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Collaboration software has never been more valuable than it is today, in the midst of a pandemic that has forced millions of people to work remotely. Keeping colleagues and teams in contact and working productively together can mean the difference between success and failure for organizations of all sizes.

That’s where business applications like Microsoft Teams come into play. Teams offers a unified collaboration and communication solution that lets your workers stay connected, work together on projects, and maintain a cohesion that would be impossible without such a tool.

The key features of Teams — creating groups, chatting, sharing workspaces, etc. — are all fairly intuitive and obvious. That’s why we’re highlighting several of Teams’ less visible options and features, to ensure that you get the most out of Microsoft’s powerful solution.

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Tip #1: Mark messages as unread

Sometimes, you’ll come across a message that’s important but you’re not quite ready to handle it now. Once you read it, though, it becomes just like any other message and can get lost in the hundreds of messages that are also important. That’s why Teams makes it easy to mark a message as unread so that it shows up prominently in your list and reminds you to tackle it again.

Mark Message as Unread

Tip #2: Turn on your notifications

We all have lives, and there will be times when you’re not working actively in Teams or away from your PC. Teams can notify you of a variety of activities, making sure that you’re kept up to date on what’s going on with your teams and projects. Head into Settings > Notifications to make sure that the right notifications are turned on, and that they’re set up to notify you how you want, when you want.

Manage Notifications

Tip #3: Change your status

Imagine you’re in the middle of a major project, heads-down and deep in thought. You don’t want to be interrupted, which with a tool like Teams can happen more often than you might imagine. Fortunately, Teams lets you change your status so that you appear differently to your teammates. Choose the right status — up to appearing offline altogether — lets everyone know whether you’re available to interact. Just click on your icon and set your status.

Manage Status

Tip #4: Change your video background

Many people don’t have dedicated home offices that they can decorate professionally and keep in pristine condition. Rather, many — maybe most — people were caught unaware and are working out of any room in their home that happens to be available. It might not be the most photogenic, and so videoconferencing could be embarrassing. That’s where video backgrounds come in handy — just select a background during a videocall and your colleagues will see you silhouetted against something that’s likely much more appropriate than your kitchen after making the family’s breakfast.

To select a background, the easiest way is to call up the meeting dialog by clicking the “Meet” button at the top right of the Teams interface, and then choose Background filters under your video. The default backgrounds will show up on the right.

Video Background

Tip #5: Bookmark messages

We’ve already discussed how to mark messages as unread so they’re easier to remember later. Another, deeper step is to bookmark a message so that it’s saved and waiting specifically for your attention. Bookmarking a message is as easy as clicking on the ellipsis for a message and then selecting “Save this message.”

Save this message

Tip #6: Mute messages

If there’s a conversation going on that you were a part of but no longer need to follow, then chances are you don’t want to see every notification that the message generates. It’s easy enough to mute the message — just turn off its notifications. Again, click on the ellipsis for the message, then select “Turn off notifications.”

Turn Off Notifications

Tip #7: Spice up your messages

You’re not limited to plain text in your messages. That would be boring. Instead, Teams has a rich text editing feature that lets you use a variety of formatting options to give some character to your messages. To access the rich text editor, select a message block and click on the “A”/editing button to the left underneath the block. Once it pops up, you’ll be able to access a few editing features to make your text stand out. Click on the ellipsis for more options, including marking the message as important.

Rich Text Editing

Tip #8: Grab someone’s attention

If you’re in a discussion, it’s likely that you’ll have occasion to get a specific team member’s attention. It’s easy enough to do: just hit the “@” key and start typing a person’s name. Teams will provide you with a list of candidates, and you can select from the list or keep typing until precisely the right person is highlighted. This will notify the individual that they’ve been mentioned and call out the message for their immediate attention.

Using Mentions

Tip #9: Use Teams commands

Microsoft built commands into Teams that serve as shortcuts to a host of the tool’s functionality. To access a command, you simply type the “/” key and then the command. When you first type “/,” a list of available commands will populate in a drop-down list. Alt+K in Windows 10 and Option+K in Mac OS will also open the command list.

You can go to Microsoft’s support page for a full list of the available commands. Some of them are shortcuts to functions available elsewhere — e.g., you can quickly set your status to “away” by using the command /away — while some are features that you can’t easily access elsewhere. You type the commands into the command box at the top of Teams (which also serves as the search bar).

Teams Commands

Tip #10: Use keyboard shortcuts

Microsoft has also made available several keyboard shortcuts that make it easy to quickly perform key tasks. For example, you can accept a video call by using the Ctrl+Shift+A shortcut or decline a call using Ctrl-Shift-D. Attach a file to a message with Ctrl+O, and toggle video on and off with Ctrl+Shift+O.

You can find a full list of keyboard shortcuts at Microsoft’s support page. Memorize the most important ones, and you’ll be the fastest Teams user around.

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Microsoft Teams is a powerful collaborative solution even if you use only the most obvious features and functionality. Hopefully, the tips we’ve provided here will help you dig in a little deeper and get even more value out of the solution.

Mark Coppock

Author Mark Coppock

A technology and aspiring science fiction writer from just outside Los Angeles, CA.

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