A Guide to MS Teams for Slack Users

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I’ve recently started using Microsoft Teams. At first glance, I thought instant messengers were as interchangeable as Lego parts, with only slight differences here and there. It turns out that there is a striking disparity of features between Teams and Slack.

Many of the things I’m used to doing in Slack can’t be done in Teams. Others can be done but with slight modifications. I’ve captured those workarounds into this post with the hope of helping anyone else adjusting to Teams.

Workarounds for Slack-only Features

  • Activity Tab
    • Any chats or mentions generate a notification in the Chats or Teams tabs, but also in the Activity tab. The duplicate notifications in the Activity tab clear as you read your missed chats and mentions so I check this tab last, even though it’s the top-most tab in the application.
    • The opposite is also true: clicking on a notification in the Activity tab will bring you straight to it, regardless of whether it’s in the Teams or Chats tab. So you could theoretically only check the Activity tab instead. It’s a matter of personal preference.
  • Chats Tab
    • I often send messages to myself. Sometimes it’s to test the formatting of a message; other times it’s to send myself a file from my phone. There is no direct way to do this in Teams. I’ve gotten around the problem by creating a private team and channel where I can share messages, files, and giphys with only myself.
    • Every meeting, group and individual chat appears in the Chats tab. The list gets polluted with all sorts of conversations, making it hard to find the one conversation you are looking for. I leave and hide chats and meetings that don’t require any further input from me to keep the list neat. It’s always possible to find a hidden conversation later.
    • Slack does a good job of keeping your frequent chats open, and closing less frequent ones when the list of direct messages gets too long. In Teams, it’s best to pin frequent conversations, as they seem to get lost in the shuffle otherwise. Sort the pinned list alphabetically to make it easier to find a contact.
  • Teams
    • Much like Slack, it’s easy to end up with hundreds of channels strewn about in a willy-nilly fashion. Create a plan that indicates into which Team a channel should go before you end up with a mess of teams and channels.
    • Channel descriptions and pinned messages are used to display announcements in Slack. The only way to somewhat replicate this in Teams is to edit a message with a larger, more obvious font. The message can still get lost in a busy channel, but it’s better than nothing.
    • Slack’s reply feature hasn’t been around for that long, but it’s one that’s grown on me. Replying in a thread keeps the conversation contained, and makes it easier to track multiple conversations going on at once in a channel.

Slack Features that Teams Sould Consider

There are a few features that, if added, would go a long way to making Teams easier to work with. The ones I’d most like to see make their way into a future release are:

  • Reply to individual messages within a chat: it’s possible to do this in a Team channel, but not Chats.
  • Collapse giphys, images & stickers: they’re great to add interest to a drab text conversation, but when you’re scrolling through a conversation’s history to find something specific, they are just in the way.
  • A better notification system: all notifications are treated equally in Teams. Slack’s blue/red notifications make it easy to know the difference between something that can be ignored for awhile and something that needs your immediate attention.

I’ve focused mostly on the negative here, but there are some great features in Teams, especially in the area of audio and video conversations. But it would be nice if the basics were addressed too.

Hopefully the above tips help you get more done with Teams. If you’ve got a suggestion for another Slack feature workaround, please chime in below.

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