPIN a message by selecting the Options button for the pinned message and selecting “Unpin”.


Adding File Attachments

You can attach files to a message in the same way you attach files to an email message.

Click the Attach button (paper clip) to be presented with a list of sources by which to select files.



Adding Fun Things to Messages

Some of the more entertaining things to add to messages come in the form of Emojis, animated GIFs, and Stickers.

These others may not exactly fall under the category of “fun”, but since we’re here…

You can also schedule a meeting, start a video chat session, or add a link to a previously recorded meeting/video via Stream.


Sending Praise to People

A nice way to let people know when they have performed well is to send them a Praise.

It’s a great way to recognize people for their efforts and contributions to the team.



Working with Channel Files

The Files feature is available by default for all channels.

You can upload files or entire folders…


…or create new files.

Newly created files are stored on the SharePoint drive for the group.


Live Collaboration

If you have a file open in the Web-version of its authoring application, and another user is working in the same file, you can execute live collaboration directly from within the application.

Click the Conversation button located in the upper-right corner of the application.

Changes made to the file are automatically saved to SharePoint.

If you do not wish to make changes to the original file, rather make a copy and update that instead, you can select the Options button for the file and select Copy along with a variety of other file-based actions.



Channel Wiki

If you are using a business account, you have access to a Wiki for the channel.  Wiki is Hawaiian for “to hurry; fast, quick.

If you have an educational account, you won’t have Wiki but you will have access to other features, like “Class Notebook”, “Assignments”, and “Grades”.

Working with Wiki is like working with a notebook.  Wiki acts as a repository of shared information; you don’t want to get lost in conversation.

Items that are ideal for the Wiki include:

  • Best practices
  • Important decisions
  • Operating procedures/standards
  • Special announcements



Customizing the Shared Workspace

One of the best features of Teams is the ability to customize the workspace by adding other apps.  This is done by clicking the “Add a Tab” button (plus sign).

This presents a list of Teams-compatible apps that can be integrated into the Teams ecosystem.

This list contains many dozen app options, from “Adobe Creative Cloud” to “Asana”.

Using these apps allows you to remain within the Teams app while using the other apps that you work with.  The act of switching apps is greatly reduced.


Adding a Tab for a File

You can add tabs for specific files, like Excel files or PDF files, by selecting the “Add a Tab” button.  Selecting an application (ex: Excel) allows you to browse the SharePoint site for a file.  When the tab is selected, the linked file is opened in the Teams program for analysis.



Video Meetings

Creating a video meeting is a great way to collaborate with users who are geographically separated.

To start a new video meeting, click the “Meet Now” button (upper-right) and decide on starting a meeting instantly or scheduling a meeting.

This will open a Video Meeting window where you can perform several actions:

  • Set the source of your audio (computer, phone, room, or no audio)
  • Turn on or off the camera
  • Replace the background of the video

Join a Teams Online Class or Meeting // Microsoft Teams // Marquette University


Requesting Team Members to Join

To send a request to a team member to join the video meeting, open the Participants list, and click “Request to Join” next to the team member’s name.


Sharing Your Desktop

A great feature of video meetings is the ability to share your Desktop so others in the meeting can see what is on your screen.

To show your screen, click the “Share Content” button (CTRL-Shift-E).

Select either a specific application you want to display (to the exclusion of all other running applications) or select the entire screen.



Other Video Meeting Features

If you haven’t seen our detailed post on Teams Screen Sharing that covers all of the major screen sharing features, click the image below to view the post.

Share Your Screen with Microsoft Teams



Here is a list of features you may wish to investigate further:

  • Chat privately with meeting participants
  • Display meeting notes
  • Display the participants in a full-screen view
  • Turn on live captioning
  • Record the meeting

Recorded meetings are listed in the posts and available to view via Microsoft Stream.


Scheduling a Meeting

If you would like to schedule a meeting with team members, select the “Meet Now” button and click “Schedule a Meeting”.


In the New Meeting window, you can give the meeting a name, set the date & time, invite team members, and provide meeting details.



Once completed, the meeting will display in the post along with the calendars of the meeting participants.  Because this is linked to your Exchange account, you can also see these meetings in Outlook.




The Chat View

The Chat View allows you to have one-on-one chats or group chats with specific people.  Chat reduces the number of emails that are sent within the organization.


Start a Chat

Start a new chat by clicking the New Chat button at the top of the List Pane (next to the Filter button).  Type the name of the person you wish to chat with.

You can also click the Chat dropdown and select Contact at top of List Pane to start a new conversation with an existing contact.

As with Teams conversations, Chat messages are entered at the bottom of the screen.  Attachments, formatting, emojis, and other features are located below the message bar.


Switch to Voice/Video

If you find yourself typing more than a simple chat demands, you can instantly switch to an audio or video call.

Incoming chats will display as a popup in the corner of the screen.  Click “Reply” to respond to the new chat.  To display the full conversation, click the upper-half of the popup.


Share Files in a Chat

To share a file during a chat session, click the Attach button (paper clip) then browse to the file location.

To see all files shared during a conversation, click Files at the top of the conversation pane.

These files are saved to your personal OneDrive for Business account.  If you open a browser and login into your OneDrive account, you can see these files in the Shared -> Shared by You section.

You can also see the files that have been shared with you by other team members.


Managing Chats

There are several Chat features worth exploring, such as:

Pin a Chat

To keep a chat present in the chat list, hover over the chat in the List Pane and click the Options button.  Select Pin.

Mute a Chat

To silence a particularly active chat, hover over the chat in the List Pane and click the Options button.  Select Mute.  The chats will still appear in the conversation pane, but notifications will be silenced.

Unmute a Chat

Click the Unmute (bell with a slash) button next to the chat name at the top of the conversation pane.

Hide a Chat

When finished with a chat, hover over the chat in the List Pane and click the Options button.  Select Hide.

Saving a Chat

To save a chat, click the Options button and select “Save this Message”.

To view your saved chats, click your profile picture (upper-right) and select “Saved”.

This will display all the saved messages and conversations.

To unsave a message, click the red flag icon to the right of the message.


Read Receipts

Read receipts are active by default.  When a chat message has been delivered, a circular checkmark icon appears to the right of the chat message.

When a chat message has been read, the icon changes to an eye icon.

This feature is controlled by your I.T. department and can be turned on or off for all users.  The (I.T.) can also allow you to control this feature.

Select your profile picture (upper-right) and select Settings.  Select the Privacy section.  Here, you can turn on or off the Read Receipts feature.



Controlling Notifications

In the Settings section, under Notifications, you can control the method and frequency of notifications for various types of events.



Setting Your Availability

To see your current availability status, check out your profile picture in the upper-right of the Teams window.

Your status is indicated by a colored icon.

If you are in a meeting that is set on your calendar, your status will automatically change to “Busy” and “Available” based on the defined time of the meeting.

You can manually set your status to any of the available options by selecting your profile picture, then click the displayed status to show the list of status options.

You can set your status with a pre-defined duration so that you return to “Available” automatically.  This is helpful for those of us who forget to set ourselves back to “Available” once we have completed our task.



Formatting the Text of a Chat

Click the Format button (below message input line) to reveal all formatting controls.

You can utilize Markdown Formatting to apply formatting via key characters.

Message importance can be set by clicking the Exclamation button.

  • Standard
  • Important
  • Urgent (the recipient is notified every 2 minutes for 20 minutes)

Group Chats

  1. Click the “New Chat” button
  2. Type the name of the first contact, then select from search results
  3. Repeat Step 2 for as many users as needed for the chat
  4. Enter the message as normal and click Send

During an existing group chat, add more people by clicking the “Add People” button (upper-right).  Decide whether to include the past conversation and if so, for how many days past or all chat history.

To exit a group chat, hover the pointer over the participants’ list (top) and click “Leave”.  The chat history remains available.



Catching Up on Missed Activity

If you are way on vacation or possibly occupied by some “unspecified virus of unknown origin”, you can easily get caught up on missed activity by using the Activity view.  A red circle with a number indicates unread activity or @ mentions with your name.

Unread activity is displayed in bold while read activity follows.

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If you wish to focus on a specific type of activity, you can use the Filter feature to narrow the list.

Teams features hidden in plain sight: right-clicks and pinning applications – Vesa Nopanen – My Teams & Microsoft 365 Day



Using the Search Feature

The search box at the top can be used to search Teams for specific text (as you would expect), for an advanced search, or you can also send a direct message to someone.

To look for a specific term, click into the search bar and type in your specific search term, press “Enter”. The left pane will now show your search results. At the top of your left pane you can filter your search results further by clicking between “Messages”, “People”, and “Files”. 

For an advanced search, click on the filter icon  to the right of “Messages”, “People”, and “Files”. The advanced search will give you further options in narrowing down your search results.

To send a direct message, start by typing an “@” symbol followed by their name. This means you don’t need to switch to the Chat view to locate the needed person.

You can also pick from a list of commands by typing a forward slash “/” to perform common tasks more quickly, such as:

  • /unread – filter all messages for unread messages
  • /dnd – switch your availability status to “do not disturb”



The Calls Tab

The Calls tab displays a list of your contacts, a history of your calls, as well as the ability to listen to any voicemail messages left by a caller while you were unavailable.

If your company has a calling plan, you can call any of your team members directly from here.

You can also call a member of your team wherever you can see their contact.  Just hover over their picture to reveal contact options, such as chat, email, and call.



The Files Tab

The Files tab will display a history of the files you have recently worked on, even if those files are not part of a Teams conversation.

You can also access your files stored in your OneDrive for Business account without having to exit the Teams app.



Controlling Teams Accounts

If you belong to multiple organizations with the same email address, you can quickly switch organizations by clicking the Organizations button (upper-right) to switch organizations without having to sign out and back in again.

Using Multiple Microsoft Teams Tenants and Accounts - Kick Studios

If you are using Teams with an organization that requires a different email address, you will be required to sign out of Teams and back in with the differing credentials.

You are not required to install a second instance of Teams, even if the accounts are a combination of education and business.



Try the Mobile Version of Teams

Consider installing the app version of Teams for your mobile device.  Keeping track of chats tends to be easier using the mobile app, especially if you are constantly “on the go”.