5 tips for getting started with Microsoft Teams

In this post we will look at five useful tips – in no particular order, to help owners or members to get started using Microsoft Teams.

Contents

  1. Pin your favourite teams channels
  2. Use post formatting, there’s cool stuff in there
  3. Get to know the General channel
  4. Standard vs. Private channels
  5. Consider how you create new teams

#1 Pin your favourite teams channels

This is a simple one, but a really effective way of managing teams you are a part of. Once you start using teams in anger, it can become easy to lose track of what teams you frequent if you don’t manage teams gallery or your notification/ activity feed.

On notifications and the activity feed, notifications are actually turned off for teams by default, so it’s up to the members to manage their own notifications. Naturally, you still see updates by the channel being in bold and any @mentions will notify you.

It’s worth pointing out the distinction that you actually cannot pin an entire team, but only channels within it. Here’s how you pin a channel

  • Click on the ellipsis button … next to the channel you want to pin
  • Press Pin
Pin a channel for easy access from the teams gallery.

NOTE: To unpin a channel, follow the same steps as above button the option will be Unpin.

#2 Use post formatting, there’s cool stuff in there

One thing I’ve definitely starting using more and more is post formatting. There are several extra features post formatting gives you that you don’t get with the standard reply, such as

  • Add a subject – give you new post a prominent subject that stands out
  • Extra formatting options – heading options, text highlight colours, font colours
  • Announcement option – similar to a news post in SharePoint, but adds background colour or image to headline
  • Reply options – allow everyone to reply or just the you and/or moderators
  • Post in multiple channels – allows you to post a message in any of the channels you have access to
  • Format links – display text instead of a full URL, particularly useful if sharing links from Teams, as they are long and pretty ugly
There are several post formatting features that you don’t see in a regular reply.

#3 Get to know the general channel

The general channel is provisioned as standard when you create a new team. It’s generally the place where all communication within a team takes place.

The general channel comes with Posts, Files and Wiki tabs “out the box” to allow you to start collaborating straight away. That said, the general channel does have it’s limitations, such as:

  • You cannot use moderation in the general channel
  • You can’t delete the general channel
  • You can’t rename the general channel
  • You can’t hide the general channel or change the order of the channels to move it down
The general channel comes with Posts, Files & Wiki tabs as standard.

This post I wrote goes into more detail on using the general channel within the context of an org-wide team.

#4 Standard vs. private channels

There are two types of channels you can create in teams:

  • Standard – accessible to everyone on the team
  • Private – accessible only to a specific group of people within a team
When creating new channels you can choose between standard and private.

However, both options are not created equally. Here’s a look at the differences between the two:

StandardPrivate
Number of channels in a team20030
Number of members in a channel*10,000250
Can team owners manage the channel?**YesNo
Can guest create channels?YesNo
Support for connectors & tabs?YesYes
Support for Stream, Planner & Forms?YesNo
Create’s additional SharePoint site collections?NoYes
Creates additional Microsoft 365 Group?NoNo

* The number of members within a standard channel derives from the team membership.

** Team owners can’t see the files, conversations or members list in a private channel unless they are members themselves. Owners can see the names of the private channels in teams they own and also delete them.

Here are some more resources teams limits and standard/ private channels:

Private channel SharePoint site collections

Just to add to the point in the table about of additional SharePoint site collection, each private channel has it’s own, slimmed down version of a SharePoint site optimised for file sharing and fast provisioning.

The key differences between these site collections and standard ones is that private channel site collections are created in the same geographic region as the site collection of the parent team, have a a custom template ID, "TEAMCHANNEL#0" and cannot be accessed via the SharePoint admin center – only through PowerShell and the Graph API.

An example site collection for a private channel.

The URL for a private channel URL concatenates the team name with the private channel name, meaning it will look like this:

https://tenant.sharepoint.com/sites/TeamName-PrivateChannelName

https://www.petri.com/managing-teams-private-channels

#5 Consider how you create new teams

So this point is really to understand what gets provisioned when you create a new team, the different ways you can create them and any limitations with creating in those different ways.

What else do you get when you create a new team?

There is an absolutely brilliant everyday guide to Microsoft 365 Groups by Matt Wade at jumpto365 that does a better job explaining what you get when you create, well anything in Microsoft 365 than I can, but here’s the overview from his site:

Credit – Matt Wade jumpto365: https://www.jumpto365.com/blog/everyday-guide-to-office-365-groups

Outlook groups and the global address list

What I wanted to highlight was depending on how you create a team, the Microsoft 365 group behaves differently – particularly in Outlook.

What I have noticed is that teams created via the client app or web browser are will not appear in Outlook groups or the global address list.

Teams created any other way, be it from the Teams admin center, Outlook, Exchange, Azure or Groups will appear in Outlook groups and in the global address list.


How to restrict posts in an org-wide Team

In this post we will look at the permission settings within a general channel in Teams, how this relates to an org-wide team, plus channel moderation!

Contents

Introduction

Before diving into this post, it’s worth calling out that channel permissions and moderation are not limited to just org-wide teams, they are available to any team you create. My brief was to limit the ability to post in an org-wide team to just owners, so I figured I would write this in the context of org-wide teams as it would be a common use case for many organisations!

What’s an org-wide team?

For those new to Teams, an org-wide team is something you can create that will automatically all users in your organisation. Microsoft defines it as:

Org-wide teams provide an automatic way for everyone in a small to medium-sized organization to be a part of a single team for collaboration.

Create an org-wide team in Microsoft Teams – Microsoft Teams Documentation

You can have up to five org-wide teams as part of your tenancy, but will need to be a global admin to create them. As part of a recent roll out of Teams, we created a private team which was later converted to an org-wide team. Here’s a post I wrote about creating new teams where I added some thoughts on org-wide teams.

The General channel, permissions & moderation

If you already have an org-wide team created, the next step may be to restrict or moderate who and what can be posted within the channels in the org-wide team. Sounds simple enough right?

#1 you can’t moderate the general channel

So if your first thought is to have an open-ish org-wide team where anyone can add posts or replies in a moderated fashion, think again! Unless you have already created bespoke teams templates to avoid this issue, your org-wide team will be using the default general channel which cannot use channel moderation.

So that leaves two options, either create a new channel that can be moderated, leaving the general tab unused or manage the permissions of the general channel.

You currently cannot moderate the general channel in Teams.

#2 you can’t delete or hide the general channel

If you do decide that a new, moderated channel is the best way to go you will be left with a potentially unwanted general channel. This can be problematic for a few reasons, namely:

  • You can’t delete the general channel
  • You can’t rename the general channel
  • You can’t hide the general channel or change the order of the channels to move it down

There is a UserVoice request to remove or rename the general channel here that Microsoft will respond to if a request gains enough traction.

How to add a new channel and set up moderation

If you do decide to go ahead and create a new channel for your team to apply moderation, here’s how to do it.

Add a new channel

  • Press the ellipsis … next to the channel name > Add new channel
  • Give the channel a name and description
  • Set the privacy of the channel
    • Standard – accessible to everyone in the team
    • Private – accessible to a specific group of people in the team
  • Tick to automatically show the channel in everyone’s lists (optional)
  • Press Add

Turn on channel moderation

  • Select your newly created channel, press the ellipsis … next to the channel name > manage channel
  • In channel settings, under permissions > set channel moderation to on
  • The default channel moderators are the team owners, press manage to change this and select the individual(s) required
  • Turn the following check-boxes on or off as desired (on by default):
    • Allow members to reply to channels
    • Allow bots to submit channel messages
    • Allow connectors to submit channel messages
Create a new channel and turn on post moderation in Teams.

What does an end-user see?

So with all the out-of-the-box options switched on as above, only moderators can start new posts, but members can reply to channel messages.

When a user navigates to the moderated channel, they see the following message:

Channels with moderation turned on will display a message to end-users in the channel.

However, when a moderator adds a post, this is what an end-user sees:

With channel moderation turned on, end-users cannot add new posts, but are able to reply.

How to restrict permissions in the general channel

Microsoft recommend you only allow team owners to post in the general channel, and switch off @team and @[team name] mentions in an org-wide team. Here’s how to do it:

Restrict permissions to post in the general channel

  • Press the ellipsis … next to the general channel name > manage channel
  • Under channel settings, permissions you have the following options:
    • Anyone can post
    • Anyone can post; show alert that posting will notify everyone (recommended for large teams)
    • Only owners can post messages
  • Select only owners can post messages

Switch off @team and @[team name] mentions

  • Press the ellipsis … next to the team name > manage team
  • Press the settings tab > expand @mentions
  • There are two options checked:
    • Show members the option to @team or @[team name] (this will send a notification to everyone on the team)
    • Give members the option to @channel or @[channel name]. This will notify everyone who’s shown the mentioned channel in their channel lists.
  • Untick both options
How to restrict who can post to team owners in the general channel and turn of @mentions.

What does an end-user see?

So much like with channel moderation, users are notified when post restrictions are in place in the general channel:

End users can see when posts are restricted in the general channel.

Although unable to post replies with this restriction in place, users are still able to add reaction emoji’s to posts, which are visible too all in the org-wide team.

Even with post restrictions in place, end-users can still use emoji’s to react to posts that will be visible to org-wide team members.

You can edit the policies and settings within the Teams admin center to manage GIFs, stickers and memes, but you cannot turn off reaction emojis. There is a UserVoice request here to add the functionality.