How to use Microsoft computers more productively – PC Magazine


Optimize your Microsoft Teams account, silence the biggest distractions and do more with this messaging and video chat application.

By Jill Duffy

Microsoft computers can be a critical tool for working from home. How well it works for you depends on how many of the key features you know and use, as well as how many tricks you know to navigate this huge tool and keep it organized.

Microsoft Teams is one of the best team messaging and video conferencing applications, as it allows groups of people to communicate with each other using group text chat, one-on-one text chat, video calls, and file sharing. In Teams, you can collaboratively wiki for a project or department, as well as connect to other Microsoft applications. Anyone can use Microsoft Teams for free. Learning how to use the app’s main features, like joining a channel and posting a comment, is pretty easy, especially since you get short tutorials the first time you use Team.

Let’s see instead what is less obvious. What follows is a collection of ten simple and powerful tips and tricks that help you stay organized, keep key tools at your fingertips, turn off some notifications to reduce distractions, and generally have a more productive experience with this app. To learn more about Microsoft teams, read about how it differs from Slack, as well as some of the alternatives to these two popular messaging apps.

Notifications from your team’s chat apps help you stay on top of important conversations, but unimportant ones can be hideous distractions. So it is important to customize notifications. In Teams, you can do this at the application level, channel level, and conversation level.

At the app level, you can customize notifications for mentions, messages, and other account changes, such as when someone joins or leaves. The only one you can’t disable completely is @mentions.

To get there, click on your profile icon in the upper right corner, choose Settings, and then select Notifications.

At the channel level, you can customize notifications for all new posts, all responses, and mentions of the channel – that is, when someone tags the channel to talk about it. It may be useful to disable (set to Off) any channel that you have joined for fun and socializing, or any channel that you passively watch or listen to. Even after turning off channel notifications, the channel name will be bold when there is a new activity, letting you know you can log in and catch up, but only when the time is right for you.

To get there, hover over the channel name until three dots appear. Click on the dots and select Channel Notifications.

At the conversation level (also known as a thread), you can disable notifications entirely, which is useful when a thread goes off the rails.

To get there, hover over the top right corner of the original post until you see a chain of reacji and three dots. Click the three dots and choose Turn off notifications. Even with notifications turned off, you will receive an alert if someone @ mentions you.

Microsoft Teams keeps channels and chats separate from each other. That’s not useful when you need to quickly send someone in private while you’re in the middle of a channel conversation. However, there is a way to do it.

Click on the profile of the person you want to send a message. A box appears with some options to reach them, including a message field that is nothing more than a quick way to send a chat.

Microsoft Teams has built-in audio and video calls. This means that you can turn any conversation with a colleague into a phone call or a video call using your computer’s speakers, microphone, and camera. There are a few ways to call your colleagues, including clicking on someone’s profile picture and selecting the call icon (see the picture in the tip above). Another way is to switch from a private chat to a call. This option is convenient when text chat is not as efficient as you would like.

From chat, simply click on the video camera icon or phone icon in the upper right corner. The application will mark the person or persons in the chat automatically.

When you physically share office space with others, it’s easy to ask a colleague to look over their shoulders at someone on the screen. It is almost as easy to show your screen to colleagues when you are in a remote work environment. With Microsoft Teams, you can do this by initiating a call with someone, and then turning on screen sharing.

Once the call starts, click on the screen sharing option near the bottom of the window. Note that the account administrator must allow screen sharing for it to work.

Maybe you’ve seen all the fun background images that people have added to Zoom virtual meetings. Microsoft Teams also lets you choose a background image for video calls, but it doesn’t offer you an easy way to create your own image. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible, and Lance Whitney shows you how to do it in his tutorial.

The short version of its instructions is to place the image you want to use in the folder that Microsoft Teams uses for its background image options.

The more teams and channels are in your account, the more messy and disorganized your app’s left rail looks. Let’s look at some key ways to sort the channel bar.

First, set the channels you use the most at the top of that area. Scroll over the channel name until you see three dots. Click on the points and choose Pin.

Second, you can expand and collapse computers as needed. The more teams you collapse, the more organized your channel bar will become.

Third, you can reorder teams by dragging and dropping them, allowing you to place the most important teams higher.

Finally, within any team, you can hide channels that are not very relevant to you, except the General channel for each team. You can’t get rid of it. To hide a channel, hover over its name until you see three dots. Click on the dots and select Hide. After hiding the channels, you can still easily reach them by navigating to the bottom of the channel list for that team, where the app tells you how many channels it has hidden for the chosen team.

The search bar at the top of the Microsoft Teams window works as a place to type commands. Commands allow you to navigate the application faster and more efficiently. If you’re not technologically savvy, the commands may seem daunting, but here they aren’t.

Try typing a forward slash (/) in the search bar. A list of possible commands appears, which means you don’t have to memorize them. Also, the application helps you complete the command. For example, if you type / chat, the application automatically provides you with fields to write the name of the person you want to send a message to and a text field to write it.

Two other useful commands are / dnd, which puts your account in “do not disturb” mode; and / keys, which displays a list of keyboard shortcuts for more ways to navigate the application efficiently.

Each channel has a row of tabs at the top. By default, you will see Posts, Files, and Wiki. You can add special tabs that are unique to each channel. Tabs can be websites, specific files you need to reference the offer, and even information from other applications, such as Trello or Zendesk.

To add a tab, click the + in the tab area, and a list of options will show you what type of content you can add.