What Is Microsoft Teams?

The group messaging app that integrates with Microsoft 365

Microsoft Teams is Office's answer to productivity chat apps such as Slack. Used properly, it can be an effective coordination tool for both individuals and organizations. Here's what it is and how to use it.

What Is Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is a productivity, chat, and coordination app available as part of Microsoft 365, the online Office suite of products, and also as a stand-alone product. You don't need Microsoft 365 to use Teams, although some of its features will require you download it.

Microsoft Teams is available both as a standalone application you can download, and as a web app you can log into with your Microsoft account and use through a browser. It allows you to share files through OneDrive, chat with members of the groups you create, and otherwise coordinate your efforts.

Small-business owners might want to go with Microsoft Teams Essentials, which is a slightly pared-down version of the platform. Features include 30 hours of group calls per month, shared calendars, chat, and file sharing for a lower monthly cost than the regular offering.

How Do I Get Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is available for free from Microsoft, or included with an Microsoft 365 subscription. You'll need a Microsoft account to register as part of Teams or to log in. If you have an Xbox Live account, a Hotmail account, or a Skype account, this will serve as your Microsoft account; your Windows password won't.

Once you log in or download, you'll be asked to create a team. You can create a team by finding other members of MS Teams or by inviting people to join using their emails. When you create a team, you'll be asked to name it and to set privacy settings. Once that's set, you'll find the team you've created on the left side of the screen.

What Tools Are in Microsoft Teams?

When you log into Teams, on the extreme left, you'll find four tabs: Activity, Chat, Teams, and Files.

Activity is simply a summary of all the activity on the website since you last logged in. Chat allows you to privately chat with one member of the team. Teams lets you select which team you're working with. Files is a repository of files you want to share with the team and otherwise store.

Microsoft Teams main screen

Microsoft Teams has three main tabs under Teams; the first is Conversation, a chat tool allowing you to share files and messages with others. This includes both productivity related items and lighter bits such as funny GIFs. This works like other chat tools such as Skype or Facebook Messenger.

The second tab, Files, allows you to upload individual files and edit them collaboratively. You can upload a wide range of files, including open source formats, and can open conversations about them.

The third, and the most distinctive feature, is Wiki. This allows you to create a dynamic document anyone on the team can edit. Ideal for style guides, rules for meetings, updated reports, and similar documents.

Microsoft Teams with a YouTube Video tab created

Select the Plus (+) and you can add other tabs if your team needs to work with them, such as EverNote or YouTube. These allow you to add a specific file as a tab. For example, if you need to look at a YouTube video, you can add it as a tab and the team can refer to it without having to keep it open in a separate browser tab.

You first need to install the app to use the tab feature.

Teams is effective for small groups working on projects. Whether it's a social event you're arranging or something for work, consider Teams as a productivity and collaboration tool.

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