Teams Improves its Fit and Finish

Better Captioning and Speedier Exchange Presence Updates

It’s Friday, so we can round off the week by noting a couple of changes in Teams that might have passed you by.

Speaker Names and Live Captions

First, Speaker Attribution in Live Captions (MC219651, July 31) has arrived in my tenant. The roll-out of the feature started in mid-August and is supposed to finish by the end of the month. Live captions have been available for Teams meetings for about a year (for a long time, the feature was labelled as a preview and it’s still only available in US English).

Up to now, the text generated through speech recognition appeared at the bottom of the screen in a continuous stream and you didn’t know who said what. The equivalent feature in Google Meet shows a speaker’s photo and name beside their words. Now, as part of the new meeting experience, speaker attribution means that Teams live captions show the speaker’s name (Figure 1).

Speaker attribution in Teams live captions
Figure 1: Speaker attribution in Teams live captions

The accuracy of the captions generated by Teams is sometimes challenged by speaker mumbling, accent, or poor enunciation, but most of the time it’s reasonable and is certainly helpful to those who need help following what’s going on in meetings. Adding the speaker name improves accessibility, so it’s a good thing.

Improvements in Exchange <-> Teams Connections

Teams and Exchange share calendars and other information about users, like out of office notifications, which are set in Exchange and appear in the Teams user profile card. Many have noted that sometimes Teams doesn’t display updates made in Exchange as quickly as people would like and some recent changes are designed to help.

When users update their out of office notification with a client like Outlook, the information is written to their mailbox and notified to Teams. The new status is shown in the user’s profile card (Figure 2). My testing proved that a change to an out of office notification is almost immediately available in Teams if the user is signed into Teams. If not, the update is applied the next time the user signs in.

Out of office notification from Exchange shows up in Teams
Figure 2: Out of office notification from Exchange shows up in Teams

When an out of office notification is in place for a user in Exchange, Teams displays a tip in chats (Figure 3) and in channel conversations (when the user is @ mentioned).

Teams tells a user that the person they're chatting with is out of the office
Figure 3: Teams tells a user that the person they’re chatting with is out of the office

Another change that’s been made is to speed up presence updates using the Graph presence subscription API. For example, when someone’s in a meeting, the API makes Teams quicker to detect that they are busy so that their status can be updated (Figure 4). The update seems to happen a minute or so after the scheduled start of the meeting in the user’s calendar, which is acceptable. Your mileage might vary.

A meeting starts, and Teams updates the user's presence
Figure 4: A meeting starts, and Teams updates the user’s presence

Fit and Finish

Everyone likes the big new features, like Together Mode (which I’m still not sure if I like). But often the usability of software is dictated by the fit and finish of features. In other words, how well things work at a detailed level. The changes described here are examples of updates that improve the fit and finish of Teams.

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