Move over Zoom, Microsoft Teams now allows for custom backgrounds during video calls

During a Teams meeting, you can replace your messy background at home with a more professional-looking image.

Microsoft Teams: A cheat sheet

As more people work from home due to the coronavirus, virtual meetings have become the norm. Using a product such as Microsoft Teams, you can set up video calls with colleagues, co-workers, and other people to see and speak with each other. But if you haven't worked from home much in the past, you may be conducting your video conference calls in a makeshift (and messy) home office, maybe your bedroom or kitchen or basement. In that case, you might want to replace your own background with something more professional. You can do that with Microsoft Teams, courtesy of the latest new feature.

Until now, Zoom was the virtual meeting company known for its background options, so this is a handy option for Microsoft Teams users.

SEE: Microsoft Teams: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Now being rolled out to Teams, custom backgrounds will let you replace your meeting background with a "fresh and bright home office," according to Microsoft. The new feature builds on the existing background blur, which uses artificial intelligence to blur your entire background. For now, you're limited to using stock background images from Microsoft, but the company said that it will offer the ability to use your own custom photos and images in the future. Reportedly, that will happen in May.

To use custom backgrounds in Microsoft Teams, you'll need to use the desktop versions of the app, either for Windows or for macOS. 

Initiate a video call. On the call screen, click the More Options icon, and select the option for Show Background Effects. If you don't see such an option, you may need to wait another day or so for the new feature to reach you. You can then choose from the range of images from Microsoft.

In the meantime, if you don't yet see the option for background effects, you can still tweak your background if it doesn't look professional enough. Just select the option to Blur My Background, and your messy room will no longer be visible.

Beyond adding the new custom background, Microsoft is sprucing up Teams in other ways as use of the service has been jumping due to the rise in remote workers.

Rolling out globally this month, a Raise Hand features lets meeting participants indicate that they want to say something during a meeting. Meeting organizers will now be able to end a meeting for all participants by clicking a button to End Meeting. Organizers will also be able to download a participant report to learn when participants joined and left a meeting. And for later this year, Microsoft is promising a real-time noise suppression feature to reduce background noises, such as loud typing or a barking dog.

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