Chapter 3: How to Use Microsoft Teams – Chats and Conversation – Hands-On Microsoft Teams

Chapter 3: How to Use Microsoft Teams – Chats and Conversation

Communication is the key to success when working in a team. Microsoft Teams allows you to leverage your communication skills with little effort by providing a set of tools that allow you to chat with your peers in a matter of seconds.

The chat features included in the product allow you to have private and public written conversations and help you to keep everything organized and centralized for easy access.

In this chapter, we are going to cover the following main topics:

  • Understanding the chat feature on Microsoft Teams
  • How to use private chats
  • How to manage contacts
  • How to use the chat application
  • Understanding the message options
  • Understanding chats in the context of teams

Understanding the chat feature on Microsoft Teams

Chat is a default application found in the app bar and allows you to start a written conversation with any member of your organization.

Before jumping into your first conversation, it is best to understand how the chat app is organized to get the most out of it. The following screenshot shows a page in the app, with its main components highlighted and described:

Figure 3.1: Chat layout

Let's cover each of these components in detail:

  1. The Chat app: The Chat application gives you access to the private chat feature on Microsoft Teams.
  2. The Contacts tab: The contacts tab allow you to find other Microsoft Teams members to start a conversation.

    (a) Recent: This shows you the latest contacts you chatted with and also suggests contacts based on your recent activity. The Recent tab also displays your pinned contacts; these contacts are always displayed at the top for faster access.

    (b) Contacts: This list is built by you and it will show all of your favorite contacts.

  3. Your chat contacts: A list of contacts, filtered by the selected tab.
  4. A chat thread: This is where you can access a chat thread and where you will see all the assets shared during a conversation. It is also the place where you can access other Teams apps using the tabs at the top of the section.
  5. The chat box: This is your input element for the conversation. From it, you can write text and upload files, as well as carry out other functions, which we will look at later in this chapter.

Throughout this chapter, we will look at the Chat elements in more detail.

How to use private chats

Private chats can be used to have conversations about topics that are not relevant to an entire team. You can use it to plan your daily tasks with your co-workers or even to schedule a coffee break. All of the content shared in private chats will only be visible to you and the other members of the chat.

Microsoft Teams supports one-to-one and one-to-n private chats (with a limit of 100 users). In this section, we will look at how to use both.

To start a new one-to-one private conversation using Microsoft Teams, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Chat app in the app bar.
  2. Look for the user in the left pane that you want to chat with and click on their name.
  3. Start your conversation.

Even though this three-step process is the easiest way to start a chat on Microsoft Teams, sometimes the user you want to chat with will not be available in the contacts list. In this case, do the following:

  1. In the top bar of Microsoft Teams, click on the New chat icon, seen in the following screenshot.
  2. In the stage area, type the name of the person you want to chat with. In the left pane, you will see that a new chat has been created.
  3. Click on New chat and start your conversation. The chat thread will be added to the Recent section in the left pane:

Figure 3.2: New chat

Microsoft Teams also supports private group chats outside the scope of a team. To create a new group chat, follow these steps:

  1. In the top bar of Microsoft Teams, click on the New chat icon, seen in the following screenshot.
  2. Click on the arrow on the right side of the stage area.
  3. Provide a name for the group; this helps you to identify your group chats.
  4. Add members to the group chat.
  5. Click on the chat box and start your group conversation. As with one-to-one chats, group chats will also appear in the Recent section in the left pane:

Figure 3.3: Starting a group chat

Over time, you might need to include someone else in a private group chat. This could cause privacy issues, especially if you have messages in the chat that were not supposed to be read by any new members.

To avoid having to create a new private group chat, you can take advantage of the chat history feature, which allows you to control how much of the chat history the new member can access:

  • None of the chat history
  • X days of the chat history
  • All of the chat history

This option appears at the top of the chat window whenever you add additional members to the chat, as the following screenshot shows:

Figure 3.4: Privacy settings when adding a new member to the chat

How to manage contacts

You will not chat with all members of your organization in the same way and you will likely have a set of contacts that you will use more frequently and want to access quickly.

To create your own list of personal contacts, do the following:

  1. Open the Chat app.
  2. In the Recent tab in the left pane, hover over the contact you want to add to your personal list.
  3. Click on the three dots () to open the context menu of the contact.
  4. Click on Add to favorite contacts.

Your favorite contacts will be listed in the Contacts tab in the left pane, organized in alphabetical order:

Figure 3.5: Chat options

The context menu for each contact gives you access to more features and actions that you can use to carry out your work more effectively:

  • Mark as unread: If you accidentally click on a chat when there are new messages available to read but you simply don't have time to read them, this option allows you to mark the chat as unread so you don't forget that there are new messages that need your attention.
  • Pin: If you want a contact to always be visible in the Recent tab, you can use this option. It is particularly handy in scenarios where you don't want to miss any updates from a user and want to reply quickly. A pinned contact is displayed in the first group of the Recent tab and you can pin up to 15 contacts.
  • Mute: If you need to focus but you have colleagues always pinging you, this option allows you to mute them. A muted contact will not trigger any notifications on Microsoft Teams.
  • Hide: If you know you won't be speaking to one of your colleagues any time soon, you can use this option to remove the contact from the Recent tab. This way, you will only be focusing on the conversations that matter.
  • Notify when available: This option triggers a notification every time a user becomes available on Microsoft Teams, so you can start a conversation immediately. This option is only available to users that belong to the same organization.

Now that we are familiar with the application and how to set it up, in our next section we will see how to use the chat app and its different features.

How to use the chat application

The chat app on Microsoft Teams comes equipped with functionalities that go beyond writing text. To send a message inside the chat app, do the following:

  1. Click on the text box in the chat thread.
  2. Type your message.
  3. To send it, press Enter or click on the send button.

At this stage, everything looks like a regular chat app, such as the ones we have on our phones. However, things start to get interesting when you use the extra functionalities provided by Microsoft Teams. In the following image, you can see the text box with a set of icons underneath. Each icon allows you to enrich your messages:

Figure 3.6: Text box

Bonus tip:

If you post a message and, right after pressing Enter, notice that something is wrong and needs to be fixed, press the up arrow on your keyboard. When you do this, the edit text box opens inside the thread and you can fix your mistake using all of the options provided by the chat box. Modified messages are tagged with a label ‘Edited' indicating that the message was edited by the author.

Let's now see what each of these icons are and how to use them, starting with the default features of Microsoft Teams.

Format

The Format option provides a rich text editor that allows you to format your texts to add greater clarity to your messages. The toolbar offers options to format fonts and styles, similar to the ones you find on Microsoft Word. There are also options to build lists, add quotes, tables, or even snippets of source code, with the options of selecting a programming language. As with any text editor tool, while composing your message you have the option of undoing or repeating your typing:

Figure 3.7: Text box with formatting options

Set Delivery Options

Not all messages have the same priority. In Microsoft Teams, you can clearly identify a message that needs attention as soon as possible by using the delivery options:

  • Standard: This is the default option on Microsoft Teams. A message is added to the chat and a notification is sent to the user you are chatting with.

Figure 3.8: Standard message

  • Important: The message is marked with an IMPORTANT! tag in the chat thread. The user that you are chatting with will be able to identify it by its red color and the! icon in the message box:

Figure 3.9: Important message

  • Urgent: The message is marked with an URGENT! tag in the chat thread. The user you are chatting with will be able to identify it by its red color and by the bell icon in the message. A notification is sent to the user every 2 minutes for a duration of 20 minutes:



Figure 3.10: Urgent message

Attach

Attach allows you to add files to a message. Files can be uploaded from your computer or your OneDrive account. The files attached from OneDrive display the path where the file is located and the ones uploaded from your computer only display the name of the file, as shown here:

Figure 3.11: Message with attachments

Files attached to a chat thread are available in the thread itself or in the Files tab at the top of the Chat app, as in the following screenshot. The files attached from your computer to a chat are copied to your OneDrive into a folder with the name Microsoft Teams Chat Files. Permissions are automatically assigned, so other users in the conversation can also access the files. The Files tab provides you with a central view of all the files shared in a chat, so you don't have to scroll through an entire conversation thread to locate them:


Figure 3.12: Files shared in a conversation

Bonus tip:

Images can be added inline with the text instead of as an attachment. To add an inline image, copy the image to the clipboard and then paste it when you are composing the message. The images added inline with the text will only exist in the thread and will not be copied to the OneDrive folder.If you want a copy of the image to be accessible in the OneDrive folder and the Files tab, you will have to attach it to the message.

Emojis

Emojis allow you to express emotions in your messages. The emoji box includes a search box, which will help you to locate the emoji you are looking for to use in the message. It also shows you the shortcut command for the emoji when you hover your mouse over the image for longer than 2 seconds, as in the following screenshot:

Figure 3.13: Emojis

Emojis on Microsoft Teams are animated and can be displayed in two different sizes. When added alongside text in a message, they are displayed as the same size as the text. When sent as an individual message, they are displayed in a bigger size, as shown here:

Figure 3.14: Emojis with different sizes

Modern operating systems have hundreds of hidden emojis for you to use. To access this Easter egg feature on Windows 10, press the Windows key + . and a new emoji menu will open, as in the following screenshot. On macOS, press command + control + the spacebar.


Figure 3.15: Hidden emojis

Giphy

Giphy can also be used to express emotions in your messages or to react to another user's message. Even though this is a default option on Microsoft Teams, the GIFs are provided by an external service.

Stickers

Stickers just like emojis and GIFs, allow you to react to messages. Stickers are static images that have an option for customization. Once you have selected the image you want to send, you are given the option to write your own message, as in the following screenshot:



Figure 3.16: Stickers

Schedule a Meeting

Schedule a meeting allows you to immediately schedule a meeting with the person you are chatting with without going into the calendar. The meeting is scheduled using all the options that are available in the calendar app. Once scheduled, the meeting is not added to the chat but instead goes directly into the calendar app:


Figure 3.17: New meeting

Messaging Extensions

Messaging extensions is the last option available in a chat using Microsoft Teams with the default configuration. This option allows you to configure the chat box even further by adding on extra functionalities. It also allows you to use other apps that, despite already being installed, are not displayed in the toolbar. Praise and Stream are two examples of apps that are available by default but hidden in this menu:



Figure 3.18: Messaging extensions

Praise: Sometimes, you want to tell a member of your team how valuable they are to the organization, but you can't find the right words. This app helps you to do so by allowing you to select the type of praise you think your team member deserves. You can also type a message along with your chosen praise. This makes it easier to recognize the value of your peers. The praise is added to the chat window with a badge displayed inside an adaptive card:

Figure 3.19: Praises

Stream: Stream allows you to embed a video from Microsoft Stream directly into your conversation. All you need to do is copy the URL of the video and paste it into the app window. The video is added to the chat window inside an adaptive card and, before posting it, you can add a message to personalize the card. Writing a message is handy if you want to describe the content of the video and useful if you want to later locate it through the search feature:

Figure 3.20: Microsoft Stream

In Microsoft Teams, you will find more apps that can enrich the functionalities of your chat. To add more options to your chat box, do the following:

  1. Click on the icon.
  2. From the popup, select the app you want to add or click on More apps.
  3. Type or look for the app you want to add (for example, Weather).
  4. Click on the app you want.
  5. The app details will pop up on the side. Click on Add:

    Figure 3.21: Add weather messaging extension

  6. The app will be added to the toolbar with its own icon, as in the following screenshot:

Figure 3.22: Weather messaging extension

When you click on the newly installed app, a popup will open and allow you to select the content (for example, the Weather app provides you with a search box to look for the location where you want to share the weather). The content from the app is then added to the chat thread inside an adaptive card.

Understanding message options

Each message posted in the chat app has a set of options available that you can use to manage, react to, or categorize each message. To access the message options, you will need to do the following:

  1. Hover your mouse over the message, wait for the three dots () to appear, and then click on it.
  2. A contextual menu will appear, as in the following screenshot, and you will be able to select a message option:

Figure 3.23: Message options

The contextual menu will be different for messages sent by you than for the one displayed on messages you receive. The available options are detailed in the following sections.

Saving Messages

Save this message allows you to save a message to your Saved list. A messaged that is saved by you is marked with a bookmark icon and is added to the Saved list, which means you will be able to later locate it faster from a central location.

To access your saved messages, do the following:

  1. Click on your profile picture at the top of the Microsoft Teams client.
  2. From the profile contextual menu, click on Saved.
  3. Your saved messages will all appear in the left-side pane with a preview of each message. When you select a message, it opens up in the conversation where it happened:

Figure 3.24: Saved messages

Editing Messages

Edit is only available for the messages you send, and it allows you to modify the contents of a sent message. Each edited message is marked with a tag to let other users know that the original text was modified.

Deleting Messages

Delete is only available to you and it allows you to remove a message from a chat thread. However, it only deletes the contents of the message; the message itself will remain in the same chat position with a replacement message saying This message has been deleted.

Mark as Unread

Mark as unread allows you to mark messages as unread. This is handy if you need to go back to a particular message. It will be highlighted in Teams as unread.

Translate

Translate translates messages from different languages to your own automatically. As you can see in the following screenshot, the original message was written in Portuguese and then translated to English. Translated messages will display a language icon and, when hovered over, will show a popup telling you what the original language was:

Figure 3.25: Message translation

Immersive Reader

Immersive Reader will open up Microsoft Teams in read mode, where you will only see text, as the following screenshot shows. This option does not allow you to interact with a message. To reply or react to it, you will need to go back to regular mode. If you click on the play button, it will read the message back to you:



Figure 3.26: Immersive reader

Besides being a great tool for accessibility, Immersive Reader also includes educational features, such as highlighting the nouns, adjectives, or verbs in a text.

Reacting to Messages

You can also react to each message you have received or sent using emojis. To use this feature, do the following:

  1. Hover your mouse over the message until the context menu appears. Emojis will appear at the top right on the message.
  2. Select your desired emoji.

There are six reactions available in the messages, as follows:

  • Like
  • Heart
  • Laugh
  • Surprised
  • Sad
  • Angry

Each message will display how many users have selected a particular emoji. The sender of the message is notified every time someone reacts to it:

Figure 3.27: Message reaction

Up to now in the chapter, we have seen the different features of the chat app and how to use them. However, chats are a bit different when used in teams, which is what we will cover in the next section.

Understanding Chats in the context of teams

Chats in the context of a team have the same functionalities as described previously. However, due to the different scope of the conversation, there are also a few other options available that will help you to communicate better and be more productive.

The chat feature is the first tab in the channel. It is called Posts and its position and label cannot be modified.

Each channel inside of a team starts with its own chat app, which allows you to have conversations with all of the members of a team, relating to the topic of the channel. The following section describes the special features that this app has.

Reply versus typing a new message

Unlike individual chats, where everything is displayed as an individual message, in a channel, things can quickly get out of control if everybody uses the new message feature.

In a channel post, each message will display a Reply button underneath. This is the option you should use to reply to the message.

Once you click on Reply, a chat text box will appear at the bottom of the screen, containing all of the options that we previously discussed, as in the following screenshot:

Figure 3.28: Reply versus new conversation

You should always reply to conversations using the Reply button under the message, as this way you can keep conversations organized and easier to read.

Replies made outside of the thread will lose their order and, if multiple topics are being discussed in the same channel, it will become impossible to follow the conversation.

Keep in mind that each time you start a new conversation, instead of creating a reply, your message is added to the bottom of the chat as a new conversation. In the following screenshot, the last message should have been a reply to the thread and, as you can see, it has no connection to the original conversation:

Figure 3.29: Reply versus new conversation

Making an announcement

Chats in the context of a team allow you to post announcements. Announcements are messages that allow more customization and that can be more easily identified by a user in the chat thread.

To create a new announcement, do the following:

  1. In a team channel, click on the chat text box and then click on the first icon to expand the compose box.
  2. Open the New conversation dropdown and choose Announcement:

    Figure 3.30: Writing an announcement

  3. Type a headline for the announcement.
  4. Select a background color or background image.
  5. Type a sub-headline.
  6. Type your message and click on the send button.

An announcement will display a special icon on the right side and has a different format in the chat thread to give it a more distinctive look, as you can see in the following screenshot:

Figure 3.31 Announcement in the chat thread

Targeting a post's replies

When posting a message in a channel, you can define who will be able to reply to it. By default, all team members are able to reply, but you can restrict this scope by doing the following:

  1. In a team channel, click on the chat text box and then click on the first icon to expand the compose box.
  2. From the second dropdown, choose the audience that will be able to reply to the message. By default, everyone can reply, but you can modify it to You and moderators can reply:

Figure 3.32: Target post reply

Posting in multiple channels

If you need to post the same message over and over again in multiple channels, to make sure it reaches everyone, you can use the following option to help simplify the process.

To post a message in multiple channels, do the following:

  1. In a team channel, click on the chat text box and then click on the first icon to expand the compose box.
  2. Click on the third option in the toolbar: Post in multiple channels.
  3. Select the channels that you want to post your message to:

    Figure 3.33: Post in multiple channels

  4. Type your message and send it.

A message posted in multiple channels is identified by a special icon in the chat thread to tell you that it exists in multiple locations.

If you need to monitor the replies to this message, you will need to do so in each channel that the message was posted in, as this information is not shown in a central location.

Muting a thread

If you are receiving a lot of notifications from a channel that you're not currently interested in, there is an option to mute that particular thread. To use this option, do the following:

  1. Hover your mouse over the main message in the thread you want to mute.
  2. Click on to open the context menu.
  3. From the context menu, select Turn off notifications, as in the following screenshot:

Figure 3.34: Turn off notifications

Mentioning a user, team, or channel

Microsoft Teams allows you to mention colleagues inside a team or a group chat. When typing your message, you will need to do the following:

  1. Type @ followed by the name of the user, team, or channel that you want to mention.
  2. From the suggestion list, select the user:

Figure 3.35: Mention a user

When you are mentioned in a chat, the message is marked with an @ symbol, so you can easily spot it while reading the thread, as in the following screenshot:

Figure 3.36: Message indicating the user was mentioned

When a team is mentioned, everyone in the team receives a notification. When a channel is mentioned, everyone that has the channel marked as a favorite will receive a notification.

Using tags

Tags in Microsoft Teams allow you to message groups of users within a team. Tags can be added to users by the team owners or members (if allowed by the team owner in the team's settings).

To add tags to users on Microsoft Teams, do the following:

  1. Next to the name of the team, click on and then click on Manage team:

    Figure 3.37: The Manage team menu option

  2. Open the Members tab.
  3. Hover your mouse over the field in the Tags column for the member that you want to add a tag to and click on the tag icon:

    Figure 3.38: Tagging a user

  4. If you have tags that are already created, type the name of the tag. If you want to add a new tag, click on Manage tag.
  5. In the popup, click on Create tag.
  6. Type in a name for the tag and add the users that you want to add to the tag:

    
Figure 3.39: Create a new tag

  7. Click on Create.

If, later on, you want to add an existing tag to another user, you just need to click on the tag icon in the list of users and, from the dropdown, select the desired tag, as in the following screenshot:

Figure 3.40: Tagging a user

To mention all of the users tagged in the same topic, you only need to press the @ key and select the name of the tag:

Figure 3.41: Mentioning a tag

Starting a new channel conversation from Outlook

Each channel in Microsoft Teams has its own email address, which can be used to start a new conversation in the channel. An email sent to the channel will include the body of the email and any attachments. However, if you plan on using this feature, you should be aware of the following limits:

  • The maximum message size: 24 KB
  • The maximum number of attachments: 20, less than 10 MB each
  • The maximum number of inline images: 50

If these limits are exceeded, the message in Teams will display a link to open the original message.

To obtain a channel's email address, do the following:

  1. Go to the channel you want to email.
  2. Click on and then Get email address:

    Figure 3.42: Get email address

  3. Copy the email address that appears in the popup.
  4. Send an email from your email client. The message should appear in the channel as follows:

Figure 3.43: Message sent by email

In this section, you gained an overview of all the major chat features included in Microsoft Teams. Keep what you have learned in this chapter in mind while using Teams to make sure you follow best practices as you do so.

Summary

In this chapter, you have learned how to use Microsoft Teams to chat with your peers in multiple contexts.

A written message can be much more than a simple piece of text. This chapter has demonstrated how we can use Microsoft Teams to communicate better and improve efficiency when carrying out daily tasks.

In the next chapter, you will learn how to use Microsoft Teams' calling functionality and about other tools that you can use to complement everything you have learned so far.