How to Make Teams Public Preview Features Available to Users

Reveal New Features Early to Selected Teams Users

Office 365 notification MC225595 published on 30 October introduces a new facility to allow selected users to test features in public preview in the Teams desktop (Windows, macOS, and Linux) and browser clients. Microsoft publishes features in public preview to allow organizations to check how features work before they achieve general availability and become part of the base client.

Unlike other applications, Teams does not use the Office 365 targeted/standard release mechanism to expose new features early, so this mechanism can be considered an alternative. The Teams developers say that they will list features available in public preview in the Office Current Channel (Preview) release notes and will enable three pre-release channels:

  • Beta Preview Channel: The earliest that non-Microsoft users can access new Teams features. This was previously referred to as Ring 1.5.
  • Private Preview Channel: Access to more developed forms of new Teams features. This was previously called Ring 3.
  • Public Preview Channel: Tenants can enable public preview for selected users to allow them to have early access to new features. This is a new pre-release channel which slots in before general availability (Ring 4).

Collectively, the three pre-release channels are referred to as Teams Insider. The Beta Preview and Private Preview channels are restricted to companies participating in Microsoft’s Technology Adoption Program (TAP). Features released to the TAP are under Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA).

The administrative option to define an update policy is already rolling out and the option for a user to enable features in public preview will appear in clients in early December 2020.

Managing Teams Update Policies

The sparse documentation covers how to create a new update policy and how users enable preview features through the About option in the Teams menu. Update policies are managed through the Teams admin center (Figure 1) and control if preview features are available to end users. Tenants get a default policy which disables preview features, meaning that users do not see the choice to enable preview features in their client unless they are assigned a custom update policy which allows the option.

Teams update policies in the Teams admin center
Figure 1: Teams update policies in the Teams admin center

If you want to allow user access to preview features, create a new update policy with the Show preview features slider set to On (Figure 2).

Creating a Teams update policy to enable preview features
Figure 2: Creating a Teams update policy to enable preview features

Assigning a Teams Update Policy to a User Account

Once the new update policy is saved, it can be assigned to user accounts. You can do this by editing user accounts through the Teams admin center and editing the set of policies assigned to the account (Figure 3).

Assigning a Teams update policy to a user through the Teams admin center
Figure 3: Assigning a Teams update policy to a user through the Teams admin center

Like any policy assignment, it can take up to an hour before the new policy becomes active for an account.

You can also manage the update policy assigned to an account through PowerShell. This is the easiest way to assign an update policy to a set of accounts. To see the set of update policies in a tenant, load the latest version of the Teams PowerShell module into a session, connect to the Skype for Business endpoint, and then run the Get-CsTeamsUpdateManagementPolicy cmdlet:

Get-CsTeamsUpdateManagementPolicy | ft identity

Identity
--------
Global
Tag:Test Teams Users
Tag:Default

The Grant-CsTeamsUpdateManagementPolicy cmdlet assigns an update policy to an account:

Grant-CsTeamsUpdateManagementPolicy -PolicyName "Test Teams Users" -Identity Kim.Akers@Office365itpros.com

Bulk Assignment of an Update Policy

If you’re going to enable more than a couple of users for public preview, you can assign the policy to accounts using a Teams batch assignment operation. In this example, the code finds mailboxes marked (though a custom attribute) to be allowed access Teams public preview. You could also use a Microsoft 365 group or distribution list to control the set of users allowed to access Teams public preview.

After fetching the list of accounts, a connection is made to Teams and to the policy endpoint to submit a background job to assign the policy.

$Users = Get-ExoMailbox -Filter {CustomAttribute10 -eq 'Teams Preview'} -RecipientTypeDetails UserMailbox | Select -ExpandProperty UserPrincipalName
Connect-MicrosoftTeams -Credential $O365Cred
$Sb = New-CsOnlineSession -Credential $O365Cred 
Import-PSSession $Sb -AllowClobber
$PolicyJob = New-CsBatchPolicyAssignmentOperation -OperationName "Public Preview Assignment" -Identity $Users -PolicyType TeamsUpdateManagementPolicy -PolicyName "Test Teams users"

Update March 6, 2021: Microsoft has updated the Teams PowerShell module to V2.0. In general, it’s best to use the latest version of a module but test it first! This version doesn’t require using New-CsOnlineSession to connect to the management end point.

The Get-CsBatchPolicyAssignmentOperation cmdlet is used to check the progress of the job.

Get-CsBatchPolicyAssignmentOperation -Identity $PolicyJob| fl

OperationId    : b16ef8e0-dc74-4885-872c-051a590d0a4a
OperationName  : Public Preview Assignment
OverallStatus  : Completed
CreatedTime    : 09/12/2020 12:58:04
CreatedBy      : 53f08764-07d4-418c-8403-a737a8fac7b3
CompletedTime  : 09/12/2020 12:58:17
CompletedCount : 3
ErrorCount     : 0
PendingCount   : 0
UserState      : {James.Joyce@office365itpros.com, Ken.Bowers@office365itpros.com,
                 Kim.Akers@office365itpros.com}

Note: Using a batch policy assignment job to assign the Teams update policy to a set of users does not remove a policy previously assigned to accounts which were previously in the approved set. Removal of these accounts must be done separately.

Enabling Preview Features in the Teams Client

Users assigned update policies which enable preview features can switch to see those features through the client’s About menu. Choose Public Preview from the list (Figure 4).

Enabling public preview features in the Teams client
Figure 4: Enabling public preview features in the Teams client

You’ll then see a warning and be asked if you wish to switch to public preview (Figure 5). Upon confirmation, Teams signs you out and restarts the client to load the preview features. You are forced to reauthenticate.

Teams issues a warning before switching to public preview
Figure 5: Teams issues a warning before switching to public preview

The same happens if you choose to switch to Developer preview. This version of Teams is intended to allow app developers to check that their code works. Only users allowed to upload custom apps can switch to developer preview. This feature is enabled through the Teams app setup policy assigned to accounts.

What to Expect from Public Preview

One way to know what you might see is to keep an eye on the Teams feature notifications posted to the Microsoft 365 admin center. At the time of writing, the most obvious preview feature is the change to the Fluent design system for Teams icons and themes (Office 365 notification MC225329).

Teams client with Fluent Design
Figure 6: Teams client with Fluent Design

The Fluent design is a good example of a preview feature that isn’t fully ready for prime time. In Figure 6, you can see that some icons (for Planner, Yammer communities, and Stream) aren’t too visible. Keen-eyed observers will notice other changes, but these aren’t yet documented in the release notes. Microsoft announced that the following features will be available in public preview channel in December 2020:

To revert to the regular client, go to the About menu and untick Public Preview. Teams will then unload the preview and load the generally available version.

No Support for Preview Features

One thing to remember is that preview features aren’t covered by normal Microsoft support. If you run into a problem, you can report the issue to Microsoft using the client’s Give feedback option (under Help).

18 Replies to “How to Make Teams Public Preview Features Available to Users”

    1. No. You’d have to run PowerShell against accounts to find out which have the update policies which allow public preview enabled.

  1. I can see the policy in our EDU tenant. I applied it to a user a couple of days ago and when we try to follow your instructions we are missing the option to switch to preview. I will keep checking back.

    1. Same here, and it’s the next day now, which should have been enough time. Just Developer is available to choose. I expect this is one of those things they’re still rolling out even if you’ve enabled it, so we’ll have to wait.

  2. Thank you for sharing this, but are you aware of any conditions how the preview features are managed by end user license agreement, or by service agreements? Who is owning your data/logs when you are using features on preview phase?

    1. If you use preview features you’re not covered by standard SLA and other support arrangements. You own your data, like you do for any other Office 365 service.

  3. Hi Tony , where can we see what “Preview” features are available? Is it it only in the Admin Center?

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