Teams Desktop and Browser Clients Get Offline Sending Capability

Offline Sending Coming Soon

In October 2020, Microsoft responded to a Teams user voice request to say that they had added basic offline capability to Teams. Message center notification MC235369 (January 21) brings news of further progress in that the Teams desktop and browser clients will soon have the ability to compose and send messages when offline (Microsoft 365 roadmap item 64687). Roll-out is planned in two phases: the first covers processing of sent messages, the second deals with edits to messages. Both phases are scheduled for completion by mid-February.

Disconnected and Working

Although welcome, this is a very basic offline capability intended to cover interruptions in network service rather than deliver full access to all Teams client data when disconnected for extended periods. When Teams notices a problem with connectivity, it notifies the user, who can continue working to send messages in chats (Figure 1) or channel conversations. Teams will queue the messages locally.

Teams notices that the client is offline
Figure 1: Teams notices that the client is offline

Teams marks messages sent offline with a circular icon to remind the user that the messages have not yet been sent (Figure 2). You can also see that several of the icons underneath the compose box are blanked because the apps aren’t available offline.

Teams chat messages sent offline are marked with a special icon
Figure 2: Teams chat messages sent offline are marked with a special icon

Reconnecting and Sending

If connectivity is restored within 24 hours of a message being sent, Teams will send it then. This process is automatic, and the user doesn’t have to approve sending. However, if connectivity issues persist, queued messages age out after 24 hours. The user is then prompted to resend or delete the message (Figure 3). Older messages are not resent automatically because they might no longer be relevant. This is different to email behavior, but logical when you think of the cut-and-thrust interaction so commonly seen in Teams messaging.

Failed messages need to be resent
Figure 3: Failed messages need to be resent

Phase two of the roll-out covers the scenario where a user edits a previously sent message when the edited version is treated in the same way as a new message.

Teams Slow to Go Offline

For about a year, Teams has cached chats and channel conversations for offline (read) access. It’s curious that Teams has taken so long to add an offline sending capability. Outlook has had send and process offline functionality since its original version in 1997 and added full mailbox synchronization in 2003. Knowing this, it’s interesting that Teams was not designed with full offline capability from the start. Perhaps the luxury of working with today’s networks, which are more available and capable than in the past, lured the designers into an assumption that always connected would be the default state. Life has a nasty habit of proving assumptions wrong.

It’s important to realize that the offline capabilities of Teams remain limited and extend only to messaging. Other important parts like meetings, calls, and the tasks apps must be connected to work. A cached copy of items in the Teams calendar is available, but you can’t create new meetings (you can use the Outlook calendar to schedule personal Teams meetings when offline). Files (SharePoint and OneDrive for Business) are available offline if downloaded with the OneDrive sync client. Third-party apps connected to Teams might or might not offer some offline capability.

In short, you still need a network connection for Teams to work as intended. The offline sending capability now being delivered is one small step along that path, but it’s certainly not a notable destination.

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