Tag: Microsoft Office

Did you know … you can mark a Teams post unread?

One of the first settings I tweak when I get a new computer – before setting up my printers, grabbing FireFox from the Software Center, or setting up Putty sessions to our hosts is to STOP Microsoft Outlook from marking a message read every time I click on it. Yes, you can add a delay – mark it read if the message has been displayed for 10 seconds. But if I’ve really read a message, I either reply to it (which marks it as read) or delete it. On the few occasions where I want to stash the message without replying, I can mark it read myself!

Teams is different than Outlook … I cannot just delete someone’s post because I’ve read it.

The channel is bolded again to indicate there are unread posts.

And the ‘last read’ marker is moved prior to the message.

Currently (13 February 2019), marking a post unread in a channel discussion does not make it show up when you filter your activity feed for unread messages. If you mark the message as unread within the Activity Feed, though, the item will appear in the “Unread Messages” filtered view.


Did you know … your Team can have 5,000 members?

Microsoft updated the Microsoft Teams Limits and Specifications documentation, an Teams can now have 5,000 members. That’s a LOT of people! Are there special considerations when managing a large Teams space? Yes!

Even in a smaller team, it is a good idea to document the purpose of the Teams space and how it should be used. Is there a channel into which members are encouraged to post interesting information they happen across even if said information is not directly work related? Can members create new channels; and, if not, how are new channels requested? When managing a large Team, it is vital that everyone understand the purpose for each channel and what types of discussion are appropriate.

Because you cannot currently pin a post to the top of a channel, I have used the General channel’s Wiki tab to convey this information. You can rename the Wiki tab – a good idea if it will be more than a blank page! Click the drop-down by “Wiki” and select “Rename”.

Type a new name and click “Save”.

Update the Wiki page with information about your Team.

The first real problem in creating a large team is picking 1,739 names and adding them to your team. Instead of manually adding individual members, you can generate a code that can be used to join your team. This code can be e-mailed to those who should join – or to managers for distribution to their staff. Click the not-quite-a-hamburger menu next to your Team name and select “Manage Team”

Click on the “Settings” tab, expand the “Team code” section, and copy the code.

Click on the “Members” tab – that “Search for members” dialogue is very useful if you want to remove a specific member from a very large team.

There are other settings that can reduce chaos in large Teams spaces. Click the “Settings” tab. Expand the “Member permissions” section. If thousands of people can create channels, you can quickly reach the 200-channel limit in a Teams space. By restricting channel creation and deletion to Team owners, you can exert more control over the Teams space design. You can even prevent non-owners from posting to the General channel. I do not allow members to modify tabs or connectors – again, controlling what the space looks like and avoiding accidental deletions.

It is beneficial to allow Owners to delete all messages – if a post is inappropriate or contains information that should not be shared with the large group, it can be quickly removed.

Scroll down and expand the “@mentions” section – since at-mentions generate notifications to a huge number of people, you may not want to allow members to at-mention the team or channel.

You may want to restrict “fun stuff” as well – a few gifs or memes can be funny, eight hundred … not so much 😊


Did you know … you can schedule a meeting from a Teams chat?

Clicking around in a UI (or even using shortcut keys to navigate elsewhere) can make you lose focus – but it would be overwhelming to see your calendar, all channel activity, shared files, calendar, and Planner overview in the same view. Fortunately, there are shortcuts in Teams that allow you to perform quick actions without leaving your current screen.

There are discussions that are well suited to IM-like interfaces – I frequently bring up a side-channel chat for conference calls to run ideas by my group before announcing it to others or to get clarification about a topic without interrupting the flow of discussion. When participants span time zones, asynchronous communication allows everyone to participate in the discussion. But there are times when it’s just easier to talk. If everyone is available, you can launch an audio or video meeting right from the upper right-hand corner of the chat.

That doesn’t work if everyone’s not available to talk. While you can schedule a meeting in the Meetings panel, that means leaving your current conversation. Fortunately, you can also schedule a meeting from the chat pane. Under the new message box, click the little calendar icon.

And schedule a meeting – attendees are pre-populated with chat participants, but you can add and remove participants as needed.


Did you know … you can add a subject to your Channel conversations?

It can be time consuming to scan through channel conversation and find posts that are really relevant to you – unlike e-mails that have conveniently scan-able subjects, Teams can seem like a deluge of threads, and you’ve got to read through each one to see if it’s something important to you or not.

To some extent, breaking topics out into different channels and Teams helps, but few are deeply involved in every single aspect of a discussion. And personnel matters discussed in a group’s Teams space often only impact some people – announcements about the Education Assistance policy, the deadline for the smoking cessation program, or weather information for a specific office may be really important to you or they may be something you could have ignored if you hadn’t needed to read the first sentence or two before disqualifying yourself.

But Teams threads do have subjects – it’s just really easy to start a thread without one (unlike e-mail where it’s glaringly obvious that your subject is missing). To add a subject to your thread, either hit Ctrl-Shift-x or click the ‘Format’ button to expand the rich text editor.

Now there’s a thread subject – type a quick summary just like you would have in an e-mail message and type your thread content in the ‘Start a new conversation …’ section.

When you post your message, your subject will appear in larger, bolded text. This allows channel members to quickly scan through threads and decide if they need to read them or not.

Subjects are even highlighted in search results – making it easier to find your thread in searches (and scanning through a channel when not using search).


Did you know … you can @mention your Team without typing the whole Team name?

If you want to bring the entire team’s attention to a post without taking half a second to think about which Team you are actually using, you can use @team instead. @team will resolve to whatever Team into which the message is posted. These shortcuts are only available in Teams channel conversations – typing @team in a private chat won’t do anything.

There’s a shortcut for the current channel too — @channel

The message text is the same using @team and @channel or typing the actual team and channel name.


Did you know … you can send a quick Teams IM without losing focus on what you are doing?

There are times when a question for a specific individual can be asked in the channel conversation by @mentioning the individual. But sometimes the question isn’t for general consumption … and sometimes I a message reminds me of something completely different that I need to tell someone. But switching to ‘Chat’ to send a message and then finding my way back to the channel conversation is time consuming. Did you know you can send a private message from the search bar?

Hit Ctrl+e or click in the search/command box along the top of the Teams window.

Begin typing an @Mention – either select the proper individual or type enough of the name that there’s only one …

Now you can send a message to the selected person right from the search bar.

Type your message – this is a quick text message, there isn’t typographical emphasis, colors, cute pictures – markdown doesn’t even render. But I can send a quick message without losing my place within the Channel conversation! Hit send (enter or the little purple circle at the end of the dialog box).

You’ll see a confirmation that your message was sent (and you can view the message in your persistent chats). And you can get right back to what you were doing 😊


Did you know … you can bookmark Teams posts for quick access?

There are a few posts to which I frequently refer – support contacts for a product, time reporting codes to use for our projects, etc. These posts aren’t updated frequently, so looking for them takes some scrolling. Searching for the post helps, but I still find myself scrolling through a dozen results.

You can save a post for later – essentially add a bookmark to the post – by clicking the little ribbon in the upper right-hand corner of the post.

To access saved posts, click on your avatar in the upper right-hand corner of Teams and select “Saved”.

Or, if you prefer to keep your hands on the keyboard, use CTRL + E to move to the command bar and type /saved

Either method brings you to the same place – your saved posts.


Do you know … if you should create a new Team or new Channel?

Do you know … if you should create a new Team or new Channel?

It’s certainly a good idea to break topics into different locations in Microsoft Teams – cognitive research on how efficiently people multi-task suggests this, it’s easier for non-impacted individuals to ignore information that’s not relevant to them if it’s not interspersed with information they need, and spreading topics out reduces the frequency of posts – ten new conversations don’t appear while you’re reading a thread. But should you create a new channel or a new Team?

There are a few technical limitations that make “Team” generally the right answer. Each channel in a Teams space has the same permissions – if you want to restrict access to confidential information or if you want to involve additional people – people who don’t need access to your other channels, you need to create a new Team.

You can archive a Team, but you cannot archive a channel. If you create a new channel for every project, your Teams space can become cluttered with old projects. The channels get collapsed into a “more channels” fly-out, but I still find myself renaming channels “zzSomething Or Other” to get really done projects sorted to the bottom of the more channels fly-out.

You cannot move a channel into another Team. If the project moves to another group (such transitions are common in IT – there’s a development/implementation phase, then the project moves to production support under a different group) … there’s no way to transition the information in a channel to another group. Even if that’s not standard operating procedure in your organization, reorgs happen. A supported system becomes big enough to warrant its own group or staff is re-aligned –having the historic knowledge of the Teams discussion available to the new organization is beneficial. (Not to mention, if you could move a channel into another team, you could indirectly archive channels by moving them into an archived Teams space!)

There are some scenarios where a new channel makes sense – that daily e-mail chain where people decide where to eat lunch could become a channel. There’s no reason to move the historic restaurant selection to another group – or, for that matter, retain it. If group lunches become ‘not a thing’ – just delete the channel. And anyone not heading to lunch today can ignore the channel. Similarly, “Water Cooler” discussions – a place where the comradery we took for granted when sitting in the same physical space can re-emerge – make sense as channels.

Cognitive Theory & Microsoft Teams

We’ve been using Microsoft Teams for most of this year, and I find it to be an incredibly efficient way to work. That’s not just a personal preference — years ago, I followed research on how human brains multi-task. TL;DR? Rarely well! Performing multiple natural activities, those that don’t put much demand on the prefrontal cortex, did not greatly diminish efficiency (I can walk and chew gum at the same time!). But fMRI scans performed by the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale in Paris showed that the prefrontal cortex has a left and right side which cooperate to focus on a single task but work independently when the subject was given two tasks. And when the subject was given three tasks? The rate at which a task was forgotten increased and errors were three times as likely for the tasks that were performed.

The recommendation was to dedicate chunks of time — 20 or 30 minutes — to a particular subject, then move on to a new subject rather than bounce back and forth between topics. Sounded great in theory, but each morning I’d sit down and start going through e-mail. The epitome of rapid topic shifting — read through something, switch to the next message/topic, maybe do a little work on that topic, go to the next one.

Starting my day in Teams is completely different — any channel that has had activity is bold. I can click on a channel, finish everything related to that topic, then move on to the next channel. Instead of jumping from topic to topic, and wasting time mentally “shifting gears”.

During a busy day, multiple channels light up with activity … but having each topic contained to its own location helps me maintain focus on that topic. Extrapolating — it makes sense to create a new channel or team for different projects instead of having multiple projects discussed within the same channel.

Did you know … you can archive a Team in Microsoft Teams?

Sometimes a project is done. You’ve used Teams to plan, coordinate, and implement the projected … and there’s a lot of good information in the Teams space … but there’s no need to continue the discussion. Did you know a Team can be read-only? This is called “Archived” – members can search and read content, but no new files or posts can be created.

To archive a Team, view your Teams. At the bottom of the Teams list, click the little gear.

I recommend changing the Team description to let others know it is archived – this is especially valuable if your team is Public as people may join intending to participate in an active discussion. To modify the Team description, select the sideways hamburger menu next to the Team name and select “Edit team”.

I prefix the description with “ARCHIVED:” … hoping people at least glance at the description. Click ‘Done’ to save your change.

To archive your Team, click the sideways hamburger menu again. Select “Archive team”.

You will be asked if you want to make the SharePoint site for the Teams space read-only as well – the answer is generally yes, but if you’re using the SharePoint site for more than just the Team then you do not want to check this box. Click ‘Archive’ to archive the Team.

Should you need to begin accepting new content in your Teams space, you can find the archived teams by expanding the “Archived” section.

Click the sideways hamburger menu and select ‘Restore Team’. This will move your Team back to the “Active” section and allow members to continue posting content.