Zoom video conferencing has been among the biggest beneficiaries of the coronavirus pandemic, raking in over 300 million daily meeting participants at its peak.
While Microsoft Teams’ 75 million looks modest in comparison, a 70% increase in daily active users for paid subscription software is hugely impressive.
The cost is justified by plenty of extra functionality, which might have made you tempted to give Teams a try. Here’s everything you need to know.
What is Microsoft Teams?
Teams is Microsoft’s communication and collaboration software. It covers messaging, calls, meetings and real-time collaboration, while you can also share files and connect external apps.
However, despite initially being reserved for business users, the April 2020 rebranding of Office 365 to Microsoft 365 saw Teams take on more of a consumer-focus. Now, it’s being pitched as a service that can help anyone stay productive, regardless of whether they work within a defined team structure.
Can I use Microsoft Teams for personal use?
Absolutely, and Microsoft is encouraging people to do so. To take full advantage, you’ll need to set up something called Teams for personal life. Various elements of the user experience are adjusted to promote chatting with friends and family over getting work done. Here’s how to set it up:
Download Teams from the Microsoft website
Open the app, where you should be prompted to sign-in with your Microsoft account
Make sure you sign in with your personal login details, instead of the work email that you may already use for Teams
Follow the next steps, which may include two-factor authentication and the option to sync contacts, before confirming
That’s it! Teams will now be optimised for personal use. Many of the cosmetic changes for personal use are still in preview, but it will still be a fully functional communication platform in the here and now.
Is Microsoft Teams free?
Unfortunately not. For full access to Microsoft Teams, you’ll need pay for Microsoft 365, the company’s productivity-centric subscription service.
Plans start at £5.99 per month or £59.99 a year, which also gives you access to the full range of Microsoft Office apps and OneDrive storage. It also guarantees regular software updates, so you’ll always have the very latest features.
Check out our full Microsoft 365 buying guide.
However, Teams isn’t completely exclusive to subscribers. You can still join meetings (or calls) without an account, provided the host is a paid subscriber.
What platforms is Microsoft Teams available on?
Microsoft Teams is available across all major platforms, although the experience will look a little different depending on what device you’re using it on.
It’s compatible with all versions of Windows since 2013’s Windows 8.1, as well as any device running macOS El Capitan (2015) or later.
There’s also a version for Android and iOS, although this has more of a focus on instant messaging and video calling.
What new features are coming to Microsoft Teams?
New features are being added to Teams all the time, as it continues its expansion into consumer markets.
Announced at the end of August 2020, ‘Spotlight’ lets a presenter control the view that all participants can see, ensuring they’re not getting distracted. The feature is set to be rolled out in the “next few months”, alongside removed geo-restrictions for recordings and call merging. The latter means that multiple Teams calls can be merged into a single group or one-on-one conversation.
A recent update also added ‘Together Mode’, which aims to simulate a physical meeting environment when in group video calls. Activating this mode means the usual tiled display of participants will intelligently be arranged as if you were all in the same room, aimed at taking some of the friction out of online meetings.
Participants will even be allowed to virtually high five or tap fellow participants on the shoulder. As The Verge reports, this has since been extended to include coffee shops and breakout rooms, as well as allowing you to customise your own layouts. It’s all part of making the virtual meeting experience as convincing as possible.
In the same update, Microsoft debuted a feature known as Dynamic View. This means Teams will now adjust the content displayed on-screen according to what is most relevant. For example, a meeting will now be able to display shared content next to video feeds from specific members of the team.
The Lists app, announced at Microsoft Build in May 2020, is now available. The app allows you to create your own lists, as well as drawing on a library of templates and integrating them with Microsoft Excel. To get started, just click the + icon at the top of any channel and search for ‘Lists’.
You can also now add filters to your own video feed, as well as react with emojis directly within a call. See more information on the official Microsoft blog post.
Previously, Microsoft added the ability to customise your background when in regular calls, as is the case on Zoom.
Check back here for more updates as and when we hear about new features coming to Teams. In the meantime, check out our round-up of fun things to do on Microsoft Teams.