Friday, 10 March 2017

Microsoft Teams March 9th Update

Hello readers.  I hope you're well.  This is just a quick post on some new features that have landed in Microsoft Teams as of March 9th 2017.

First things first.  Since when do I blog about Teams?  Well, I've been wanting to write about Teams for a while.  I was going to wait until GA and do a full post on what Teams is once it is launched.  After that, you'll probably see many more posts on Teams alongside my usual Skype for Business related stuff and product reviews.

I will say, that I have been evaluating Teams since a few minutes after it was launched into preview in November.  I'm really excited for teh future of Teams.  Especially after having a good chat with some of the product managers at a recent event.  

For those that don't know, you can see what's new in Teams in the T-Bot chat in the Release Notes tab.  March 9th was one of the biggest updates I have seen and they added a ton of stuff.

The below is directly from the release notes.  I have added a few comments here and there in Blue so you know it's me speaking.

New compose box: ICYMI, your compose box got a complete redesign. We improved the experience behind a lot of the actions surrounding composing and editing messages. Now, you have separate icons for the following actions:

  • Expanding your compose box
  • Adding an emoji to a message
  • Sending a GIF
  • Creating and sending a custom meme or sticker
  • Attaching a file
  • Scheduling a meeting

One thing I would say is that I previously found that adding Memes and GIFs etc. was a bit hit and miss.  I'd get the spinning wheel while the app though long and hard about actually adding the thing to the chat or converstion.  Since this update, graphics are added instantly.  Nice one!

You'll find that your expanded compose box still offers all the same formatting options, but you’ve got a lot more space to play around with creating custom memes and stickers, or searching for popular or trending GIFs. Clicking the meetings icon below your compose box will take you straight to our meeting form, where you can immediately schedule a meeting with whoever you're talking to in a channel or chat. Check it out; we hope you like it!

The expanded compose box is really cool.  You can really add some richness and uniqueness to your conversations by changing everything from the font type, size and colour, to adding highlights, bullet points and lists.  

Another recent update added something called "Markdown".  Which, to be honest, I'd never heard of.  Apparently it was a feature in a competing product and it was added to Teams because of a public outcry.  This is where you can format text by wrapping it in certain characters.  For instance, adding an asterisk to the beginning and end of a block of text will make that block of text bold.  It also does this while you're typing do you don't have to click anywhere or use keyboard shortcuts.

The reason I mentioned this feature was more to do with the fact that it was added because many people requested it.  That's interactive development!  And that is cool.  

If you use Teams and want it to do more, use the feedback button.  They really do listen.

Meetings got a lot smarter.

  • Schedule a private meeting: Schedule a private meeting with anyone in your organization! They'll be able to join by clicking "Meetings" on the left side of the app.
  • Meetings have a smart new scheduling assistant: Our new scheduling assistant will let you know when all your invitees are free to meet. The scheduling assistant also provides a calendar view of the coming week that will show you when all your meeting attendees are busy or unavailable.

I'll also say that I haven't done a lot in meetings thus far.  For one, meetings with internal staff that are using Teams isn't as important as meetings that mix internal and external people.  So far, all I've done is tested scheduling meetings to see what was possible.  I also hit the join button in one that was actually a Skype for Business meeting and it just launched the meeting in SfB.  As soon as the doors are opened to external participants, I am sure this will change, and I'll use it more.

Bots now work in teams!

  • New Bots tab in your team page: You might have noticed there's a new tab in your team view. The Bots tab gives you a list of all the bots that have been added to that team. It's also the place to go if you want to discover new bots or get started creating a custom bot or tab!
  • Brand new bot gallery: We built a new bot gallery that will show you a list of all the bots that are currently available in Microsoft Teams. Alongside the Bots tab, the bot gallery is also the place to go when you want to find out which bots have already been added to one of your teams.
  • Discover bots via search: To see a list of all available bots, just click on the search bar at the top of the app and then select "Discover bots". Click on a bot to start a one-on-one chat or click "Add" to add it to a team.
  • Add a bot using an @mention: To add a bot to a channel, just type '@' in your compose box, then select "Add a bot".
  • Custom bots: Now, you can quickly and easily integrate an external service with one of your teams by adding a custom bot! Established and aspiring developers can sideload a bot or tab or even create a custom bot using a call back URL. Just head to the new Bots tab and click the links at the bottom right to get started.

The inclusion of more bots is cool.  However I urge some caution here.  If you add a Bot, it pops up to say what access the Bot has.  

This bot has the following permissions: 
  • Receive messages and data that I provide to it. 
  • Send me messages and notifications. 
  • Receive messages and data that team members provide to it in a channel. 
  • Send messages and notifications in a channel. 
  • Access my profile information such as my name, email address, company name, and preferred language. 
  • Access this team's information such as team name, channel list and roster (including team member's names and email addresses) - and use this to contact them​.

Some of it I understand.  For instance, sending and receiving messages.  You need that to chat with a Bot.  The last one, I think, requires some caution.  The Bot can access team info, channel list, members etc.  What does the Bot company do with this informantion?  If anyone cares to comment here, I welcome it.

Public teams are here: With public teams, anyone can search for, view, and join your team! This means that when anyone from your organization clicks through "Add a team", they'll see a collection of public teams that they can browse and join. If you want to create a new public team, you'll be able to choose 'public' or 'private' settings for your team privacy as you go through the steps of creating a new team.

Public teams is pretty cool.  This could be used for a lot of things.  I think of this as an internal social media network.  

Check out the new Notes tab: We've reimagined the way you collaborate. The Notes tab is a great place for you to draft or edit documents and communicate in real time. It's a full-fledged text editor that lets you @mention teammates right on the page, leave comments when you're editing someone else's work, or respond to feedback!

This is like a blank online Word document that you can work on with other people.  You can also @mention people in the doc.  Not sure about this just yet.  But it must have a use or it wouldn't be in there.

Even more new tabs: We've been quietly adding new options to the tab gallery so you can connect all your favorite external services. Now, you can add a tab to integrate services like Zendesk, Asana, and more. Head over to the desktop app to see what's available.

The tab gallery is getting bigger and bigger every day.  And I expect this to get a log bigger over time.  One cool recent addition is the ability to pin a Website.  Now you can add a website you (or your team) access frequently as a tab in a channel.  Another one I like is adding an Office document as a tab.  The cool thing is that the document is open in the tab.

Feeds got a makeover: We've redesigned your Activity feed so it's more transparent and gives you more control over what you see. Click on the Activity icon on the left side of the app; you'll be taken right to your feed. You'll be able to filter your feed by notification type (if you just want to check your mentions, replies, likes, or news from channels you follow). You also have the option of opening Team activity (which will show you all the latest news from your favorite channels) or My activity (which will give you a list of all the actions you've performed recently in Microsoft Teams). Hope you like it! 

Email integration with Microsoft Teams: You can now post a forwarded email to a channel in Microsoft Teams, thanks to channel email addresses. Click on the "Get email address" option in your channel menu to start sending emails to a channel. Once an email is forwarded, you can have a conversation about it directly in the channel (FYI, any comments or messages that are posted in a channel about an email will only be visible from Microsoft Teams). You'll also have the option of restricting who can send emails to a channel.

I tested this as soon as I saw it.  You hit the 3 dots next to the channel name and click on get email address.

You have some control over who can email the channel.  Everyone, internal only or by domain which is cool.  I sent a message from an external domain and it arrived as a conversation.  Sadly, my reply from within the chat (see the reply button) never arrived.

The message arrives directly in the conversation tab, but the EML file is also uploaded to Teams so you can open it using Outlook and respond directly.  I think the reply button is a better idea personally, but it's a start.

Microsoft Teams will show up in apps view: If you've got the right license, Microsoft Teams will now show up in your apps view for your desktop (when you press the Windows key) along with all your other Office 365 web apps.

This must be for when you have your Office 365 Apps in your start menu, which I don't.  This coincides with the Teams app showing up as a "waffle" tile in the Office 365 Portal page.

T-Bot speaks French: Pour nos utilisateurs francophones, nous sommes heureux d'annoncer que le contenu de T-bot et de l'aide prend désormais en charge le français. Vous êtes le bienvenu :)

Translation: "For our French speaking users, we are happy to announce that T-bot and Help content now supports French. You're welcome :)"

I don't speak French, but for those that do, this is cool.

Accessibility improvements: We take accessibility seriously, and we’re very proud of our continued commitment to making our product a great experience for users of all abilities. With that in mind, we've been hard at work improving accessibility across Microsoft Teams. Please don't hesitate to get in touch should you have concerns or comments!

Improvements in your Files tab: The Files tab has a new look and feel! Now, there's an action bar that includes an option to open the SharePoint site for your team. Additionally, you can get links to folders so you can easily share files within Teams.

All very cool!

I thought I would leave you with one last thing I just found.  You know I love a Keyboard Shortcut.  So I thought it was cool to have a list right in the app.  This is going to be an expanding list for sure, as they add more features.  But this is what you get right now.  As soon as there is an SDK for Teams, I'll work on porting StatusKey to work with Teams too!

As always, I thank you for reading.

If this or any other post has been useful to you please take a moment to share.  Comments are welcome.