Microsoft Launches Unified Picker for Teams Fun Graphics

Teams Unified Picker Brings All the Fun Content (Emojis, GIFs, and Stickers) Together

I’m not a very graphic person insofar as I don’t usually add emojis, GIFs, or stickers to email or Teams messages. Well, occasionally I break out and use a smiley face or thumbs-up emoji, but that’s about the limit of my graphic communications. This brings me to MC674737 (11 Sept 2023) and the news that Teams will introduce a “unified fun picker” (the title of Microsoft 365 roadmap item 84023) in early October 2023. Rollout to commercial tenants is expected to complete worldwide by late November 2023, while government tenants won’t start to see the new picker until early December 2023.

Figure 1 shows the unified fun picker in the Teams 2.1 client. The smiler icon reveals the picker with tabs for All, Emoji, GIFs, and Stickers. The new picker is an expansion of the version launched when Teams expanded the set of available emojis in 2022.

Using the Teams unified picker in a channel conversation
Figure 1: Using the Teams unified picker in a channel conversation

The GIFs and Stickers tabs displayed by the picker depend on team settings. If these options are blocked, they won’t appear in the picker.

The Teams Classic Approach to GIFs and Stickers

By comparison, Figure 2 shows the options to add GIFs and stickers in the Teams classic client, which has used the same approach since the original Teams client appeared in 2016.

The old approach to picking "fun content" for Teams messages
Figure 2: The old approach to picking “fun content” for Teams messages

The change removes some clutter from the GUI and I’m sure people won’t miss having specific icons to choose GIFs and stickers. At least, I don’t think so, but not being an expert in user opinions, I’ve been known to be wrong about similar issues in the past.

Teams Real-Time Synchronization with Outlook Calendar

MC674979 (12 Sept 2023) brings less graphically intense but more practically useful news. Targeted release tenants are receiving an update to make calendar updates appear faster in the Outlook and Teams clients. This is Microsoft 365 roadmap item 138248. Deployment to tenants should finish by mid-October.

Both Outlook and the Teams calendar app operate against the same data stored in the calendar folder of the user’s mailbox. Multiple clients can add, update, or remove calendar events, so background synchronization is necessary to make sure that users see the same information no matter what client they use.

In this case, Microsoft says that they are changing the way that the Teams desktop and browser clients work to make sure that calendar updates made by Outlook clients appear in near real-time in the Teams calendar app. One way that they might have done this is for the Teams server (or middle-tier layer) to take out a subscription on the calendar folder. Any update to the calendar folder forces Teams to synchronize and push the data to the clients. The improved synchronization performance seems to work as well for the Teams classic client as it does for the Teams 2.1 client, which implies that synchronization happens in the middle tier.

Mobile Teams Client Gets Better Calendar Synchronization Too

Not mentioning the Teams mobile clients in the text of the announcement is curious. My tests show that Outlook calendar updates reach the calendar in the Teams mobile (iOS) client as fast as they do the desktop client when connected over the same Wi-Fi network.

Perhaps Microsoft isn’t willing to claim the same kind of performance and reliability improvement in calendar synchronization for mobile clients because of the different characteristics between Wi-Fi and cellular networks. Or it’s just an oversight. In either case, the improved synchronization is appreciated.

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