It took a while, especially given the number of people looking for convenient ways to chat and video conferencing these days, but Microsoft has finally created a version of its business application Teams for personal use. The application, which is considered to be in preview, is currently only available for mobile devices (iOS and Android). You get 10 GB of file storage for your “team” and 2 GB of personal file storage per person.
What follows is a quick guide to using teams to communicate with friends and family. Available for both iOS and Android; the two applications are extremely similar. The only difference may be in the placement of, say, the button “Start a new chat”
The application offers different ways of communication: chat, audio and video only. Everyone involved must have the app on their device, and you also need a Microsoft account (which is relatively easy to sign up for).
- To get started, download the Microsoft Teams app from the iOS App Store or Google Play Store. Sign in with your Microsoft account; if you do not have one, you can register at this time. It’s free.
- If your workplace uses Microsoft Office, you will be asked to select your organization or create a personal account. In this case, click “Personal”.
- At this point, you are told that others will be able to find you either through your Microsoft phone number or email address. This information is not disclosed anywhere, but those who have one or the other (and who we hope know you) will be able to use it to connect with you in teams.
- The next screen allows you to sync your contacts with the Team app. It is not reqired.
You are now on the main team screen. Touch the pencil / paper icon to start a conversation. Teams allow you to talk via text, audio or video.
A series of icons at the bottom allow you to check your various activities (such as task updates), go chat, access your calendar or your OneDrive files. An “More” icon at the end gives you access to your camera (allows you to take photos, copy business cards, etc.), view a list of your calls and tasks, and use a “safe” to store sensitive information in encrypted information section.
Finally, a three-line icon on the side allows you to set your availability and status message, takes you to your settings, and allows you to set notifications, among other features.
To start a chat, tap the Chat icon. The page will list people or groups of people you have recently spoken to; select one to start a new conversation. To start a session with a new person, tap the pencil / paper icon and you will be prompted to enter the person’s name, phone number or email address. (You can allow teams to access your contacts to make things easier.) You can also start a group chat with up to 20 people and name the group to use again.
Once you’ve identified the person or people you want to talk to, select “Send invitation.” They will be notified that you are starting a chat, and will be invited to download Teams (provided they have not already done so). Once you log in, you will be notified that they want to talk to you and you can either accept it or block it.
The team chat app, especially for the beta version, works very well and has some interesting features. Two icons to the left of the message bar allow you to insert either a photo or an audio clip into the chat. (Note: when creating an audio clip using the app, you must keep the “record” button on the app until your message is ready.)
Above the chat area, the video and phone icons allow you to turn the chat into a video session or an audio-only session. There are no real differences between the two; the audio session simply blocks the participants’ cameras.
Currently available video calling features are a bit limited. There is no recording function (although there is screen sharing) and you cannot change the size or even the location of the videos. Of course, Microsoft calls this visualization; additional tweaks may come in time.
Meanwhile, the ease of use of the teams and its integration with the Microsoft calendar and OneDrive applications can make it very convenient for many people.