The Microsoft Teams desktop app will soon be getting a new “Compact” Chat mode that will let you see 50% more messages on screen. Compact mode will only work on chat messages initially and wont apply to Channel messages.
Microsoft have said that this new Compact mode will start rolling out in the Teams desktop app this month and once it’s available, the option will appear in Settings > General > Chat Density where you will be able to choose between “Comfy” (the current experience) and “Compact.” as shown below.
Enabling the Compact Mode will reframe the message to show 50% more chat messages than the default/current view which Microsoft call “comfy”. This new setting can be enabled now for anyone in the “preview” channel for Microsoft Team and you can see the difference in the two images below.
This will start rolling out to all users later this month (Feb 2022).
In addition to the recent price rises annouced last week to almost all Microsoft 365 plans (other than the highest E5 plans), Microsoft also annouced some good value news for users of Microsoft Teams.
And today, we are announcing that we will add unlimited dial-in capabilities for Microsoft Teams meetings across our enterprise, business, frontline, and government…
Jared Spataro, Corporate VP | Microsoft 365
What’s it currently cost?
At time of writing, Microsoft’s PSTN Audio Conferencing is included with Microsoft 365 E5 and Office 365 E5 (for free) but requires an add-on licence for all other licences such as E3 (the most common base licence across most organisations).
The PSTN audio conferencing licence (add on) is currently priced at circa £3pupm (about $4) and for enterprise customers on an Enterprise Agreement (EA), there is also an option to pay via Pay Per Minute billing.
What about dial-out conferencing?
In the official Microsoft blog, they refer to unlimited dial-in conferencing and do not specifically talk about any changes to dial-out conferencing where a meeting participant calls a user into a conference from a meeting rather than them dialing in.
Under the currently model, each licenced user gets a pooled 60 minutes per user per month that can be used to dial-out to non-premium numbers in any of the Zone A countries. More info on that here.
It’s not known (well I couldn’t find it) if this is also changing under the new plan.
Big value or not?
Microsoft has more than 300 million commercial paid seats, though less than 10% of these are E5 so adding this value to all Office/Microsoft 365 plans is of course welcomed value.
This, on the Surface is clearly good news and should potitivley impact a very large number of organisations (assuming they use Microsoft Teams for meetings of course) adding more value to the license they pay for (price rises aside of course).
The question remains of course, as in todays online world how many people still “dial in” to conferences and this of course limits the other mediums and media in a teams meetings such as video, content sharing/viewing and app Co authoring but is useful in situations where you are perhaps driving, travelling or in a area with no or poor Internet connectivity.
Microsoft Teams is getting a new much needed feature that will allow users to swap between shared content and the Gallery view during meetings.
Now in Public Preview, this new feature is (though I’m sure it was there once before) rolling out to users enrolled in the public preview channel using Windows 10 and macOS clients.
What does this new feature provide?
The new swap experience (supported in both large gallery & dynamic mode as well as Together Mode) finally means that users can now simply swap between any content being shared and on their chosen participant video feeds, bringing participant videos to the center and content like shared desktop/window, PowerPoint presentation or Whiteboard etc to the side or top.
Clicking on the shared content again brings the shared content back to the center of the meeting window. Gallery view and Together mode. Previously, the app used to disable the 49-person Large Gallery view in screen sharing mode, but this release lets users enable Large Gallery while sharing content or screen.
This may sound like a little thing… It is, but it’s been a niggle of many of my customers (and me once I discovered you actually couldn’t do…. I’m convinced I used to be able to).
Microsoft 365 now has “Safe Links” protections across Microsoft Teams for any organisation that uses Microsoft Defender for Office 365 (formally Office 365 ATP).
What is Safe Links?
Safe Links is a feature of Defender for Office 365 that scans URLs clicked by end users to check for malware and malicious or phishing sites in real time.
Safe Links was first introduced in 2015 (for just Exchange Online at the time) and was originally used to “detonate” links in e-mails to detect malicious payloads. Safe Links was subsequently added to Microsoft 365 applications, as well, such as PowerPoint and Word.
With the latest update and expansion across Microsoft 365, Safe Links now provides transparent, integrative and native intelligent protections against malicious links in conversations, group chats and channels chat across Microsoft Teams.
Enabling the feature
This can be configured in the Microsoft 365 Defender portal. Detailed instructions can be found here
As with SafeLinks across the other Office services, admins can add exclusions and trusted sites if needed.
Thia update will enhance the presenter view to make desktop or app sharing more inclusive and better for hybrid meetings, ensuring the presenter can be seen at all times. Side by Side and Reporter Mode
Side by Side Mode
In this mode, meeting participants will see the presenter’s video feed and content overlaid on a background image (which can be customised).
In this mode, the meeting participants will see the presenter’s video feed superimposed over the background image while having the content over their shoulder, placed diagonally. Like. TV broadcast.
The modes are customisable….with different backgrounds (not custom ones yet though).
What can be customised?
Presenters are able to customise the background image before starting the presentation.
Presenters are able to enable or disable the video feed during the presentation from the sharing bar.
June 2021,brings a host of new features to Teams phones, which translate and complement some of the newest and greatest features users get with Teams on their desktop or mobile phone today. These include.
Add or Transfer Call to Device
Custom Backgrounds on video phones
Improved boss/admin/PA features
Outlook Contacts available on phone
Live captions support
Simpler and refreshed UI making it easier to get to key functions.
Let’s dive into the top 3 which are the most noticable in my view. You can see the full blog post and all the new features from Microsoft here.
Add or Transfer Call to Device
One of the most requested features is now here with the ability to add or transfer calls and meeting across devices.
With this latest update for Teams Phone, this functionality is now consistently available across all devices meaning your desk phone will recognise you are in a call on another device and prompt you to transfer or add it in, letting you start your call from elsewhere and transfer to your desk phone.
Background replacement on Teams video phones is now also available meaning feature parity with other teams devices for consistent and familiar look and feel. This role doit a couple. Of months ago to Teams collaboration displays like the Lenovo.
Improved boss/admin/PA features
A collection of little updates to improve how users interact with their calls and contacts.
For example, when a PA/Boss/Admin is in a call users can press the purple button touch target to see new options with respect to their contacts. The boss or admin can easily see frequent contacts with instant options to see their call status or place an outgoing call to them.
Last night, Cisco unveiled a new “modern” logo for its Webex product suite along with annoucing a new set of features coming soon which range from background noise cancellation to adding polls and quizzes to make meetings more interactive.
The video Conferencing race continues as the leaders of the pack, Microsoft Teams, Webex and Zoom and Google Meet continue to see steady usage growth fueled initially by coronavirus pandemic which has now transformed into most beleive will be a longer term seismic shift to hybrid / home and office working and learning post pandemic as the world’s largest working from experiment has proved (for many) the effectiveness of home working and improved life balance achieved by ditching the daily commute.
The new Webex Suite
Cisco, which also unveiled a new Webex logo, said its new hybrid work “suite” is circa 40% to buy when brought together compared to the individual components as you’d expect.
In their blog, Cisco said they had subtly added almost 800 new features and devices since September last year to enhance the customer experience across meetings, calling, messaging, and event management specifically to address the long term needs of hybrid work which are very different from a pure remote work model.
Top new features
There was a handful of notible new features announced following a series of acquisitions over the past few months which Cisco are now ready to start baking into their new suite.
In December 2020, Cisco’s acquired Slido, and audience engagement tool with capabilities which include Q&A, polling, trivia, and gamification.
Last month, Cisco then acquired Socio Labs, an event technology platform for live, large-scale events and webinars.
Another new feature aims to more intelligently frame and reframe the speaker or most active meeting participants using machine learning and AI technology to allow the audience to better see body language and facial expressions in meetings – something more easily missed in remote/online meetings.
These new tools which will being Cisco up to or ahead of their competition, (in the case of Slido), are designed to make Webex better suited for the future of meetings and events of all sizes, including large “hybrid” events that combine in-person and virtual attendance, something all the major conferencing venues and hosts need to get right.
New logo, new look
The new webex suite comes with new fresh and dynamic look (which accompanies its new logo) which Cisco says better reflects the products values and initiatives.
Jeetu Patel, Cisco’s SVP and GM Security and Collaboration was quoted saying to Zdnet “We are unmistakably committed to inclusivity and making sure everyone has an equal voice and an equal seat at the table, no matter where the table is,”
Price “enhancements” too
Cisco said that the new Webex Suite will cost around 40% less than buying the individual components and services a-la-carte.
This is of course expected, with any suite of products but good to see and of course customers can save even more money by replacing legacy tools or disconnected services and platforms with tools from the Webex suite.
You can read more and try this out by visiting the cisco blogs here..
Microsoft made a big announcement today as it announced an additional 6 countries that it is adding to its coverage of Microsoft provided calling plans which will be available from the 1st October 2020.
This is big news seeing Microsoft has not added a country since May 2018 so adding 6 countries is a big deal!
What countries are being added?
The addition of these 6 countries in to the already available list of countries that support the Calling Plans Microsoft increases the total number of counties to 16, with the total list now being
Australia (via local telco)
Japan (via local telco)
Microsoft is adding the following countries to its list of countries in which customers can consume callimg plans directly from Microsoft or their license/CSP partners.
Direct Routing is also an option for customers wishing to keep their own SBCs, their own SIP provider/carriers or where callings plans are not available is specific counties.
Tasks in Teams – this will be the new name for the Planner app currently in Teams today, which will consolidate tasks across To Do, Teams Channels, Planner as well as Outlook Tasks. The goal is to bring all your tasks to ‘Tasks in Teams’ no matter where you create them.
The new Teams Tasks app (which will replace the current planner app) will allow users to see their individual tasks as well as team tasks in a single app. This latest update will begin to rollout in May / June this year.
Why the change?
According to the Microsoft 365 Roadmap, the “Tasks in Teams,” feature describes the coming Tasks app as ‘providing users with a consolidation of tasks across Microsoft To Do, Teams channels, Planner and Outlook Tasks.’
The Microsoft 365, Teams Public Roadmap ID 57213, describes the reason for the change is that “with the new Tasks experience in Teams, we are delivering several capabilities that will support new levels of team collaboration. Tasks targeting, publishing and reporting in Teams allows corporate and regional leadership to send task lists targeted to the relevant locations, such as specific retail stores, and track their progress through automatic real-time reports. Managers have tools to easily direct activities within their stores, and Firstline Workers have a simple prioritized list available via their personal or company-issued mobile device showing them exactly what to do next.”
What do you think. Is this a good move, confusing or a logical coming together of all your tasks in one place.?
Microsoft said yesterday that they have now passed 75 million daily active paid users in Microsoft Teams. The news came as part of their Q3 2020 results announced yesterday (29 April).
Incredible usage numbers
Microsoft have seen over 200 million meeting participants a day in April, generating more than 4.1 billion meeting minutes. Just last month they hit a previous record of 2.7 billion in just one day… This has nearly doubled in a month…up over 70% since last months huge surge.
What’s more.. Of the 75 million (which of course are all business use today), Microsoft said that over two thirds of these are using the richer collaborate features of Teams, sharing content, doing live authoring, collaborating and interacted with files and other apps within Teams.
The difference between apps like Teams and Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, Webex and other video conferencing only services that Microsoft Teams is not just a video calling platform (while of course it does that extremely well as the stats above show). Teams is Microsoft’s “Hub for Teamwork” and is the central focus for Microsoft 365.
In the earning announcement yesterday, Microsoft said “Teams is about actually getting work done where meetings and video is one part. So that’s, for example, something that utility of it will only increase for our customers as some people come back to work.”
Speaking about healthcare specifically, there have seen “more than 34 million Teams meetings in April alone and as education establishment becomes online classrooms, more than 183,000 educational institutions now rely on Teams, and there are now over 20 organisations with more than 100,000 employees are also now using Teams.”
Now Focus on Security, Adoption and Change Management
I have seen many many many of our customers and other organisations rolling out Teams and incredible pace over the past 6 weeks to ensure people can stay connected. With this now the new norm,(for now anyway) the shift is now around focussing on the foundations to ensure Teams and more agile working becomes a new way of working. Security & Complaince and of course User Adoption.
User Adoption and Change Management is key as true collaborative working (not just scheduling video calls) requires time, a change in mind set and skills, practice and reinforcement to change a employees mindset into a truly collaborative workforce (Co editing and authoring for example rather than still sending files around in email).
Ensuring Security and Compliance across Office365 and Microsoft Teams is of course important. With more users accessing corporate data across mobile, their home decides and of course away from home, checking, enabling data and lifecycle management and data within Teams is important. Like Office365, Teams is Secure by design, and uses the following standards: ISO 27001 , ISO 27018 , SSAE16 SOC 1 and SOC 2 , HIPAA , and EU Model Clauses (EUMC) . Within the Microsoft compliance framework, Microsoft classifies Office 365 applications and services into four categories described more here.
What happens after Covid19?
Of course, once this Covid-19 pandemic is over (or some form on normality returns) it will be interesting to see how the use of these platforms continues of whether this huge advance in digital transformation and collaboration will tail off and people revert back to previous ways of working.. Habits die hard after all.
Another #MicrosoftTeams feature is rolling out (ok so it’s in public preview so pretty much rolled out).
This time is a feature aimed more at front line workers like retail for example who may oy have a mobile phone to access their busienss apps.
Introducing SMS based user sign-in
With SMS based user sign-in, users can simply sign-in with their phone number and receive a code via SMS, which will then log them in (the number needs to be registered against them in Azure Active Directory).
How’s it works?
Worth noting that this is just in preview and is still some key features missing (a key one being this doesn’t yet work with MFA… But it will).
As I mentioned in the introduction SMS-based authentication, lets users sign in without needing to provide, or even know, their username and password. After their account is created by an identity administrator, they can enter their phone number at the sign-in prompt, and provide an authentication code that’s sent to them via text message. This authentication method simplifies access to applications and services, especially for front line workers.
Whilst this will work for any Office 365, it’s primary aim is to help front line workers use and login to Team in mobile device as the illustration below shows
Each user enabled for SMS-sign in must have one of the following Azure AD or Microsoft 365 licenses: – Azure AD Premium P1 or P2 or – Microsoft 365 F1 or F3
Microsoft have clearly detailed a number of limitations which will apply during the public preview including.
SMS-based authentication isn’t currently compatible with Azure Multi-Factor Authentication.
With the exception of Teams, SMS-based authentication isn’t currently compatible with native Office applications.
SMS-based authentication isn’t recommended for B2B accounts.
Federated users won’t authenticate in the home tenant. They only authenticate in the cloud.
To learn more and for instructions in how to active and configure SMS sign in, see the Microsoft supporting information here.
Multi-Window Chat is a new Microsoft Teams feature which enables users to multitask more efficiently by popping out their chat conversations into separate Windows much like was possible in Skype for Business and Lync before.
Microsoft announced this was rolling out this month (April) as part of a wave of updates announced on their 3rd “birthday”.
Why we need it (and we so do)!
Pop out chat (video and others are coming soon too) has been one of the most requested features in Teams since when enaged in multiple chats, is can be a little cumbersome (especially now with us all working from home) to effectively to monitor and manage chats across multiple teams or groups since you can’t currently have these chats in separate Windows.
This new pop-out feature helps you overcome this challenge, allowing you to “pop out” chats your Teams’ chat in a separate window meaning you can keep important conversations and chats going while you are in a meeting or working elsewhere in Teams without loosing context.
How it works.
As with most things in #MicrosoftTeams there’s a couple of ways users can pop-out their conversations:
The simplest – double click on the display picture (avatar) of the person whose chat you want to pop-out
Click “Pop out chat” from the context menu for a chat that is listed in the chat list
Click the ‘pop out’ button in the top-right corner of the chat header.
For those that prefer the command prompt, use the slash command /pop
Almost.. At the time of writing, I’ve seen tweets that some of my customers and friends are seeing this already as of today (Friday 24th April) mine hasn’t updated yet…
There’s no doubt Microsoft haven’t been busy this past few months with some may say, it’s own rapid #MicrosoftTeams feature response took to #covid_19.
Whilst in preview for many at Microsoft for a while, Microsoft posted to twitter and the uservoice feedback site this afternoon (Monday 13th April) to announce that it will very shortly (we beleive this month) be increasing the number of participants viewed simultaneously on the meeting view from the current 4 to 9.
“Zoom however, lets users see up to 49 participants on a single screen“
Microsoft have also said though publicly, that they are “continuing work to increase this limit even further.”
Is this all just to compete with Zoom?
In parts I think… Yes
But… Microsoft have been working on this for a couple of years but was obviously never really seen as a huge priority (despite the number of user requests).
Bear in mind Teams isn’t Zoom, but we often compare aspects of a product with a different solution. Zoom is purely a video conferencing service (whereas Teams is far more than that… Chat, channels, co-authoring, secure collaboration and integrated into Microsoft 365).
Of late though with everyone working from home, due to #covid19, Zooms features have been priased both in both the enterprise (security noise aside) and personal space…
I think this is mainly because Zoom lets users see up to 49 participants on a single screen and whilst this is probably not practice to required for most Enterprises (but great maybe for schools and gym classes) the user community seems to think that the changes don’t go far enough to help with orgs with large team sizes….so the pressure on Microsoft to increase this further is by far from over!
Given the focus on enterprise and quality however it is likely Microsoft will put security and quality ahead of just features in this “turf war” and they have said they are continuing work to increase the limit even further “soon”.
With COVID-19 now dominating our lives and forcing most of us to work from home with lock-downs now in place across most major metropolitan cities around the globe, we (through Cisilion where I work), have been helping our customers either get started with, or rapidly increase their use and adoption of Microsoft Teams to ensure they can stay connected, work collaborately, co-author documents and most importantly get face-time with the people they work with
The focus of this blog is around meetings since I’m sure like me online meetings is something you are doing lot of now we are confined to our homes..
So whether you are brand new to Teams or an experienced Teams Champion, this blog shares my own experiences and tips on how to have the best online meetings in Teams.
1. Use Teams to stay connected with anyone, not just those in your organisation
As the “Hub for Teamwork”, you can use Microsoft Teams to host online meetings with up to 250 people, just like you would a normal in-person meeting. For external guests, just invite them in the same way you would normally in Outlook or Teams. It doesn’t matter if your external attendees don’t have Teams either – they can simply click on the link (no need to download a plugin or install Teams) enter their name, and join the meeting from their web-browser or mobile phone.
Teams Guest Join Browser
Note: Teams also features Teams Live events which allow for broadcast style town-hall type presentations with Q&A, Sentiment analysis and on-demand play back for up to 10,000 (which has today been extended to 100,000 participants).
2. Built in dial-in conferencing keeps everyone connected
For users that cant get on-line or have poor internet for example, or those that just “prefer” to “dial” into a meeting, the Teams meeting invite (assuming the meeting organiser has a Audio conferencing License assigned) also includes audio-only dial-in instructions. Users can simply click on the dial-in number from their mobile phone and their phone should automatically launch the dial-pad, dial the number, and even enter the conference bridge ID.
Of course, for the best experience I’d suggest everyone joins the full Teams experience – especially if you are planning to share content.
3. Video, Video, Video : This makes a real difference when we can’t do physical face-to-face.
Since you can’t meet people in person anymore due to COVID-19 lock-downs or when just working from home / remotely anyway, meeting online with video makes a a huge difference and I strongly advise to make all calls video by default. Encourage everyone in your Teams meeting to turn on their video. If your device supports it, I also suggest turning on background blur to keep the focus on you instead of what’s behind you (especially if your home office is a “make shift” space).
4. Share Share Share – screen, apps or presentation.
When in a Teams call or meeting, you can share/present content in Teams. You are in control at all times as to what others can see. You can decide whether you wish to share
Your entire desktop (or screen)
A specific window/application
Upload a PowerPoint presentation directly into Teams – so attendees can review/mark-up and event advance slides
Start / Open a digital whiteboard for real-time collaboration like you would on a normal pen and ink board in a meeting room – more this next.
If you or someone else is sharing their desktop or an application, any one else can “request” that the presenter gives control – you can also take it back at any time!
If you are sharing content that has audio/video within it, you can also choose to have the system audio shared/included.
5. Whiteboard the hell out of your meetings
I love a whiteboard me! When I’m in a face-to-face meeting, I cant help but draw and scribble on a whiteboard and usually find other meeting attendees love to draw and annotate on a board when planning a project or approach to something.
This is where Office 365 and Teams come to life – Microsoft Whiteboard, as well as being available on the web and via a App on Windows and iOS, is also integrated and available in every Teams meeting, enabling meeting attendees to join in with their pen and touch (our mouse and keyboard) and collaborate / contribute in real time with digital ink.
These Whiteboard sessions are saved as part of every meeting and available for future use and reference and can even be opened outside of the meeting directly in the Whiteboard app – which provides a host of additional features too.
6. Make the meeting on demand too – Record it live!
Teams can also (if enabled by your admins) record your meetings for you. Instead of relying on a summary email only or “I’ll update you later” conversation – you can simply record your Teams meeting.
The recording captures everything, video, screen share, presentations, whiteboard, everything and unlike Skype for Business (RIP), the meeting is stored in Office 365 Cloud with a link provided within the meeting chat / or Teams space.
What’s more, attendees of the meeting can also search the meeting (yes it transcribes the audio to text) and jump to the point in time of the meeting where a particular phrase or topic was talked about.
7. Live Captions helps with Accessibility
While today only available in English, every call and meeting in Teams support real-time live captioning allowing participants to read subtitles.
This is a game changing feature for any attendees who may be hard of hearing, or have different levels of language proficiency. More languages are rolling out shortly we are told.
8. Finally – Secure and Control your meetings
Making sure only the people you intend to join your meeting can join, participate and see content is key – after all you wouldn’t let a random person into your office and into your in-person meetings unless they were invited.
Teams provides meeting organisers with options to allow them to define the roles and permissions for attendees of their meetings. These can also be set and controlled in part by IT admins at a organisation level if needed.
Meeting organisers can choose to (or not to):
Enable the meeting lobby feature (its on by default), which lets the organiser define when and who is admitted into the meeting – this can include automatically people from your organisation but not guests, allowing or not allowing PSTN dial-in users to automatically join etc.
Designating who can present, mute attendees, and start/stop recordings.
Privacy is a right within Teams and is always secure
Teams does not disclose things like IP addresses or computer names or any other information that could identify the machine or user to anyone not specifically invited and all recorded content is under the control and access by the organiser / presenters.
Finally – if your organisation uses technology like Data Loss Prevention (DLP) to protect sensitive or GDRP type data, then these polices also flow into Teams, meaning confidential or sensitive data not allowed to be shared outside your business still cant – even in Teams! – this is not covered in depth here by the way!
Stay safe, stay in doors and work smart!
Thats it from me – hope you find this useful. Look forward to hearing how you are getting on during COVID-19 lock down.