The word “Go” has so many connotations for such a couple of letters. It’s typically upbeat & positive, forward-looking and action-oriented. You get £200 for breezing past it in Monopoly, it’s the oldest board game known, it’s a popular open-source programming language and it’s what the Thunderbirds do.
Back in April 2021, ToW #574 talked about sharing a countdown timer in Teams, if you want to make it clear in a meeting that it’s about to get underway. That was by sharing the application window of a countdown clock, meaning that it would replace any other desktop sharing/slides etc being shown.
Also, the timer will loom very large on the screen of everyone watching, which could well be effective though maybe lacking some of the subtlety you’d prefer.
A more nuanced tip would be to overlay a timer on your own video feed, so you could make the point that things are about to change, and it could be shown alongside other content or whatever else might be happening in the meeting.
Depending on how you do it, the timer could disappear altogether when it has finished, and you’d carry on with the video as before. You might even want to replace your own camera feed with a backdrop and timer until you’re ready to go and show your face.
One recommended way to achieve this effect is to use OBS Studio, open source software which started life as a kind of video manipulation tool aimed at recording or streaming, and has grown to offer a host of features and plugins to modify and manipulate video in real time. It can look a bit scary to start with, but the basics can be picked up quickly.
OBS Studio can apply a series of effects to one or more video sources – could be the real-time recording of windows showing a live demo or a physical camera, with some other stuff like a video file, overlaid on top. You can go down a rabbit-hole of effects (like put a real-life green screen behind you, then chroma key a backdrop or video onto your own video feed – see Scott Hanselman’s tutorial for inspiration).
OBS also includes a virtual camera driver, so while you’re running the software and combining several sources – like a real camera and one or more media sources overlaid on top (along with selected effects) – OBS will combine everything to look like it’s a camera feed that can be selected in Teams, Zoom or any other software that could use a video input.
A simple trick could be to add only a countdown video to OBS and then choose the OBS Virtual Camera in Teams; it will display the video instead of your camera feed, and then when you’re ready to get going, just change the video settings in Teams to go back to your own webcam.
There are plenty of sources online for free countdown videos – here or here for example; download the file, add it to OBS as a Media Source and you’re off. If you’d like to take it up a level, here’s a more in-depth tutorial, and you can even script your own custom ones if you like to delver deeper into OBS features.
In ToW 632 – New Old Things, the topic of the old version of OneNote getting some spiffy new features was raised. This week carries on the same theme in a different direction – some altogether new versions of old applications, which might be worth taking a look at, even if they’re not quite fully featured yet.
In the beginning there was Skype. Well, actually, before that there was MSN Messenger and its variants. Business environments then got Live Communications Server, Office Communications Server, eventually Lync, and finally the confusingly branded Skype for Business.
Teams came along from the left field around 6 years ago and from a real-time collaboration product point of view, swept all before it (at least in Microsoft), eventually replacing Skype for Business, as the pandemic turbocharged its adoption and appeal. Skype is still with us, with reasonably recent releases and even integration of the new Bing and GPT driven AI.
The thing is, the original Teams client grew up pretty quickly and though it has had lots of improvements, it’s never been especially resource-light, or quick. The Teams team (herein lies one challenge with its name) took the decision to start over and build a new Teams client, shiny and slick and running like greased lightning.
If you feel like giving it a try, you may see a Try new Teams slider on the top left of the main Teams client window; clicking that will restart Teams by closing the old app and starting the new. There are some features not quite there yet, but the list is being updated frequently as functionality improves. If you switch to the new Teams preview and don’t like it, you can quickly switch back – but you’re either/or running one or the other.
Outlook has a longer heritage – it came out first with Office 97 so has its roots in early/mid-90s code, and even if the core of the app has been re-engineered and the UX has had numerous polishes over the years, there are still occasional peeks at a Windows 95 era application lurking beneath.
There has been a push for some time to make the Outlook Web client a more viable alternative for many users, including showing Outlook Web in an Edge sidebar even when clicking a link from the PC desktop client. Functionality differs between the full-fat desktop, the web client and the various mobile apps.
There’s a “new Outlook” on the way, now too – previously codenamed “project Monarch” it’s supposedly been in the works for years, yet looks a lot like the web client that happens to run in a window – it’s available in preview now. It may end up replacing the variety of desktop, web and mobile apps, though that could take a while. In near terms, the new Outlook will likely supplant the default Mail & Calendar apps in Windows 11.
You may see a Try the new Outlook slider on the top right of the main Outlook window; flicking that will restart Outlook in its new guise, however unlike the new Teams, it is possible to run both new and old, side-by-side.
One way would be to make the switch, then on the new “Outlook PRE” icon that appears on the taskbar, choose to Pin it. Then flick back and you’ll now have both old and new Outlooks available together. You could configure the New one to remove your main M365 email account, and just have your Outlook.com / Hotmail or now even a Gmail account, while leaving all your work emails in the old Outlook UX.
If you want to keep old and new Outlook with different account setups – business in the old, private in the new, for example – go straight to the Store and install the New Outlook app, then configure it as you like when it starts.
One of the most eagerly-awaited updates to Microsoft Teams took a step closer, with the announcement at Ignite that Mesh Avatars are going into preview.
When Mesh (the new metaverse avatary thing, rather than the Ray Ozzie sync tech from 2008) was first unveiled 18 months ago, Brad Sams from First Ring Daily had a new business idea. Using Mesh avatars for Teams, the floating torso thing is less of an issue. Since most people in Teams meetings are sitting or standing at a desk, those who use their camera (rather than feigning some technical reason to not do so) will generally only be visible from the middle up anyway.
The Mesh Avatars for Teams feature is currently in private preview, and will roll out more widely “later” – if you’re interested in taking part in the public preview, sign up for more info, here.
In a nutshell, this capability allows you to be in a Teams meeting but instead of showing your camera image, it displays an avatar you define instead.
Although the stock images in the preview docs show various types of engagement, all of them are done by the avatar’s operator so most of the time, a team meeting full of avatars will have everyone staring blankly out into space.
One side effect of this is that the avatars still look vaguely engaged, even if their humans have left the room to make a cup of tea. Why sit in a boring meeting when you can have your avatar do it for you?
Start by clicking the “…” button on the vertical left toolbar in Teams and search for Mesh Avatar to kick the process off. If you don’t find that in the apps list, then you’ll need to wait until the preview is available to you.
In use, you can either have your camera on or you can use an avatar, and you will be able to add custom backgrounds to either.
You could freak everyone out by taking a webcam photo of your real backdrop, just without you in it, and let your avatar virtually inhabit your actual office.
During a meeting, there is a fairly diverse gallery of actions that you can make your avatar do – from simple stuff like giving a thumbs up or visibly laughing, to a range of theatrical reactions that might help convey how you feel about the meeting you’re currently in.
Even though Dilbert isn’t funny any more there have been some good ones in the past, satirising corporate life. People who used to be cubicle or office based might struggle to deal with the new reality that most office workers would rather not be in the office 5-days-a week, 9 to 5, yet bosses would prefer people to not be slacking off at home in their PJs.
Zoom, Teams and other platforms adopted a metaphor in an online meeting, where attendees can figuritively raise their hand so they can be asked to speak. It works well when the people running the meeting have the discipline to check that they don’t have a forest of lifted paws before asking, “are there any questions?” to their audience.
It helps if presenters are not doing the lowest-common-denominator thing of sharing their desktop to present slides. Using Teams’ own slide sharing means you can see the chat, and who’s joined, and whether they have their hand raised.
Meeting participants also need to have the practice of raising their hand and waiting to be invited to talk, rather than blaring in to raise new topics or talk over others. Other attendees can also see who has their hand raised (look in the video gallery and you may notice those who have their hand raised are highlighted) and if you look in the People pane, you’ll see the order that attendees raised their hands as well, so if you’re the organizer then you can ask the top and most patient questioner to contribute at a point that makes sense.
A new etiquette has sprung up in hybrid meetings, though – how to balance commentary from remote attendees with chatter that’s happening in the room? Ordinarily, you’d rely on body language in a meeting room to decide it’s time to interject, nodding and perhaps making hand gestures yourself.
When some / half / most of the attendees are remote but you’re in the physical meeting room, it might be prudent to actually join the same Teams meeting on your PC – you’d only be sitting in the room looking at email on your screen anyway – and use the hand raise function before speaking, even if you’re sitting next to other contributors. This way, you’re on the same footing as all the remote attendees and it shows that you are at least giving the pretence of thinking about them too.
When joining a Teams meeting on your PC, there’s a yeah-yeah dialog box which pops up just before entering the “room”, which presents various potentially relevant audio related options. The norm would be to use comptuer audio, then select what speakers/mic you want to use.
These join options can also give you a number to dial in to (or be called by the meeting, so you can stay silent and camera-less on somebody else’s dollar).
If you’re the first to join while in a physical Teams Room, you could bring the room system into your meeting and control it from your machine.
If you are a bod in the room, though, then choose “Don’t use audio” to avoid any mic or speaker issues, causing endless echo. That way, you can enter the online meeting while being in the actual room, interact with other attendees on chat and use features like reactions and hand raising just as if you’re sitting at home.
Just remember that you are, actually, in front of other people, and also remember to change the default option back to “Computer audio” next time you enter a truly remote meeting, or you’ll spend the first few minutes saying “hello, hello? Can you hear me…?”
“You’re on mute” became a catchphrase of 2020, even featuring in London’s New Year firework & drone display at the outset of 2021. A year later, Lake Superior State University added it their list of phrases that should be banned from the lexicon, along with “Deep Dive”, “Circle Back” and “New Normal”. Pioneer even sent aloft a loudspeaker saying “You’re on Mute” in several languages, symbolically firing it into space for good (though it went up as far as 30km, it did come back down again and space nerds will know that actual “space” isn’t regarded as starting until 100km from the Earth’s surface).
Some functional improvements in Teams have been released to help manage the state of being muted/unmuted; the applications can even recognise that you’ve started talking but your mic is off and will remind you of the shortcuts to switch it on again.
CTRL+Space is particularly useful if you just want to chip in a short comment on a call where most people are muted, rather than fishing around to click on the Mic icon within the meeting. Press and hold to talk and release to go back to being quiet.
We’ve all been in Teams meetings when someone has left themselves unmuted and presumably doesn’t realise – they start talking to someone else in their house / dog barks / they start eating a bag of crisps / sighing noisily etc. Social etiquette will often have the speaker ask, “Oh, does someone have a question?” or the slightly more direct instruction to mute yourself unless you want to talk.
By looking in the People pane to the side of the Teams meeting window, you can see who is making noise as their icon will have a halo around it. If you are the organiser or have been given Presenter abilities (as is often the default), then you’ll be able to silence the heavy breathers and furious typists by right-clicking their icon and muting them. It may be slightly passive-aggressive, but the offender gets notified and hopefully will feel a good sense of righteous shame. Unless they’re actually the current presenter, and someone else has pranked them by muting them in mid-flow.
Bear in mind that it only applies to “Attendees” (ie all “Presenters” can choose to make their mic / camera available any time) and by right-clicking on an attendee’s icon in the Participants list, an organiser can allow the Mic / Camera to be enabled for that user; note it doesn’t take them off mute, it just gives them the ability to unmute themselves. Just Imagine the horror if an organiser could switch on another attendee’s camera and mic without their involvement.
As we increasingly go back to hybrid meetings where remote participants will join a meeting room full of meatbags, it’s important once more to manage the microphone / speaker dance when several people in the same space join the same meeting. One best practice is to have people in the room log in to the online the meeting too, and potentially use the raise hand feature in Teams before they are asked by the organiser to talk, that way putting them on an equal footing with remote participants. But this will be bad news if those physical attendees don’t fix their laptop audio properly.
If you have multiple people in one place who have their mics and speakers on, you’ll have the bad kind of feedback loop, with escalating echo. You could get them all to mute their mics, but the main meeting room microphone will pick up the sound of their speakers too, with the same effect; so in-room attendees need to mute both speakers & mic.
Pay attention to the “yeah, yeah” video and audio dialog that most people will rush through when joining a Teams meeting; there’s a “Don’t use audio” feature which means you’ll join and have no worry about your own laptop causing problems in the meeting room.
If you have a Teams Room system, you might want to join with no video too or you’ll end up with a gallery of attendees who are facing away from their camera, as they look at other people in the physical meeting room.
|Even after 2 years of mostly enforced remote meetings, it’s still amazing how many people have yet to master some of the basics of online meetings – like management of the mute button and general audio interference, positioning of screen/camera so you’re not looking up their nose or side of their face, professing to having bandwidth issues as the reason for not enabling video, and many more. One “room for improvement” function is that of presenting PowerPoint slides and not looking like an idiot.
Firstly, have a practice with Teams if you’re not sure how things are going to work out – just go to the Calendar tile and you’ll see a Meet now option in the top right; that creates a new instant meeting in which you can play.
Don’t share your screen to present slides in PowerPoint (unless you really insist). Instead, save your PowerPoint to OneDrive for Business or SharePoint, and you’ll see a Present in Teams button in the top right, or a larger button on the Slide Show tab.
Choosing this opens up a Presenter View akin to the one in PowerPoint, which is the default if you have multiple monitors and you start a Slide Show. This view lets you see Speaker Notes, jump quickly to specific slides rather than paging through them, and be more interactive with the meeting than you could ever be if you were simply sharing a screen showing a PowerPoint slide on your computer.
Perhaps the most useful aspect of this mode in Teams is that you can still show the Chat or People pane to the side of the window – allowing you to keep an eye on attendees who might have their hands raised, or who ask questions in the meeting chat.
There are some other controls of note – the eye icon lets you decide if attendees can flick through your slides or whether you want to lock them to seeing only the slide you’re currently presenting. Useful if you have a Big Reveal coming at the end.
Next to that icon, there are some others which define the presenter mode – Content Only on the left, shows just the slide you want. Next to that is Standout, which takes your video and overlays it onto the slide rather than having it appear as one of the surrounding gallery of other attendees. And next to that is a new preview PowerPoint feature called Cameo, which integrates with the Teams Client.
A downside of the Standout mode is that you don’t get to control where your image goes on screen, or how big it is – so you might well obliterate some part of the content you’re presenting. This new feature gives you a way to solve that.
In PowerPoint, go to the Insert tab and on each slide add a Cameo (or a Camera as the object it creates is described in some controls), then place and size it as you want.
If you select the new object, the Camera tab will give you more customization options.
You will need to add a Cameo to every slide you want to show up on – potentially useful if you want to only appear for intros and Q&A but perhaps leave the content on its own for other parts.
Since each slide has its own Camera object, they can be of different shapes and you can even use the groovy Morph animation effect to transition too.
While in Presenter view, try using a “laser pointer” to temporarily show traces around something on your slide, with mouse or Surface pen to control it. There is a pen or highlighter to make more durable Ink markups, and if you double-click/tap each icon, you can set options like size, colour, adding arrow tips etc.
One downside of the Presenter View is that it shrinks the content on your own screen to the point of possibly making it difficult to read, especially if you’re showing the People or Chat pane as well – in fact, the content is only about 20% of your screen real estate.
Using Pop Out might help if you have a larger second screen connected, though chances are you’ll be using the camera on a laptop so ideally want to be looking at that display.
Since nobody really uses Speaker Notes anyway, you could try Hide presenter view, which means you’ll lose the slide thumbnails and speaker notes, but still keep the other controls. Go to the View control on the top left of the window and choose Full Screen to increase it even more.
For more details on using the new Cameo feature, see here – it is in preview which is rolling out through Office Insiders first so you may not see it right away. If you are presenting using simple app or desktop sharing rather than the PowerPoint Live model described above, there are some other options in how you appear alongside your content.
As well as launching the PowerPoint Live sharing from within PPT itself, you can choose to share recent presentations while in Teams – just scroll down past the various “share screen / app” options and you’ll see more. This topic was covered previously on ToW #576.
Time Zones have featured lots on ToW; in an epoch when everyone was holed up WFH, the relative time people were at became especially important when trying to meet with them. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable that meeting times are unpalatable to some attendees if they’re in a far-flung time zone, but it’s worth reminding yourself how distant they are when trying to find the best time slot to speak with them.
There are whole genres of mechanical watches which can display multiple time zones (check out GMT or World Time if horology is your thing), or you could rely on phone or computer-based aides-memoire, such as displaying multiple time zones alongside your calendar in Outlook, using the Windows Clock app with its world clock view, or even showing several clocks on the Windows task bar.
A new addition to the arsenal of time zone tooling is a neat feature that’s appeared in the contact card in Teams and Outlook, showing you what the time is for the person you’re looking at. The time displayed is set by the device they’re using, so if on Windows, that’s the Time Zone setting.
When travelling, rather than just manually winding the clock back or forward, it makes sense to set the correct time zone on your machine – either by allowing Windows to change it automatically or by specifically choosing it from the list.
If you have multiple time zones displayed in Outlook, you can switch between them from the settings page – just right-click on the timeline to the side of the calendar and choose Change Time Zone, or go to File | Options | Calendar and look for the settings in there.
When you swap them around inside Outlook, it will change the time zone on your PC.
In some parts of the world, there’s pressure to prevent “work” from creeping into personal time, meaning emails and other messages should be held back and not sent during what’s supposedly down-time. Ireland has published a “right to disconnect” code of practice, and Portugal even made it illegal for an employer to contact their workers outside of working hours.
Choosing this action has a similar effect to the Delay Delivery option which is visible on the Outlook toolbar, except that it won’t need Outlook to be running; the regular Delay feature leaves a message in your Outbox folder, and that normally means the Outlook client needs to be running at the time you want it to be sent.
The Viva-powered delay option holds the message on the server until the allotted hour, and then delivers it to the recipients – handy if the sender is already outside their working hours by that point…
Words evoke times and places for lots of people, and “Pop” certainly has plenty of associations and meanings. For some, it’s the (often cheaply-branded, sickly-sweet) fizzy drink of their youth (see also skoosh, in certain parts of the world), it might be forgettable teeny bop music or perhaps an intransitive verb used to describe how something stands out.
It’s also a familiar word used in annoying UX concepts like a pop-up in your browser, or a toast on your desktop. Applications often put out toolbars or separate content in side windows, to help users make the most of their functionality: especially handy when the user has more than one display.
In its evolution over the past couple of years of explosive user growth (270M MAU!), Microsoft Teams has started to move away from the one-window-to-rule-them-all idea of having all your chats, activities, documents etc in one place, and started offering to pop things out into their own window.
If you’re in a meeting and want to have a side channel going on with a subset of participants, just start a multi-party chat, then right-click on it within the recent chats list, or from within the chat window itself. See more here. Other Teams apps also feature the top-right pop-out icon too.
As well as offering a variety of Gallery and focus views, including the ability to place where the gallery is displayed (if at all), there’s also been an addition to hide your own camera preview, in case you find yourself distractedly checking yourself out during meetings.
You could therefore dismiss all the other sidebars – like chat, or participants list – make the gallery go away, focus on presented content in full screen and hide your own preview – all in the name of being able to see what someone else is sharing.
There is probably more popping still to come. There is a public preview for Teams – which can be enabled by your Microsoft 365 Admin, here – and that enables the early stages of some new features which are being tested. Microsoft has its own internal test programs too.
Once the preview-enabling policy has been applied by Admin, then individual users will have the option (from the … / About menu) to enrol their machine in the preview; after doing so, signing out & in again, and a “Check for updates” cycle should see them have the latest available preview version.
The holy grail for popping out in Teams meetings would be the ability to separate the content being shared so you could have that on one screen, and see a large video gallery of attendees, with chat sidebars etc on another.
In the meantime, keep an eye on what’s new in the main branch of Teams, by looking on the Teams blog.
Outlook made some helpful suggestions in response – just one example of new AI functionality showing up by dint of subscription services.
Another case in point where software gets better on a regular basis, is a slew of new features that have appeared for some Teams users – namely, the ability to tweak your own camera image. If you don’t see them yet, try checking for updates from the … menu to the left of your own profile image in the main Teams window.
Mirroring your video makes it easier to interact with your own environment while you’re looking at the screen, though it doesn’t affect what others in the meeting see.
Lighting Correction is a one-setting tweak for fixing the contrast and brightness, which can be handy when it’s dark outside and your room lighting isn’t ideal.
Most entertaining though, is the facial retouching feature – YMMV depending on how much your fizzog need retouching in the first place, possibly. You can apply a dab of filler all the way up to full-blown Insta-influencer soft focus, by enabling the feature then moving the slider. Look under Device Settings from the ellipsis (…) menu when you’re in a call.
Check out the Teams blog, and look forward to lots more new features arriving later in the year.
Another tweak in managing your own video comes from users’ feedback, where they don’t want to see their own video window, thinking that it’s distracting when looking at a gallery of other attendees in a meeting.
You’ll be able to hide your own video by clicking on the … in the corner of your own preview, and can then selectively show or hide, or if you’re especially vain, you can pin your own tile to the meeting view so you show up as the same size as everyone else.
Perfect for checking out how the facial buffing has worked out.