Microsoft announced the general availability of the personal version of Teams, which has been in preview mode since it was first announced. Teams has become a popular chat application, although so far it has only been available to large organizations and companies. The new personal version of Teams is now generally available on all major platforms including Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and the web.

It might sound strange to refer to your family or group of friends as a "team," but Microsoft is rolling out some interesting new features to make it an attractive alternative to Zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, iMessage, and even SMS.

All you need to get started in Teams is a Microsoft account that you can use to create all kinds of "teams" to chat with. The nice part? In order to start a team group chat with a selection of people, not all of them need to have the app installed first. A text prompts the non-team user to download the app but allows the group to send SMS via SMS as if it were just group texts.

Microsoft is obviously of the opinion that the all-in-one team application has advantages. You can do many of the standard tasks you'd expect teams to do, such as: For example, start a video call or respond to messages with emoji. Teams allows anyone to make a one-on-one video call for free for up to 24 hours, and groups of 100 for up to an hour. During the pandemic, Microsoft waived the restrictions and even let groups of up to 300 people hold video calls for up to 24 hours for free until further information was provided.

There are also more new features. You can now start a poll that other participants in the group chat can take part in. You can even start shared task lists that anyone in the group can edit. The teams also want to provide these groups with a more feature-rich experience of communicating with one another. This is what the "dashboard" is for.

The dashboard contains the photos posted in the chat, links or files that have been shared, upcoming events, and more. Part of what is included here will depend on which starter template you are using. To get started, there will only be two starter templates – one for family and one for friends.

The family option has pre-built features like a calendar and a to-do list with built-in reminders, due dates, and assignments. What's in the dashboard can be edited and changed to suit the needs of your group chat.

Microsoft has more templates in the works that will provide examples of how this new version of Teams will work. These other templates include travel planning, finance, project, neighborhood, and more. According to Microsoft, the travel planning template includes features such as the ability to designate a location, save tickets, share photos from a trip, and even save frequent flyer miles.

Microsoft didn't mention when these additional templates would launch, but you can start using the personal version of Teams starting today. It is available in the iOS and Android app store and can be downloaded for desktop applications from the Internet.

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