Using Microsoft Teams with Files

In my last blog post, I wrote about using Microsoft Teams and conversations. In this blog posting, I review how I can manage and upload files across multiple teams and multiple Office 365 products. Personally, I find it hard to manage all the files that I use and share. I like keeping them organized without having multiple copies floating around. I do like syncing files between the cloud and my local computer.

Files in a Team

Every channel in a Microsoft Team site has a Files tab.

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The files are accessible to all team members. Team members can also move a file to its own tab. The Fiscal Year Budget Projection spreadsheet is displayed in a tab. Team members can edit the spreadsheet within the Teams site. Team members can also start a conversation on a file (see my previous blog post).

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But where are these files stored?

Files in SharePoint

Every Microsoft Teams site has an Office 365 group and a SharePoint site created. The SharePoint site contains conversations, documents, notebooks, and pages. The documents are displayed in the lower right under the Documents heading.

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The documents for each channel are stored in a separate folder. Teams21
For example, documents in the Audits channel are stored in the Audits folder.

The same three files appear in the Audits folder that we just saw in the Teams channel.

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Megan Bowen has opened the SharePoint site and wants to view all of the documents. Megan clicks on See all.

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The web browser updates to display the Documents. The folders still display the channels.

Files and OneDrive on Computer

Megan clicks on Teams24 to sync the folders and files from this library to her computer.

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Megan can now see the folders and files on her local drive.

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Megan opens the Audits folder to see the same three files.

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Thus, Megan would not have to open each team site or the SharePoint site to work with the files. Megan can also create or upload files in a folder and sync the folder with the SharePoint / Team site.

Files and OneDrive on Mobile Device

Megan also uses her iPhone to access files via her OneDrive app.

Megan opens her app to Sites. Here she can see all of the SharePoint Sites.  Teams28
Megan clicks on the Contoso Finance site and sees the Documents folder. The Contoso Finance site is the SharePoint site for the Microsoft team of the same name.  Teams29
Megan clicks on the documents folder to see a list of the folders. The folders represent each channel in the team site.  Teams30
Megan then clicks on the Audits folder to see the documents that are contained on the Files tab in the Audits channel of the Microsoft team.
Now Megan can add files to the folder. The files will appear on the SharePoint site, the Team site, and on her computer’s OneDrive (after being synced).
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Files and OneDrive

Megan has a lot of files on her OneDrive.

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As much as Megan uses Microsoft Teams to manage her team work, she uses OneDrive to manage her files. Megan can see the list of her sites / teams on the left side of the OneDrive screen.

Megan clicks on Contoso Finance to open the documents folder. She can see the folders that represent the channels.

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Megan clicks on the Audits folder. Now she can see the same three files that she viewed in other products.

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But Megan can also perform the following functions in OneDrive Online:

  1. She can view all of her other files. Thus, she can copy or move folders and files within OneDrive.
  2. She can create a Flow. Flow is used to create automated workflows between your apps and services. Flow can provide notifications, synchronize files, collect data, and more. Click here to learn more about Microsoft Flow.
  3. She can sync her folders and files to her computer.

I believe that Megan can be productive with files within a team site; but use OneDrive Online to be productive with files across multiple team sites. However, Megan will not be able to view team conversations posted to a file when using OneDrive Online. These conversations stay in the team site.

Files and Outlook Online

I prefer not to use Outlook as my file manager; but it does display my team site files. The screenshot below displays the Office 365 groups in Megan’s Outlook client. The Contoso Finance group is the group used by the Microsoft Team of the same name. The files in the Contoso Finance group are displayed when the Files tab is clicked.

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The difference in Outlook is that the files are not displayed within their channels or folders.

Megan uploads a file named lunar-eclipse.jpg. Where does the file end up?

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Megan clicks on Files in the navigation bar on the left side of her Microsoft Teams. The new file appears at the top of the list. The file’s location is listed as /sites/ContosoFinance/SharedDocuments.

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I looked through each channel and Files tab in the Contoso Finance team; but I did not find the new file listed.

Next I opened the SharePoint site for Contoso Finance. I see the new file listed in the Activity and Documents section.

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Thus, in my opinion, using Outlook to work with files is useful if you don’t want to see the channels or folders. But it is not useful for uploading new files into a team channel or SharePoint folder. The team members will not see the file unless they click on Files on the left navigation of Teams or go to the SharePoint site.

I like Outlook for mail; but not for file management. 😉

What is Different?

Were you looking at the menu bar in each screenshot? They are not identical! Let’s take a quick look at the menu bar displayed in each tool. Of course, they could change again!

Microsoft Teams

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SharePoint Site

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OneDrive on iPhone

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OneDrive Online

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OneDrive on Computer

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Files in Outlook

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The table below summarizes what you see in the menu bar. You can quickly see that they are not the same! I’m not saying that they should be identical. I think that the menu features available are based on your context. Also, I believe that the menu features will be synchronized over time.

Microsoft Teams SharePoint Site OneDrive on iPhone OneDrive Online OneDrive on Computer Outlook
New
Upload
Get Link
Add Cloud Storage
Open in SharePoint
New
Upload
Share
Copy Link
Download
Export to Excel
Flow
Sorted by
+ (Scan, Upload, Create a folder, etc)
New
Upload
Share
Copy Link
Download
Flow
Sync
Delete
New folder
New
Upload

Review

Let’s quickly review what happened:

  1. Files can be created in Teams, SharePoint Sites, OneDrive on iPhone, OneDrive Online, and OneDrive on Computer.
  2. The files are displayed essentially the same way in each product. Teams display files in tabs within channels. Other products display files in folders. Outlook displays files in groups without tabs or folders.
  3. The menu bars are different in each product; but that may be because of the context.
  4. Viewing files in OneDrive Online may be the best for working with all of the files in a folder structure across all teams.
  5. You can sync the folders and files to your local computer.
  6. You can view the folders and files on your mobile device.

This may seem confusing with so many ways to manage files. Remember that:

  • Only Teams has conversations that you can apply to a file
  • OneDrive allows you to manage files across all Teams (and synchronize to your local computer)