Best Microsoft Teams Features: 55 Gems We Use in 2021
New to Microsoft Teams? Experienced Teams user and want to get more from your productivity stack? If only there were some under the radar Microsoft Teams features you could get your hands on.
In this post, we look at some of the best hidden features on Microsoft Teams that will help you get the most out of your app.
Microsoft Teams current state
Microsoft announced in November 2020 that Teams reached 115 million daily active users. The number of people active on Teams is skyrocketing, and engagement is through the roof.
When celebrating the new record-breaking, DAU announced Microsoft made another statement. Microsoft 365 users generated more than 30 billion collaboration minutes in a day.
Since Microsoft Teams emerged in 2017, it has been gaining unprecedented popularity. Built to replace Skype for Business, Teams offers everything teams need. Employees get one-on-one conversations, group messaging, video meetings, and audio calls.
Teams is a valuable part of the Microsoft 365 environment. The service integrates with Outlook, Word, SharePoint, and other Microsoft apps. If you’re already using Microsoft productivity tools, Teams is a natural fit.
What are the features of Microsoft Teams?
Before we dig into 30 hidden gems, here are 25 of the more “standard” features on the Microsoft Teams feature list:
- One-to-one chat (messaging)
- Group chat
- Contact search
- Conversation search
- Access control
- Activity feed
- Assistant bots
- High contrast mode & other accessibility features
- Channel-based working
- Message threads
- Channel favoriting and following
- Customizable alerts
- Emojis, GIFs, and stickers
- Multi-factor authentication
- Microsoft Teams meetings
- Meeting scheduling
- Microsoft 365 integrations
- Microsoft Teams integrations with third-party tools
- Tabs for frequently used apps
- Audio conferencing
- File sharing
- Screen sharing
- Usage reports
- Together mode
Microsoft Teams features for team productivity
Teams is designed to boost productivity by improving the flow of information in your business. Making sure different groups throughout your business can communicate can improve productivity.
In a Salesforce blog, Nick Stein wrote that 86% of employees cite lack of collaboration for workplace failures.
Let’s start with the Microsoft Teams features that drive results for your entire team.
1 – External Federation with Slack or Webex Teams
Some of the best Teams apps are those usually viewed as competitors.
Do you communicate with people outside your organization?
Do they use apps other than Microsoft Teams?
If the answer is yes to both of these questions, according to research, they’ll likely be using Slack or Cisco Webex Teams.
When this is the case, it becomes extremely unproductive moving from Teams, into your external contact’s preferred app, and starting the conversation again.
Or even worse, end up resorting to email like it’s the 90s. (Okay, email has a purpose but you get the point).
That’s why Mio has created universal channels for Microsoft Teams to chat with Slack or Webex Teams…
You can stay in Teams and send messages to your contractors, suppliers, or clients who use Slack or Webex.
They stay in their platform while Mio translates the messages across platform.
And it’s not just messages that are supported! GIFs, files, emojis, channels, @ mentions, message threads, and message edits/deletes are all supported.
If this sounds like something you need, install universal channels for free in less than 2 minutes. You can create up to 3 channels for free.
2 – Tabs
Often, the best Teams apps are those built-in to Teams itself.
Tabs in Microsoft Teams allow businesses to display rich and interactive web content to their teams. There are two kinds of tabs on Teams:
- Static tabs: These support individual users. For instance, you might have a tab that allows employees to make personal notes as they work.
- Configurable tabs: These are part of your Teams channel. They offer ongoing information and guidance to teams.
3 – Microsoft Immersive Reader
This is one of those Microsoft Teams features that is often overlooked as a capability reserved for educational institutions.
The immersive reader speaks the text on a channel aloud at varying speeds. If you’re struggling to focus on a piece of text, or you need to grab information while your eyes are focused elsewhere, the Immersive Reader is useful functionality.
Click on the 3 dots on any message and select the reader from your drop-down menu.
This 90-second video from Microsoft shows you how to use Immersive Reader.
4 – Activity filtering with @ mentions
It’s challenging staying productive when your eye is always on the real-time chat feed in Microsoft Teams.
Fortunately, you can filter the content you see with @Mentions.
This allows you to separate your personal messages and to-do lists from other less relevant conversations.
The activity filter ensures that you stay up to date with the right information without facing the threat of information overwhelm.
5 – Bookmark specific content
Want to make sure that you can find the information you need in a hurry when you’re working on a project?
Microsoft Teams comes with the option to bookmark specific pieces of content, whether it’s a message or an attachment. You can classify the content is important to you and
In many businesses, there’s a constant stream of information moving through a chat app at any time. Bookmarking your content helps you to cut through the noise and find the data you need. See the below screenshot where the final message has a pink highlight on the right hand side.
Teams Search and Filter is useful for finding
6 – Get work done fast with slash commands
Speed is important in today’s agile workplace. If you want to get work done fast, then you need to make sure that you’re navigating Microsoft Teams as efficiently as possible.
One great way to do this is with slash commands. For instance, you can use a slash command to set your status to “online” or “away”. Alternatively, you can make sure you’re not missing out on anything important with /WhatsNew. This takes you straight to the Release Notes tab on the T-bot channel, so you can check out new features.
Some of the best slash commands include:
- /Files – Shows the most recent files shared with you on Teams.
- /GoTo – Lets you jump straight to a channel
- /Call – Initiates a call with someone else on Teams
- /Help – Delivers assistance via T-bot
- /Saved – Takes you to your saved messages
Type / into Teams to see other options.
7 – Access a personalized view of apps and contacts
There’s a reason why today’s employees love using specific apps to get work done.
We all feel more productive if we’re getting a personalized, familiar experience from our tools. Fortunately for Microsoft Teams users, it’s now possible to create a 100% unique environment just for you. For instance, you can access the “Personal App Space” to see all the items and tasks assigned to you from apps like Planner, or Jira Cloud.
The Personal Apps space also includes a “Who” tab, which allows you to search for people in your contacts by topic or name. Click on the “…” in your left-hand navigation menu to see the personal apps space.
Speaking of making your Teams experience more personalized, don’t forget that you can also change your theme too. Click on the general section of the app settings to implement “dark mode” for your mobile devices.
8 – Hide and show Teams to stay organized
It’s easier to get work done when you don’t have unstructured lists of channels to work through.
The features that used to be “Favorite” and “Remove from Favorites” on Microsoft Teams were recently upgraded to “Show” and “Hide“. This feature is particularly valuable for people that want to avoid information overwhelm.
You can choose which channels and teams you want to see and hide the rest from your UI. Although you’ll still get notifications when someone @Mentions you, your teams list won’t be nearly as cluttered. Click on the “…” next to a team or channel name in your list, then click on More Options. Select Hide to make the team or channel invisible or scroll to the bottom of your page to find Hidden teams that you want to see again.
9 – Meeting whiteboards
Any meeting in Microsoft Teams can now access a whiteboard.
Here, participants can sketch together and share ideas. Whiteboard sketching comes with different pen colors and graph options for visual collaboration.
You can collaborate with meeting participants on Whiteboard via Microsoft Teams. There’s also the option to use the Whiteboard app.
In both apps, you can draw, erase, and share content in real-time. The whiteboard tab is available before or after a meeting.
People without pen or touchscreen access can contribute with typed text.
10 – Virtual backgrounds
People using video conferencing on Microsoft Teams can change their backgrounds to either blur the background or replace it completely.
If you’ve got a messy environment behind you, blur it before or during a meeting.
Select Background effects in your audio and video settings. Choose Blur to blur your background. Everything behind you will meld together.
You can also replace your background.
Choose one of the virtual background images available from Microsoft, upload your own, or download a premium pack.
Your background will stay the same in all calls until you change it. To change a background in a meeting, click … then Show background effects.
Microsoft Teams features for knowledge sharing
Ever noticed how difficult it is to keep track of information in your business when you’re relying on email to share files, documents, and content?
With countless emails that end up lost in spam folders or the wrong inbox, it’s easy to lose essential messages. A Forbes article wrote that this problem results in countless employees spending up to 2.5 hours struggling with email each day.
Here are some Microsoft Teams features that make it easier to manage your knowledge base.
11 – Microsoft Teams connectors
Connectors keep groups ahead of the curve by delivering updates from the services that you typically use.
Rather than asking your teams to find information from Twitter, Trello, Wunderlist, and so on, you can connect those streams straight to their channels.
Any member of a Microsoft Teams channel can connect their entire group to some of the most popular cloud services. When Connectors are set up, all members of a chain will be notified when new messages appear.
12 – Combine your company Wikis
If you already use Wikis within Teams, this feature is excellent for supporting better collaboration.
Click on the “…” left-hand menu and select the Wiki option. You’ll be taken to the Wiki home page on your Personal tab, where you can take notes
You can also add notes to your Personal Wiki wherever you are. Just type /Wiki into the Teams text box and type up your note.
13 – Sync your SharePoint sites
One of the best things about Microsoft Teams is how easy it is to connect with tools you already use. For instance, if you have SharePoint team sites that you want to bring into Microsoft Teams, you can. Users can:
- Add SharePoint pages and lists into Teams channels
- Use the SharePoint news connector to stream news directly into channels
- Add full SharePoint sites in Teams via the website tab
- Include SharePoint document libraries as tabs in Teams
Microsoft has also announced that users will soon be able to create Teams for SharePoint sites by clicking on the “Create a Team” button in the left-hand corner of the site page.
14 – Make content private with information barriers
Sharing content on your collaboration tools is great.
However, you’ll need to make sure that you’re sharing the right information with the right people.
Set to arrive later this year, information barriers will give you more control over your knowledge sharing strategy.
Information barriers allow business leaders to define which individuals can collaborate in Microsoft Teams. Currently available in preview, the Information barriers policies keep information isolated when you’re dealing with sensitive topics and conversations.
Microsoft Teams features for collaboration
The McKinsey Global Institute wrote how 80% of businesses today rely on social collaboration tools to enhance their business processes.
Whether you’re trying to keep your remote workers involved with what’s happening in your office, or you need to sync different departments, Teams can help.
The most obvious features for collaboration offered by Microsoft Teams include things like real-time messaging, video conferencing, and audio calls. However, we’ve highlighted some Microsoft Teams features that are less obvious.
15 – Inline message translation
Not everyone feels comfortable working in English.
Inline message translation allows people to chat in their native tongue and translate messages into English for your other users.
It’s an easy way to keep everyone on the same page – no matter their native tongue.
16 – Cloud recording with automatic transcripts
We frequently overlook important meeting details in today’s fast-paced business world.
Fortunately, automatic transcription and cloud recording can help. The feature allows you to record your meetings automatically and store it in the cloud.
Not only can you go back and listen to the conversations you had with your team, but the transcriptions are automated too. This makes it easier to find specific information with just a keyword or phrase.
17 – Guest access
You don’t have to be a member of Microsoft Teams and Office 365 to connect via Teams.
Microsoft provides secure guest access so that people in a business can connect with individuals outside of their organization.
Anyone with a consumer or business email account can join a chat. There’s also the option to view files and participate in meetings.
Guest access in Microsoft Teams is turned off by default, but it’s easy to access. Microsoft provides a complete how-to guide to help you navigate the process. Once you’ve configured your guest access, team owners can adjust rules and permissions.
Users of Skype for Business will be familiar with the federation capability. This is not identical but is the next best thing.
For details on the differences and the nuances users are experiencing, check out this post on switching between Microsoft Teams accounts for guest access.
If you chat with external users rather than guest users, read this post instead.
18 – Use proximity sensing to join a meeting
Are you tired of the stress and extra work associated with setting up conferences or huddle room meetings? Now you can connect to a nearby meeting room instantly, using proximity-based pairing.
Proximity-based pairing means that your Teams app will automatically detect Microsoft Teams room systems within Bluetooth range of your devices. This means that you can find conference spaces quickly for spontaneous collaboration.
After you launch a Teams meeting, just browse through the available nearby room systems to find a space with the appropriate video and audio tech for your needs. You can also start a session in content-only mode, which silences your smartphone microphone and blocks your camera.
To learn more about how to set up a Microsoft Teams meeting, check out this post.
19 – Request for someone new to join your team
If you’re running a private channel on Microsoft Team, and you need to add a contractor or freelancer to that group, then you can now make a request on their behalf.
All you need to do is right-click on a channel name in Microsoft Teams, and click on Add Member. Here, you can search for new people you want to include in your channel, either by typing in their email address, or their name. The owner of the channel will then get a notification letting them know that they have a new request.
Microsoft Teams will also automatically send your new user an alert when they’re successfully given access to the Team.
20 – Microsoft Teams Live Events
Teams users can broadcast live events to large audiences for events, meetings, and webinars to up to 1,000 users.
For one-to-many announcements, live events is a convenient feature and a better experience to asking everyone to join a meeting.
Organizers can set attendee permissions and choose co-presenters. You’ll also have the option to share screens and windows in these broadcasts.
Presenters can record their events and share them through Microsoft Stream or Teams.
Live Events is available for anyone with a Microsoft 365 Enterprise E1, E3 or E5 license. Office Education users with an A3 or A5 license can also use Live Events.
Your events can either be public or private.
Microsoft Teams features for developers & IT teams
Today’s teams are rarely looking for a one-size-fits-all solution to their problems.
The rise of APIs and CPaaS solutions shows how eager we are to access more customizable tools and apps.
Some of the best Microsoft Teams features are ideal for letting developers in your business shine.
21 – Renaming channels and changing emoji policy
IT Managers have the option to allow emoji usage in Microsoft Teams. You can also support Emojis all throughout Microsoft 365 productivity tools.
Emojis can make file labels and channel names more appealing. But, there’s a bug in the SharePoint service.
Emojis will work to define channels in Teams, but not in SharePoint.
Renaming a channel won’t change the folder name in SharePoint either. It’s best to stay away from emojis to avoid SharePoint confusion.
22 – Hard Audio Mute and student control
Faculty need a way to reduce distractions in a learning environment.
Hard Audio Mute from Microsoft Teams stops students from unmuting themselves. Available for both education and enterprise packages, hard audio mute improves collaboration.
You can mute all participants from the participant pane.
When a student raises a hand to answer a question, admins have the option to remove the hard mute setting.
Admins also have the option to control when students can join a meeting.
This keeps student-to-student and classroom interactions in a secure, designated time. Student lobbies give educators controls over when students join a meeting
23 – Microsoft App Studio
Many organizations will download Microsoft Teams, install their favorite plugins, and carry on with work as normal.
However, if you have specific requirements for your team, you might want to use the Microsoft App Studio.
Launched in January 2018, App Studio allows businesses and developers to design their own tools with Teams language. This makes it easy to augment your workflows with new capabilities and processes.
24 – Microsoft Teams bots
If you want to take advantage of artificial intelligence and easy automation features, try the pre-made Microsoft Teams bots.
Some of the best bots you might not know about yet include:
- Polly: a simple bot that polls your team members and helps to keep track of employee engagement
Whobot: a bot that can answer questions about your colleagues like who knows about the current incentives for your sales team if you need help serving a customer
- Grow Bot: a feature that encourages collaboration by allowing team members to exchange kudos
- Stats bot: an analytics bot that delivers scheduled reports via sources like Google Analytics
25 – PSTN integration
You can now integrate your Microsoft Teams experience with PSTN calling.
There are multiple ways to do this, including direct routing and Microsoft Calling Plans.
The Calling Plans available from Microsoft allow you to integrate with PSTN through a cloud-based subscription. The benefit of this is that you don’t need any additional hardware.
On the other hand, if you want to stick with your existing PTSN trunk, you can try Direct Routing.
This method allows businesses to connect their PSTN to the Microsoft Teams Cloud PBX. You can use Direct Routing with any telephony provider. However, you will need a Session Border Controller.
26 – Adapt Microsoft Teams to suit your industry
There are many different kinds of business out there, from retail companies, to manufacturing brands. Because different organisations run in their own unique ways, it’s safe to say that there’s no one-size-fits-all collaboration app for every group.
The good news is that you can customize Microsoft Teams to suit your industry, with developer templates specifically designed for your vertical. For instance, there are templates for:
- Government agencies
- Retail companies
- Education groups
- Healthcare (with HIPAA compliance)
- First-line workers (Shifts)
You can contact Teams to find out more about adjusting your app to suit your industry. Or you can check out one of Microsoft’s quick-start guides online for Education admins.
Microsoft Teams features for business leaders
If you’re a company leader looking to take your organization to the next level, you’ll need to know the
This means embracing tools that help with everything from analytics to company compliance.
27 – Analytics and BI in Microsoft Teams
It’s important to know how your employees are using their Microsoft Teams app.
Usage reports gathered by Microsoft Teams give you an insight into adoption rates and user feedback. This is particularly useful if you’re implementing a new Microsoft Teams strategy and you want to plan a step-by-step rollout.
Teams reports are available in the Microsoft admin center. They offer overviews of how your teams use Teams, including information about the features they access most.
To view your reports, you’ll need to be a service admin in Teams. You can also be a Skype for Business admin or Office 365 global admin. Go to the Teams admin center, click on Analytics and Reports, and choose the report you need.
28 – Meeting recording for compliance
Recording Microsoft Teams meetings is a great way to make sure that you’re capturing crucial information for compliance purposes.
Recordings capture video, audio
Recording meetings is helpful if you want to create department or company-wide announcements.
With your recordings, you can reveal information about news items, or create training videos for employees. Click on the “…” in your channel and choose Start Recording.
To learn more about how to set up a Microsoft Teams meeting, check out this post.
29 – Manage first-line workers
As a relatively new addition to Microsoft Teams, this may still be a hidden feature to some companies. Now, you can address shift issues and arrange your work schedule within Teams channels.
Managers can easily plan where they need more support from specific staff members. There’s also the option for employees to
The Shifts feature is switched on by default for most companies. Just click on the “…” option and select Shifts to get started. To access Shifts on mobile, you’ll need to expand your modular tray. You can pin Shifts to your nav bar for easy access.
30 – Private channels
Control which individuals can collaborate and communicate in Teams by building private channels.
This is a valuable feature in financial companies where parts of your organization may not be permitted to see and share information.
Private channels were previewed at Enterprise Connect as a long time request from Team users. This capability makes it easier to control how data is shared in an age where privacy and compliance are crucial.
You can see the differences between public and private channels in this video by Modality Systems.
When you give someone a Praise badge, you’ll also be identified as the sender. The person’s name will be displayed alongside their new badge in public channels too.
Microsoft Teams features for intercompany collaboration
Sometimes you need to look beyond Microsoft Teams to find the features that are the most transformative.
For instance, did you know that you can connect your Microsoft Teams conversations with external contacts that Slack and Cisco Webex Teams?
In businesses, there is often a group of Slack users – sanctioned or otherwise. These users will not conform to Microsoft Teams just because someone has decided this is the way you need to work.
In the same vein, forcing them to use Microsoft Teams instead of Slack isn’t going to work either.
And using both Microsoft Teams and Slack is unproductive and risks losing information.
The same is applicable to Cisco Webex Teams.
Most enterprises have Cisco endpoints for VoIP usage or conferencing. Cisco hardware is built to integrate with Cisco Webex Teams.
So, the chances of your external contacts – like suppliers or customers – using Microsoft Teams is slimmer than you think.
Want a way to stay in Teams and message your external contacts that use other platforms? We have the answer.
Are you ready to explore the best Microsoft Teams feature that keeps you connected to your external contacts? Learn more about Mio here.
Here are 25 top tips to ensure you get the most out of Microsoft Teams:
1. Tabs in Microsoft Teams allow businesses to display rich and interactive web content to their teams.
2. Microsoft Immersive Reader speaks the text on a channel aloud at varying speeds.
3. Filter the content you see with @Mentions.
4. Microsoft Teams comes with the option to bookmark specific pieces of content, whether it’s a message or an attachment.
5. Get work done fast with slash commands.
6. Access the Personal App Space to see all the items and tasks assigned to you from apps like Planner, or Jira Cloud.
7. Hide and show Teams to stay organized
8. Microsoft Teams connectors keep groups ahead of the curve by delivering updates from the services that you typically use.
9. Combine your company Wikis
10. Sync your SharePoint sites
11. Make content private with information barriers
12. Inline message translation allows people to chat in their native tongue and translate messages into English for your other users.
13. Cloud recording with automatic transcripts
14. Microsoft provides secure guest access so that people in a business can connect with individuals outside of their organization.
15. Use proximity sensing to join a meeting
16. Request for someone new to join your team using Add Member
17. App Studio allows businesses and developers to design their own tools with Teams language.
18. Try the pre-made Microsoft Teams bots.
19. Integrate your Microsoft Teams experience with PSTN calling.
20. Adapt Microsoft Teams to suit your industry
21. Usage reports gathered by Microsoft Teams give you an insight into adoption rates and user feedback.
22. Meeting recording for compliance
23. Manage first-line workers using Shifts
24. Control which individuals can collaborate and communicate in Teams by building private channels.
25. Use praise to show employee appreciation.