Windows 11 deep dive: Chat with Microsoft Teams
We’re quickly approaching the launch of Windows 11, which is set for October 5th. This new operating system brings a lot that’s new compared to Windows 10, so we’re to help you learn more about it. If you’re a Windows Insider, you probably already know about the many features available in preview, but for everyone else, we’re going to be taking a closer look at them. This time, we’re looking at Chat with Microsoft Teams, one of the big new features in Windows 11, and a personal favorite of mine.
Microsoft Teams has been around for a while, but it’s only recently become a consumer-oriented product. Plus, it lives alongside Skype (for now at least), and Windows 10 included Skype, but not Teams. The new Chat feature powered by Microsoft Teams shows that Microsoft is finally giving the spotlight to its new service, but it’s also quite different from the Teams you know today.
Microsoft Teams on the Windows 11 taskbar
It’s hard to miss the new Chat feature powered by Teams on Windows 11 because it lives right on your taskbar. When you first start up Windows 11, you’ll see the Chat icon — a speech bubble with a camera icon inside — which is your shortcut to your Teams contacts and chats.
This is the big new thing that the Chat feature brings compared to standard Teams. On Windows 10, if you want to see your Teams chats, you open Teams. Here, you can click the Chat icon and you get a compact flyout showing you your recent conversations, as well as all your contacts. From here, you can click on a contact to open the conversation, or immediately start a call, whether that be voice or video. You can also start a new group chat or meeting with the links at the top.
If you’ve never used Teams, you may need to set up your profile, such as how you want to show up and whether you want to sync your contacts from Skype and Outlook. This will bring all your contacts into view, even if they don’t have Teams yet, and you can invite them to join the service. You can always enable or disable this in the app’s settings.
When you open a chat or call this way, each conversation opens in its own window, so you don’t have the contact/chat list taking up space in the window. If you want the full Teams experience, you can open the Teams app from the Chat pane, too. The full app will feel very familiar, but it’s pretty different at the same time.
The new Microsoft Teams (Preview)
The new Microsoft Teams app may look familiar at first, but there’s actually quite a bit going on here. For starters, you’ll notice some UI tweaks throughout the entire interface. There are new icons and small UI tweaks everywhere, some of the colors are different (with less of an emphasis on Teams’ signature purple color), and it aligns more with the standard Windows 11 design language than the previous Teams app. However, just looking at it, it will still feel very familiar.
The big changes are under the hood. The previous Microsoft Teams app was based on Electron, which is a framework designed to help build desktop apps using web technologies, as well as Angular. As it makes it easier to bring a lot of web experiences to the desktop, Electron is fairly popular, but it’s also infamous for its performance overhead. This new version of Teams is still based on the web app, but it uses Edge WebView2, and Angular has been fully replaced with ReactJS.
According to Rish Tandon, a Microsoft engineer working on Teams, this new version will use half as much memory as the previous version used for the same consumer account. Overall, the experience will feel much smoother and snappier now.
With this change, we are taking a major step in #MicrosoftTeams Teams architecture. We are moving away from Electron to Edge Webview2. Teams will continue to remain a hybrid app but now it will be powered by #MicrosoftEdge. Also Angular is gone. We are now 100% on reactjs
— Rish Tandon (@rishmsft) June 24, 2021
You still get pretty much the full set of Teams features, though. You can chat, send files, emoji, and GIFs to other users, and participate in 1-on-1 or group calls. Each chat has tabs for shared files and tasks, so all the important information in a conversation is always available.
Currently, one of the most notable limitations is that you can only have one account at a time, and it has to be a personal account. Of course, this is a version of Teams meant for general consumers, not business users, but if you also have a corporate Teams account, you’ll need to use the classic Teams app. This should change at some point, but for now, this is exclusively meant for consumer accounts.
Microsoft Teams settings
If you want to change anything about how Microsoft Teams (Preview) behaves, you can head into the app’s settings. There are some useful options here, so we’re going to take a look at them. To access the Teams settings, click the ellipsis icon next to your profile picture, then choose Settings. There are four categories — General, Notifications, Appearance and Accessibility, and Privacy.
General only has one setting for now, and it lets you choose whether Teams should start automatically when you turn on your PC. This will allow you to get notifications more seamlessly, but if you don’t use Teams, disabling this may save you some system resources.
The Notifications settings are also fairly basic because Teams notifications use the Windows native notification system. However, you can choose whether you want notifications to show a preview of the message, as well as how each type of notification — new messages, @mentions, or likes — is displayed in the app.
The Appearance and Accessibility section lets you choose between light, dark, or high contrast themes, and you can choose to turn off animations to improve performance. You can also change the display language of Teams here.
The Privacy section is notable because this is where you can enable or disable contact sync from your Outlook account and Skype. You can also sync contacts from your phone, but that’s managed on the mobile Teams app. You can manage the users you’ve blocked, as well as whether people can find you on Teams using your email or phone number. You can also turn read receipts on or off.
Finally, there’s the About section, which lets you see what version of the app you have and check for updates.
As I mentioned at the top, this is one of my personal favorite new features in Windows 11, as I use Teams frequently for video calls. This makes it easier than ever to access your contacts and get in touch, and the performance improvements are very welcome coming from Windows 10.
If you also want to try to the new app and other new Windows 11 features, you’ll need to make sure you meet the system requirements for Windows 11. We also have a list of all the PCs that will support the Windows 11 upgrade, if you want to check that way.