Send a Teams meeting invitation from a group mailbox

Teams is very much a personal tool. You see only your own calendar and if you organize a Teams meeting, the invitation is coming from you, and you can only attend as yourself.
But…sometimes you want to send the invitation from a mailbox that does not disclose your name.

There are (as far as I know) two ways to make that happen:

1. Schedule in Teams and forward meeting link

  • Schedule the meeting from your own Teams Calendar
  • Adjust meeting options if needed
  • Copy the meeting link
  • Create an invitation from the group mailbox
  • Paste the link into the invitation
  • Send to all participants
It is easy to find the meeting link: When you have created the meeting, rightclick “Click here to join the meeting” and copy.
  • 👍 Keeps your name out of the invitation
  • 👍 Teams meetings are accessible to all who have the link, so no need to worry about lack of access
  • 👍 You will be able to access the meeting as an organizer and be able to make adjustments during the meeting if needed, e.g. if you need a report of attendees or if it is important to make a “hard stop” to the meeting.
  • 👎 Some extra steps of copying and pasting the link

2. Schedule in Outlook from group mailbox

  • Schedule a meeting from Outlook
  • Add a Teams meeting
  • Send to all participants
  • IMPORTANT: Adjust meeting options NOW if needed
  • 👍 Keeps your name out of the invitation
  • 👍 Easy
  • 👎 The group mailbox is the organizer now, and that mailbox has no Teams account. This means that the meeting will have to be done without an organizer, so nobody will be able to adjust the meeting options during the meeting, end the meeting or download the attendee report.

What is best?

There are plenty of meetings where the organizer is not missed. We schedule our training webinars with the second option and that works perfectly well.

For larger or very important meetings you may want to read my post about the importance of the organizer first to see if you think there may be a need to do “organizer things” during the meeting. Perhaps you only need to adjust the meeting options beforehand.

Meeting options – they may need adjusting before the meeting.

I am often asked if you can delegate the organizer role and the answer is NO. In fact, Teams does not do delegation well, as Tony Redmond confirms in his recent useful post.

Have you come across this requirement and how are you dealing with this? Happy to learn new tricks!

Smooth operating

This week I attended an online symposium. As the organizer knew that most of the attending organizations do not like, or have even blocked Zoom, he used regular Teams meetings.
It is always a good event, with interesting speakers and cases, and this year’s edition was no exception. What struck me however was the smoothness of the experience. All presenters had organized their own session (so I entered in all kinds of meeting recipes, from one session where all 80 of us were presenters, to a session where I was a muted attendee) and I just hopped smoothly from one session to the other and apart from the occasional lobby, there was no barrier at all.
All session links were in the chat of the main meeting, and that chat was listed in my Team chats, so I could always easily check what the next session was or chat to the organizer.

Why did this work so well?

  • I have at least two Teams meetings a day at the moment, so I know the tool inside and out.
  • Using my Microsoft365 subscription meant I could do whatever I do at work – the experience was completely the same. In the Participants I could see two descriptors – “Outside your organization” (which means logged-in M365 users) and “Guest” (which means not logged in to M365).

What is a Guest?

A Guest in a Teams meeting is someone without a Microsoft365 account, or who has entered the meeting without logging in. They can attend via the web, mobile or use the app, but they always have limited options.

Meeting organized by my private account, invited myself and Test15 from my work, and two others without an account.

What are the limitations of the Guest role?

1. No notification of people waiting in the lobby

Guests do not get a notification that someone is waiting in the lobby, and they can not allow someone into the meeting, even if they are a presenter. External presenters with a M365 account can do that, even when they are attending the meeting on their phone.

2. Chat only available during the meeting

Guests have the Teams meeting screen, but not the Teams rails (if you are attending via the web app) or other Team windows (if you use the desktop app). Therefore they can only use the chat when they are in the meeting.
External participants with M365 see the meeting Chat in their Teams rails on the left and can keep on chatting.

3. No background effects in the app

Guests have the option in their menu to adjust background, but it shows just an empty frame.
External participants with M365 can adjust their backgrounds as usual.

Mystery Guest (Guest) is a presenter (as the Sharing block is not greyed out and she can ask control over the shared presentation) and she uses the app (as there is an option to change background effect) but the panel shows no pictures or other options.

4. No Focus or Large Gallery/Together Mode

You can see from above screenshot that there are also no options for Focus or the Large Gallery or Together Mode. And yes, the Modern Experience has been applied in the app.
External participants with M365 can use those options, as shown in this screenshot where Test15 is using the same app.

Test15 (with M365) uses the same desktop app as above and has all the modern options. An external presenter with M365 can even create a Poll!

5. No option to manage attendees

Guests can only pin people, but not spotlight or mute them, or change their roles.
External presenters with M365 can do that.

This is Mystery Guest’s screen, and she is a presenter but can only Pin Test15.

6. Limited participant’s info

Guests only see the names of the participants, and who is the organizer.
Presenters with a M365 account can see organizational contact information.

A Guest sees only this when they hover over any participant’s picture or initials
An external with M365 sees this when he hovers over the picture/initials of the organizer
And this is what you see when you hover over picture or initials of a colleague – even more info! (This is my work account – this was an external participant for this experiment)

Roles list updated!

Some time ago I wrote about the differences in roles, and I have updated the list of who can do what from that post. I added extra columns for the Presenter (Guest) and Attendee (Guest) as these have different options from the M365-attendee. Feel free to download and/or use for your own organization!

This is only the top of the list, but you already see some differences

Conclusions:

Do you have a Microsoft365 subscription and you are invited to a Teams meeting? Make sure you log in before joining the meeting!

An external participant who, like you, has a Microsoft365 subscription can do as much as a participant from your own organization, except recording and viewing a recording. This allows for a smooth meeting experience.
A Guest can only do the basics.

When you are organizing or presiding Teams meetings with externals regularly, you will have to take the following variables into account to have an idea about each participant’s meeting experience.

  • Role: Organizer, Presenter or Attendee
  • Means of attending: Desktop app, web or phone
  • M365 account: Yes or Guest?

Be a Smooth Operator 😁

Are you a regular presenter in Teams meetings outside your organization? (E.g. a therapist or a trainer) You may want to consider taking a subscription to Microsoft365 as it will allow you to do SO much more. I have a Business Basic subscription which is only $5.00 per month (ex tax) and you get a lot of other goodies, too!

Title inspired by “Smooth Operator” by Sade.

Some quirks of the F3 license

When people talk or write about Microsoft 365 Outlook, Word or Excel, they generally mean the desktop versions.

However, there are Microsoft365 subscriptions that provide only the web and mobile versions of things. With the ongoing improvements of the web apps these subscriptions are getting better and better.

Most of my therapist colleagues have the Microsoft365 F3 license, which is a good fit for people who mostly work with patients and use dedicated medical software as their main application. F3 has web and mobile apps only.

While the comparison with the Microsoft E3 license (which most secretaries and staff have) clearly display most of the limitations of the F3, (albeit in the small print) there’s a few unmentioned “surprises” so let me list all that we have found so far, while providing support to our F3 collagues.

1. No desktop apps

This is the most obvious limitation. I think Word and Outlook for the web are both pretty good and getting better all the time, but some advanced functions are only available in the desktop apps, e.g. creation of scientific literature citations, or creation of a book index in Word.
An overview of the differences:

2. Storage for Outlook and OneDrive: 2 GB

Yes, it is mentioned quite clearly (also in our own support materials) but we regularly get questions from people who have almost reached the limit. All we can do is provide them with help to clean up their Outlook and OneDrive.

This is also the reason why I was not happy with the recent change to store Teams meeting recordings to OneDrive.

3. You can not upload a video to Stream

Just to be clear: F3 people can consume videos from Stream but not create them. It is mentioned in the comparison. I do not really get this. Are F3 users not expected to share any videos? Not even of training materials or a team get-together? We have a few colleagues who like to do vlogs for their colleagues – no Stream for them. 😢

Fortunately, OneDrive and SharePoint now have good video players so I guess it will not be a big problem, apart from the storage space allocation.
It does make me wonder what Stream is good for, then.

With the E3 and other licenses, there’s an upload option top right. No such thing for the F3.

4. Recorded Teams meetings go nowhere

We made the change from storage in Stream to OneDrive and SharePoint early, because we knew that F3-users can not upload anything to Stream. If an F3 recorded a meeting, they got an error message.
So we thought: “Well, OneDrive may not be optimal, but at least they will be able to store their recording in a good place. So let’s make the change, make them aware and suggest to move any recordings to SharePoint at their earliest convenience.”

The other day I recorded something with my F3 test account, and I was totally surprised to see that the recording did not go anywhere. It is in the meeting chat, with a message that it can be downloaded for 20 days.
The good news is that the recording can be saved. The bad news is that this is not as expected, and that people will need to take action to store it.

You need to download a recorded meeting.

5. You can not create a Live Event

This is not a major issue, as organizing a large online event will generally be done by a few selected roles. An executive secretary, our Convention Bureau, communications etc.
An F3 colleague can produce and present, however, as described in this post.

This has nothing to do with the difference between web or desktop app – everyone in our organization has the Teams desktop app.

6. You do not have the Delve app

This is not mentioned anywhere in the comparison, so this was also a surprise when we found this. It is not too much of a limitation, as you can get there via your Office profile.

7. Agenda sharing issues with E3-colleagues

If an F3 colleague shares his or her agenda with an E3-licensed colleague, e.g. a group secretary, the secretary can only edit the agenda when using the Outlook web app.
This may have to do with the fact that there is no “desktop equivalent” in the F3-agenda. It is annoying though, as our secretaries generally prefer to work with Outlook desktop. We are trying to convince them that the Outlook web app is a joy to use, but so far most of them stick to desktop. 😢

Do you know any more quirks?

I have deliberately not mentioned a number in the title. Please let me know in the comments if you know something else, so we can create a shared resource!

This is a great opportunity to use one of the more than gorgeous letters of Simon Koay’s Superbet. F = Flash!

The importance of being Organizer

The person who organizes a Teams meeting has become more and more important over the last few months. Many recent improvements are available for the organizer only.

Yes, so what?

Indeed, many meetings can be done without the organizer being present. Our team’s daily call, for instance.

But it can be an issue for situations where you need special things and the organizer does not plan to attend the meeting, e.g. a secretary who plans meetings for the manager or other people in the team, or our Convention Bureau who organizes webinars as a service for our education institute.
In case you want to see who has attended a meeting, for instance, the organizer needs to be there to download the report. Also, the much awaited break-out room functionality can only be used by the organizer!

Unfortunately, the organizer role is not transferable, which also means that when the organizer of a recurring meeting changes roles, the meeting has to be cancelled and set up anew, especially if the audience of the meeting changes. While this has long since been the case for all meetings, with everyone meeting remotely with Teams it has become more visible. There’s a User Voice item to have the ability to transfer this role to someone else.

Awareness is key!

There’s not much we can do about it right now, except making everyone aware, that you need to think who will setup the meeting, especially the larger and more important events.

Microsoft has published a list of roles and responsibilities, but that is currently not complete. So I have created my own roles mapping for you to use. I will keep this updated as “who can do what” is important! (Please feel free to download for re-use)

Preview of what to expect when you open my document

Of course, options are not only depending on role, but also on the app used. Microsoft has an extensive overview for that.

But wait, there’s more:

During the creation of the list I found another variable:

  • Is the participant from your organization or not?
  • If not, do they have a Microsoft 365 account or not?

OK, so that’s my homework for next time! 😉

Update November 22, 2020: I have posted my findings about this, and updated the roles mapping!

Title inspired by “The importance of being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde.
I have once played the role of Lady Bracknell!
😁

Make your Teams meeting screen work for you

You may think that a Teams meeting is what it is, but there are so many ways you can adjust what you see!

Seeing other participants in the meeting

In general, you will see those people who have their camera on and who have made a sound most recently. If you have your camera off, your picture/initials will generally be moved to the bottom of the screen, depending on the number of people present. The same goes for your microphone.
So, if you want to make a mark in that meeting, make sure you have your camera on and make noise! 🙂

But…this is also depending on the app and other options you are using.

  1. Web app:
    You can see only 1 person
  2. Mobile app:
    You can see max. 8 people in a 4 x 2 grid. This has recently been improved from 4. I have not heard much about it and only found out by accident the other day!
  3. Gallery:
    By default you will see max. 9 people in a 3 x 3 grid. More attendees will be moved to the bottom of the screen, attendees with video off and microphone muted first. Desktop app only.
  4. Large Gallery:
    You can see max 49 people in a 7 x 7 grid when you have the latest version of the app, and select “Large gallery” from the … in the Teams meeting control bar. Teams will auto-adjust the grid for fewer attendees. Nice post on the topic. Desktop app, and I found it in the Android mobile app as well!
  5. Together Mode:
    You can see max. 49 people in an auditorium-style setting when you have the latest version of the app, and select “Together Mode” from the … in the Teams meeting control bar. Desktop app, and I found that it is available in the Android mobile app as well! Thank you, Sam Gray, for the comment!
  6. No video.
    You can also turn off other people’s videos altogether and see people’s picture only. In the Teams meeting control bar, click the … and select “Turn off incoming video”.
    This is useful if all those moving videos distract you.
  7. Pin someone.
    You can pin someone’s video to keep seeing them, even if they do not speak. This can be useful for interviews or a group therapy session, if someone is very quiet. This is done in the Participants panel.
  8. Spotlight yourself or someone else.
    Contrary to the other items, you do not do this for yourself alone, but for everyone in the meeting. This will show the spotlighted person full-screen for all participants. This is useful for speeches.
    Do this only when they do not share a screen (otherwise the screen will be shown at the bottom, too small to read) and when the camera quality allows it. Desktop app only. This video tells you more.
Here’s where you apply Pins and Spotlights. For the Meeting control bar options, please scroll down to the bottom of this post.

Presenting yourself in the meeting

There’s also choices you can make for the way you are visible on screen, apart from Spotlighting in #8.

9. Turn video on or off.
During most calls, I have my camera on. During webinars, after the introductions I turn my video off as it does not add much value while I share presentation and screens. It also saves bandwidth for myself and others.

10. Blurring your background.
With everyone working from home, you sometimes run into interesting home situations. One of my colleagues works from her storage room, which means she sits in front of storage shelves. Others have children coming into view, or pets. I really appreciate seeing those real-life backgrounds, but in some cases you’d best blur. Desktop app only.

11. Changing your background.
This is also desktop-app only. One of my colleagues entertains us with an endless array of pictures from far-away places, and another sometimes uses a picture of himself sitting at his desk in the office, while he covers his web cam (which makes you disappear from your background). 🤣
My home office is rather neutral, so I generally keep things as they are.

Looking at presentations

When someone presents and/or shares their screen, you also have a few options to show their presentation on your screen.

This is the normal view, when someone else shares a presentation with me.

The regular view when someone shares a presentation with me

12. Focus
With Focus, you enlarge the shared screen so it hides the other attendees’ videos and pictures and is therefore less distracting. Click on the … in the Teams meeting control bar and select Focus. Desktop app only.

This is Focus. You see that the presenter’s video at the bottom right is hidden by the PowerPoint.

13. Full screen
This will hide the title bar from the meeting AND the task bar from the PC, but will leave the videos of attendees visible. Click on the … in the Teams meeting control bar and select Full Screen. This is also available on the web app, but it completely fills your screen. Below is what it looks like from the desktop app.

The meeting title bar at the top has been removed when using Full Screen, and the task bar from my PC is also hidden. As I have captured the active window only, you have to trust me on that.

14. Focus AND Full Screen.
Focus and Full Screen can be applied together. The presentation will then take as much screen as possible, hiding the title bar, the videos and the task bar.

Combining Focus and Full screen will give you a large and distraction-free presentation.

15. Control + Mouse wheel
This option allows you to zoom in or out of the presentation. It generally changes the ratio of shared screen vs. line of videos.

16. Show presenter and presentation side by side.
To be honest, I have as yet been unable to work this out, but you may want to check out Matt Wade’s video.

Conclusion

There’s many things you can do to determine what you see during your Teams meeting. This will allow you to select the best way for your purpose and preferences. During Ignite, more options were presented, so I guess I will need to update this post soon! 😁

The desktop app gives you many more options, so use it whenever you can.

To compare, I share two screenshots from the … in the Teams control bar, a presenter on Chrome, and an organiser/presenter using the desktop app.

Presenter on Chrome:

This is what a presenter can do using the web app

And these are the options for the desktop app:

The desktop app has many more options

Did I miss anything? If yes, please let me know!

Teams meeting recipes

Since the start of this year, many extra controls have arrived in Teams meetings. We all remember the stories from early lockdown of students muting the teacher, or removing other students from the meeting, just because every Teams meeting was a free-for-all by default, which is of course excellent for regular business collaboration (its original purpose), but less than perfect for other situations.

By now there are a lot of extra ingredients to create a Teams meeting that is exactly suited for purpose:

Lobby, presenter/attendee roles and muting options.

As we have a lot of different meeting types, and I am often asked for advice on how to set up a particular type of meeting, please allow me to share a few “recipes” for different types of meetings, from “no boundaries” to “tightly controlled”.

1. The recurring team/update meeting

These (default) settings are perfect for a recurring meeting for a well-established team. Within my own team we have these settings for our 3-times-a-week-meeting. We mostly talk, but occasionally share screens so it is nice if we all can do that when needed. We only use special features to test them if they are new (we used Spotlight a few times this week), or for the occasional prank. Everyone knows how to mute that colleague whose dog starts barking, and everyone does that when needed.

Who can bypass the lobby? People in my organization

Who can present? Everyone

Allow attendees to unmute: Yes

2. The formal meeting

This is usually a one-off, carefully planned meeting with known and sometimes unknown business partners. As it generally does not have too many people present and should be collaborative, everyone will need to be able to speak, but not necessarily present or do anything else that a presenter can do.
If it is a recurring meeting with known externals, you may want to remove the lobby barrier, but I do not think any external contact will feel offended if they have to wait until someone admits them.
If plans need to be discussed, screen sharing will be more important than Spotlighting the speaker. (It’s one or the other; if you Spotlight someone their presentation will be just another tile in your gallery of people present.)

Who can bypass the lobby? People in my organization (occasionally: Everyone)

Who can present? Specific people

Allow attendees to unmute: Yes

3. The group therapy session

As mentioned earlier, we allow Teams to be used for group therapy sessions as long as in-person sessions are not feasible and our preferred tool can not accommodate larger groups. These sessions are led by one or more of our therapists, and attended by clients, who are externals.
The therapists need to be able to take measures when the group is too noisy or needs to focus their attention, so the occasional Mute All (with the option that a client can unmute) will be helpful, as will the Spotlight option to focus attention to a therapist. This will also reduce visual clutter and movement, as some clients are sensitive to that.

Who can bypass the lobby? People in my organization or Only Me, provided the therapist is the organizer (but that is not always the case).

Who can present? People in my organization

Allow attendees to unmute: Yes

4. The large team event

The autumn season always has a lot of large meetings, both as a get-together for teams after the summer holiday period, and as a starting point for plans for the year ahead. We have recently seen a lot of virtual get-togethers for these purposes.
As these sessions often contain many people, and generally need to discuss too many topics in too little time, control is needed. As are breakout rooms!
Spotlights can be useful to highlight a speaker, as well as Mute all.

Who can bypass the lobby? Only Me or People in my organization.

Who can present? Specific people.

Allow attendees to unmute: Yes.

5. The seminar, lecture, training, speech

Our education season has also started again, and with it the need to do this online. Now that Hard Mute is available, smaller events may be done in a Teams meeting rather than in a Live Event. For questions, you can use chat or allow unmuting after each lecture. Spotlight may be useful for a speech.
The Live Event has some advantages: the moderated Q&A, the option to see the presenter next to their slides, the fact everyone can focus on the presenter and they are not distracted by the videos or pictures of other attendees, etc. but for each event you could balance the easy setup of the Teams meeting versus the more complicated formality of the Live Event.

Who can bypass the lobby? Everyone (for education events) or People in my organization (for an internal speech).

Who can present? Specific people.

Allow attendees to unmute: No.

Conclusions

The new options are valuable additions to the existing toolkit. I especially like the option of Hard Mute, as it may allow some events to be done in a Teams meeting rather than in a Live Event.

I am looking forward to making everyone aware of these new features, and helping organizers to mix the various options to make their own event the best possible experience.

Oh yes, and we are all SO looking forward to the break-out rooms!!!

6 more lessons from Teams Live Events

After producing two Live Events for our “Convention bureau”, and sharing the lessons learned, I thought I knew it all!
So for another event, I handed over the producer role to the organization. One of our psychiatric nurses was eager to try it. I briefed him and his presenter colleagues, told them how it works, what to do and what to think of during presenting.

I told them that switching presenters was a bit of work, as you can not “line up” the next presentation properly and wait for the proper time to make it live. (Presenters overwrite each other, so changes of presenter are messier than I had expected)

But they already had a solution.

1. Switch less by making one big presentation

That was clever. They collected all research slides as well as the intro and break slides into one big PowerPoint, and shared that on one laptop. As the presenters were in one room, it meant that each presenter in turn walked up to the laptop, cleaned keyboard and mouse (COVID-19!) and gave their presentation. The producer only had to switch layouts to start and end each break.
This can certainly not be done in every situation, but it worked here and made the producer’s work much easier.

2. You can not organize a Live Event with a F3 license

After my run-through, the producer wanted to create the Live Event, but he did not have the option.
That was an unpleasant surprise, but it was later confirmed in the Microsoft information.

If you have an F3 license, you do not see the dropdown option to create a Live Event

As it turned out, you can produce and present with the F3 license, as long as you use the desktop app. Everyone in my organization has the desktop app, which makes things a lot easier.

3. Attendee’s devices may go to sleep during a long break

I have not seen this myself, but apparently, after a 30-min break, the “crew” got some messages that people had to go into the meeting again because their devices had gone to sleep.

4. The attendee report of public events does not show names

The first two events were scheduled as in-company events, where people had to log on. The attendee report then shows the log-in names of attendees.

However, our Convention Bureau really wanted public events as there are often externals who like to join, e.g. teachers or peer organizations. When they switched to a public event, they expected the same type of attendee report and they were disappointed to see only IP-addresses and no names. Which is a bit of a no-brainer as you just click the link to a public event, without having to specify your name, but they had not thought of that.

The attendee reports are needed to give our students “study points” so I suggested to use a Form to collect attendee names, with the following process:

  • employees only
  • record names
  • one question (e.g. satisfaction with the event until now, or any other question, as long as you get the name)
  • limited time to complete, using expiry date and time the same as, or earlier than, the event end time (to minimize the chance of foul play 🙂 )
  • distributed via the Q&A in a break with an explanatory message
These could be the settings to collect attendance from employees

5. Externals with a Microsoft365 account can present

If you have any external presenters (we have them frequently, e.g. university professors) who have a Microsoft365 account from their employer: they can present, as long as that account has been invited and they use the desktop app. And I think they also need to be a guest in your tenant, but I will need to check that.
This same account (a guest) can also produce the event, but needs to be admitted by an internal presenter/producer, so you will always need at least one internal presenter.

6. Externals without a Microsoft365 account can not present

So it makes sense to check with any external presenters if they have a Microsoft365 account – an Outlook.com email address is not sufficient. In case this happens, they may need to present from someone else’s laptop.

Expect more lessons!

As we will have to live with the COVID-19 measures for some time, I expect we will use Live Events more and more. I also expect more lessons as we have a number of event types that need to be moved online.

See Microsoft365 live – at Digital Workplace 24 Live!

On September 30/October 1 it is time again for Digital Workplace 24 Live, a free 24-hour online #intranet and #digitalworkplace (and much more) event organized by Digital Workplace Group.

It has been going on from 2008 and it was the first event of its kind. Over the years I have enjoyed every single event, as there are many live tours of intranets, and you get to hear from many interesting people in the field. Actually, one interview inspired me to work six weeks from Spain some years ago, as my work can be done from any place. By now all of us know that, but at that time I still had to convince my then manager that working from another location would not make any difference to my contacts in China, the USA, Sweden or Brazil. 🙂

Why am I telling you this?

Because there will be a lot of real-life Microsoft365 in Digital Workplace 24 Live, whether it is SharePoint, Teams, Yammer or all of them. And you will see it from the business perspective, not “just” from the functionality perspective that we Microsoft365 geeks usually focus on. 🙂

Which tours to expect?

I do not have the full details for each tour, but you can expect Microsoft365 aspects in at least the following:

  • Oxfam
  • Velux who have an Office365 digital workplace. They have a lovely over the top introduction video!
  • Fidelity
  • KBC group
  • UPMC
  • Duke Energy
  • HAVI, who had a nice intranet introduction video in my collection, but that has been removed 😦
  • St. John Ambulance
  • ING
  • ZSL – Zoological Society of London

And I expect there will be more but those have not been published on the schedule yet.

Besides, Microsoft folks Morten Dal and Brad Grissom will also be studio guests. And if you need more reasons, this post lists twelve reasons to attend. Why not organize a viewing party for your team or be a Tweeter-in-residence?
So, what’s keeping you? You can register here – and did I mention it is free?

Please note: I do freelance work for Digital Workplace Group. I have written this post because I genuinely love the event and would like to spread the word. I have not been been asked to do it, nor am I paid for it.

About that Microsoft/Office365 homepage…

While I have been trying to adjust to the new vertical rail of apps (and I still do NOT like it) I came across something – which may be in the Roadmap but I have not seen it yet.

A line next to the app icon

Some apps get a vertical line next to them when you are on their landing page, to signify where you are. It is comparable to the line under open apps in your Task bar.
I have seen it on Excel, Forms, OneNote, PowerPoint, Word, the Homepage itself and the All apps page.

Homepage
Forms
Word

Nice detail: The All apps icon changes colour when clicked and the Homepage icon turns black at that time – and the other way around.

All Apps” changes colour when clicked

So, does this mean that this will be applied to all apps? Could that be the reason of the upcoming redesign of the SharePoint landing page – to make room for the app rail? The Lists app landing page appears ready for this, but Outlook, Planner and many more might be in for a redesign.

Other landing pages

I thought that the SharePoint landing page looked slightly different in the last few months, so I compared the image from my earlier SharePoint News posts with the current one, and it appears that the typeface has changed slightly – it is smaller, more condensed and bold. It looks very much like the letter used on the Forms landing page…so my guess is that this will be rolled out further until every app has a landing page like this.

SharePoint News looked like this in 2019
SharePoint News looks like this in 2020
And this is my Forms landing page in 2020

The “waffle” in Teams

But…there’s more!

When using the “Waffle” from the Teams web app, I noticed that the menu is different than other apps – there’s only limited apps, no documents and look what it says top right…

The Teams waffle menu – different from the others
This is the regular waffle menu

So…

It looks like more design changes are coming up!

The new Microsoft365/Office365 Homepage

Over time I have captured the various appearances of the Office365/Microsoft365 Homepage. As you may know, I quite like this page as the page where I start work. 

I have made all my updates in a post from 2016, which nobody sees, of course. There is a new version rolling out at the moment and I thought I’d update and republish this post. Please scroll down and get some nostalgic feelings. 🙂

Update August 2020 👇

The new design has finally arrived at my personal tenant, but it is still a bit wobbly (on and off) in my work tenant. In case you think you need to communicate this: a 3-part explanatory popup is part of the rollout, so it should not be too much of a surprise to users.

  • All icons have moved to a left-hand side rail and are much smaller.
  • There’s a new Home icon (not sure what that does) and the + icon to create a new document looks a bit different too.
  • There’s also a new “All Apps icon”. This “floats” on the bottom of the rail, so it is always visible. Screenshots are below as the new WordPress Block Editor does not allow me to add images in a list block. 😦
  • The app names are no longer displayed, unless you hover over with your mouse, which is OK for me but may be rather daunting for new users.
  • As I have rather a lot of apps it means I need to scroll down to open some, especially when using my laptop screen.
  • Apparently the focus is on documents even more, but I do not see that as a major benefit. However, I have always liked the “Recent” and “Pinned” tabs, and so do my colleagues as they tend to lose track of their documents.
  • Still hoping for badges with the icons telling me if and how many unread messages I have in Outlook, Teams and Yammer – I prefer that over an endless slice-and-dice of documents. 
NewHomepageaug2020

The new Home icon:

Home and Create document icons

The new “All Apps” icon:

It’s the bottom one

Update July 2019 👇

The top part of the page has changed again, and now has more visibility of the + option to create a new document. I personally am not a fan of starting a document from the Office365 landing page. Navigating to the intended OneDrive or SharePoint location makes more sense to me, and is something I teach my users as they frequently complain of “losing documents”. The “Explore all your apps” link under the apps has been replaced by “All apps” next to the apps which makes sense.
And…the “Good day” message is back! Which I know is calculated and nothing personal, but I like it. 

Office365Home-July2019
Start a new document and the link to all apps are the changes for July 2019. 

The bottom part of the page has not changed.

Update February 2019 👇

The new icons have arrived! The “Good morning” message has disappeared, which is a pity, especially as the words “Apps” does not really add much to the party. And the Search bar is now in the top middle. I think this is the reason that the company logo has moved from this position to the left some months ago. It breaks up the nice colour gradient of my pencils though 😦

The bottom part has not changed. I am still looking for non-document updates, such as emails or notifications from Teams or Yammer.

Please scroll down for older versions of the Office365 landing page.

Office365Homepage23-02-2019
Top part of the Office365 Homepage as per 23-02-2019. New icons and the search bar is top middle.
Office365Homepage23-02-2019bottom
The bottom part has not really changed with the changes in Feb 2019.

Update February 2018 👇

Microsoft has recently made some changes to the Office365 Homepage. You know you will never have a dull moment when you subscribe!

The landing page now looks like the screenshots below. Compared to the last version, it has more white space and the icons are less bulky and coloured (I hope you have not created custom icons in white 🙂 )

It is more gentle on the eyes than the previous design, although that may also have been my own choice of theme.

The profile photo is also better integrated into the design, and my name is displayed.

O365Home-NewTop
The new Office365 Homepage top part as from end 2017.

It now shows more than just “recent” documents, and it shows folders in OneDrive and your Frequent and Followed sites, meaning you will be able to access your favourite sites from this page. This means it is becoming more relevant as the landing page.

O365Home-NewBottom
The new Office365 Homepage bottom part as from end 2017.

My desire to see more non-document updates is still there though. I would be perfectly happy to have this as the landing page to start my working day from, but then it needs different content as well.

In my original post below you will find screenshots of the two most recent versions, as well as what I would like to see next.

Original post from June 2016 👇

Yesterday I logged in to my Office365 and I immediately thought : “Wow, that looks nice”. It is not often that I am struck by a beautiful page, so I decided to write about it.

This is the top of the page:NewOffice365Homepage-NewMine

NewOffice365Homepage-Bottom
And this is the bottom of the page. You can decide to show more documents.

First good impressions:

  1. The small top bar is much larger now and that really looks good. It must be my Raspberry theme, although it also looks cool with Cats 🙂
  2. The welcome message is nice, although I know it is calculated from my time zone and my account. Still, it looks vibrant and cheerful.
  3. Your most recent documents are displayed underneath.
  4. You immediately see you can install software. On iPad, you can download Office apps.
NewOffice365HP-iPad
This is the new Office365 Homepage on iPad

What would I like to see as improvements?

  1. It would be nice if you could also search for other things than documents. I am trying to wean myself (and my colleagues) of documents where possible, and this does not help.
  2. That also goes for the recent documents underneath the apps. I would like to see my unread email, or my unread Yammer messages, or the Tasks due today, as well as documents. If Office365 is going to be my Digital Workplace, it should display more than just documents.
  3. A little badge on each app to show the number of unread messages, or new tasks, or something like that,  would also be nice!
  4. The coloured bar overlaps the profile picture a little, so that needs some tweaking.

And this is the page as it used to look (on a different tenant) or still looks, if you are not on First Release.

NewOffice365page-old
The “old” Homepage

All in all, I quite like this change and I think it can be made even better!