How to Get Started Using Microsoft Teams

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written by craig beam posted on June 16, 2021

If you’ve been using Microsoft 365 or working remotely, you may be aware of Microsoft Teams. Consisting of more than just video conferencing, Teams is an application that integrates audio and video calls, content collaboration, calendars, chat, and shared files and apps. Understanding its many functions and features can help you and your organization collaborate more effectively and increase your productivity.

Teams Interface

On the Teams Interface, you’ll see a navigation bar to the left that can help you access Teams’ major features. If you click on Activity, you’ll see your mentions, messages, and other updates that have occurred since you last logged on. Teams will display the teams and channels you can access. If you see a channel appear in bold, that means there’s recent activity on the channel.  You might see an exclamation mark if there’s a message that’s been flagged as important. There’s a filter to the left of Activity, and if you type in a word or a name, you’ll see related activities appear.

Below Activity, you’ll see Chat, where you can start a conversation with one or more team members. You can also make video or audio calls directly from chats. Clicking on Calendar, you can view your weekly schedule and easily create new meetings. If your organization enables Calls, you can use this area to call people or sometimes even to capture voicemail. By clicking on Files, we can see all the files that the team has ever shared. The Apps icon gives us the ability to access additional apps that we can run or work with through Teams.

There’s also a command box at the top of the screen that lets us quickly search for items in Teams. Another way to leverage the command box is through slash commands. Type in a slash in the box or use Ctrl + /, and you’ll see a dropdown with shortcuts to various areas, actions, and features. To the right of the command box is a profile icon. Clicking on this icon allows us to customize our user settings and preferences.

Teams and Channels

In Teams, a team refers to a collection of people, content, and tools based on a specific project or group. You might have a team that’s department-based, such as one for the accounting department. Or you might have one developed to help employees collaborate on a specific project. Think of teams as different houses and channels as rooms in those houses. All teams start with a general channel. Additional ones, based on specific tasks or subgroups, can be developed as needed.

In most organizations, everyone is permitted to create a team. However, it’s important not to create duplicate teams to avoid making collaboration difficult among your co-workers. Check existing teams before creating a new one, and consider a channel rather than a team for short-term projects.

How do you join or create a team? When you click on Teams, you’ll see an option to Join or create a team at the bottom of the Teams pane. Clicking on it, you’ll see a list of all the public teams available, as well as an option to create one – Create a team. If you’re looking to join a private team, there’s an option to Join a team with a code. You may be automatically invited to join a private team, in which case it will appear alongside the other teams you can access. If not, you’ll need to enter the code you get from the private team’s Owner in that field to join.

When you click on Create a team, you’ll have the option to build one from scratch or build one using an existing team as a template. If you’re building one from scratch, you’ll have the option to make it a public or private team. You’ll give the team a name, add a useful team description, and then add members.

Your team will get a default channel, which is good to use for announcements. But you’ll also want to create specific subchannels based on your projects and tasks. For example, if you’ve set up a team for your marketing department, you may want to set up channels for departmental units like graphic design and copywriting. At the bottom of the channels is a field that allows you to start conversations within the channel using standard text, as well as gifs, emojis, and other effects. You can also attach files to conversations, edit your own messages after the fact, and add mentions by typing @ and a team member’s username. Doing so can be a good way to draw their attention to a conversation, as your mention will be reflected in their Activity pane.

Features to manage a team can be found by clicking the ellipses to the left of your team name in the Teams pane. You’ll see a dropdown with options that allow you to manage or leave the team, add channels or members, and more. When you select Manage team, you can assign members to one of three possible roles: Owner, Member, or Guest. Owners can add or delete members from a team. They can even delete a team. It’s good to have multiple co-owners of a team so that other team members can take care of the team if you’re not available.

When you click Add channel, you can create a public or private channel. You may want to create the latter for discussing confidential or sensitive information. Every channel has three default tabs. There’s Post, where your team posts messages, replies, and conversations. There are Files where shared files are stored and can be accessed and edited. And then the third tab is a Wiki, an optional area where you can draft documents, track meeting notes, and collaborate in real-time. You can also add other tabs to provide easy access to other applications your team may find useful.


If you want to talk privately with a person or a group, you’ll use the chat function. To start a new chat here, click on Chat on the left, then either use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + N or click on the pencil that appears in the Chat pane. You’ll write who the message is to in the command box, then compose your message and hit enter. If enabled by your organization, the Chat function also allows you to start audio or video calls as well. Using this feature, you can screen share, add people, or display your chat in a pop-out box.


You can see everything you’ve got lined up for the day or the week or the work week in Calendar. This area is also where we can schedule a meeting. Your meetings list stays synchronized with your Outlook calendar, so you always know what’s going on. If you want to schedule a new meeting, simply choose that option. You can add a few people to this meeting from inside or outside the organization, add meeting details, and enable video conferencing.

If you’re looking for more information about using or deploying Microsoft Teams, contact us at MicroXPress Inc. Servicing clients throughout Southcentral, Pennsylvania, our expert team can help you use your existing tools more effectively or explore what collaboration tools might be best for your organization. Reach out to us today, and let’s explore what options may work best for your business.

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