Microsoft Teams adds personal features to attract home users

The latest version of Teams can put you and other meeting participants in the same virtual environment, let you tap into live emojis and GIFs, and enhance your group chats.

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Image: fizkes/ iStock

Microsoft is beefing up its Teams app with several options designed to appeal to people who want to connect with family and friends. In a blog post published Monday, the software giant described a host of new features that aim to expand Teams beyond the business environment into the home environment.

SEE: 11 ways to be a consummate professional during Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings (TechRepublic)

Perhaps the biggest new feature is one called Together mode. With this option available in the desktop app, you can place yourself and other people in the same virtual setting so that it looks like you're all together. You can choose from such environments as a family lounge, a coffee shop and a summer resort.

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Image: Microsoft

If a Together mode with everyone in the same virtual room sounds familiar, that's because Zoom just unveiled a similar feature dubbed Immersive View.

As the coronavirus pandemic has forced people at home and at work to meet virtually, companies like Microsoft, Zoom, Google and others have been promoting and enhancing their virtual meeting software. Zoom has the lion's share of the home market, while Microsoft Teams is more of a business product. To catch on among home users, Microsoft needs to spruce up Teams with more fun and clever features that non-business folks can enjoy.

Beyond Together mode, Teams sports a new collection of live emoji reactions and GIFs, which people can use to liven up their calls. And if you miss a group call, you can catch up on the saved chat and post a clever emoji or GIF to catch everyone's attention and restart the conversation.

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Image: Microsoft

Next on the list is a feature designed to spread the use of Teams. Installing Teams and creating the necessary account can be a cumbersome process. Now, if you host a video call to which you want to invite people, you can share the link with anyone, even people who don't use Teams. Your meeting participants can join the call from the app on a computer or mobile device or directly from a browser.

Microsoft is also sprucing up the chat feature in Teams. People can now reply to your messages without needing the Teams app just by responding via an SMS text message. You can go beyond standard text in a chat by creating a shared to-do list and assign people to specific tasks. Anyone in on the action can check off a task when it's accomplished. Plus, you can create polls within a group chat to get everyone's input on a certain question or decision.

Next, a new dashboard in Teams arranges all the shared items for a group, including photos, files, links, shared tasks and events. The goal here is reduce the amount of time and work involved in checking all the associated items for a particular Teams group.

To help people who want to use Teams for both work and for pleasure, Microsoft allows you to create and switch between two different accounts. When you start Teams, you can sign in with a specific account, such as your work account during the day. Then, with Teams already running, you can sign out of your work account and sign back in with your personal account.

Microsoft is rolling out most of the new features, so you may have to wait a couple of days to see them. The Polls feature is coming soon, according to the company, so you'll likely have to wait awhile for that one to pop up.

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