New Option to Control How Teams Clients Open Office Documents

Available in Desktop and Browser Clients

Message center notification MC268957 (July 13) and Microsoft 365 roadmap item 82662 cover new settings available for Teams users to decide how to open Office documents. The option is available in the General section of settings in the Teams desktop client (Figure 1). The update will begin rolling out to Office 365 tenants configured for targeted release in late July. Microsoft expects to fully complete the deployment to all tenants, including GCC and DOD, by the end of October.

New Teams client options to set default opening choice for Office documents
Figure 1: New Teams client options to set default opening choice for Office documents

You can also decide to open a document differently or change the default when opening a file (Figure 2). To select a new default, choose Change default.

Overriding the default opening option for a specific document
Figure 2: Overriding the default opening option for a specific document

After selecting a non-default option. Teams seemed to get upset and asked if I really knew what I was doing (in a nicer way – Figure 3). This message hasn’t appeared since, so maybe Teams concluded that I’m capable of choosing how to open individual files.

Teams asks if I'm really sure
Figure 3: Teams asks if I’m really sure

Not Earthshattering News

Although offering an option to control how to open Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents is hardly earthshattering news, it’s a useful update. The available options are:

  • Teams: This is the default and means that Teams calls an Office viewer to open the file.
  • Browser: Teams uses Office Online to open the file in read-only mode.
  • Desktop app: If Office 16 (Office 2016 or Microsoft 365 apps for enterprise, aka Office ProPlus) is available on a Windows or MacOS workstation, Teams uses the appropriate desktop app to open the file. This option doesn’t appear in browser clients.

The option only applies to Office documents. Teams continues to use an app (if available) or an Office viewer to open other types like PDFs or text files.

My choice is to use the desktop app. I don’t open many files in Teams as most of the documents I work with are either email attachments or stored in SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business and synchronized locally, which is where I access the files. Because my document processing habits have focused on the desktop Office apps for 30-odd years, it’s my natural work environment. I like the control and functionality available, especially when working with documents containing complex formatting, processing marked up text, or adding comments when reviewing content. However, I can see that others might prefer to use Office Online or even a viewer when working in Teams. The downside is that it can be slower to open large Office documents in the desktop app. It’s just the opportunity to drink more coffee.

There’s no way for admins to control the option selected by users. It’s a very personal choice.

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