Quick Tip: Make the most of the Microsoft Teams app bar

Microsoft Teams is fast becoming the hub for people’s productivity at work. I wanted to highlight a small feature that can make a big difference to the usability of Teams and help people find what they need, fast.

Microsoft Teams uses an “App Bar” on the left hand side of the UI to let you switch between the different apps available. You are probably familiar with the Activity, Chat, Teams, Calls and Calendar apps as they are pinned by default to the app bar but did you know you can move these around, unpin them or pin new ones?

screenshot of Microsoft Teams on the apps page
The app bar on the left with the default pinned apps, and there is even an app for more apps!

When I realised you could re-order these, I moved mine around so they made sense for my daily workflow. I tend to use the Calendar app the most (previously called Meetings) so I moved that up to the top. I don’t personally use the Files app so I left-clicked it and selected “unpin”. If you like a nice clean UI then you may want to stop there. Any other apps you’ve installed or are built-in are still available in the “More Added Apps” menu (the ellipsis button). I’d highly recommend having a browse through the apps in there as there are some real gems. If you want quick access to them you can simply right-click and select “Pin” to add it to your App Bar.

Screenshot of Microsoft Teams installed app search box showing how to pin an app
Just right-click to pin a new app, or pop it out to a new window

I’ve got the following apps pinned to my app bar as I find them useful and don’t want to forget they are there!

  • Communities – this is basically the Yammer website but it does link with the Activity app if you get a mention. We use this a lot at work to share info org-wide, rather than in Teams, which are more for projects or working groups
  • Insights – this is a relatively new app that used to be called MyAnalytics but is now evolving into the Microsoft Viva Insights app. At the moment it has reminders to help you keep connected with important emails, tasks, doc changes etc. and a “Protect Time” feature that lets you book focus time into your calendar
  • OneNote – This gives you quick access to any notebooks you have access to; Personal, Recent, and any used in Teams themselves
  • Tasks by Planner – This merges anything you have in Microsoft To Do and Microsoft Planner into one app. Really handy to be able to jump from your personal tasks to the various group tasks shared in Planner
  • Wiki – we like to use the Wiki on each Team to be a crowdsourced page of useful info and links relevant to a project or client. By having it pinned as an app you can quickly jump between the different wikis or see the Recent list is you’ve forgotten where you saw something!

Unfortunately, you can only pin 10 apps to the app bar so you want to make sure they are ones you’ll be using most frequently. Any more you pin show up on the “More Added Apps” menu. There are loads available, some just bring up the web page embedded in Teams, like the Power BI app, others are a bit smarter that actually integrate with Teams with a custom UI, like Power Apps, Power Automate and the new Dynamics 365 HR app. Speaking of Power Apps, you can actually pin specific ones to the menu too if you want quick access. The apps stay pinned in the desktop app or the web version so that is great if you’re away from your main device.

Screenshot of my current set of pinned apps and Viva Insights app in the background
My current set of pinned apps and Viva Insights app in the background

By default, end-users have a lot of freedom to pick and choose what they like, from the built-in apps to third party ones available through the app store. That’s a good thing IMHO as you don’t want to stifle the productivity of your users by blocking them or drive them away from Teams into some other shadow IT SaaS app. However, there are some useful admin controls that can be used to manage what gets pinned to the App Bar. This is great if you need to highlight an app to a whole organisation or specific groups. You can find out more on how to do that on the Microsoft Docs page for App setup policies.

I hope this little tip helps you get a lot more out of the apps in Microsoft Teams. Let me know in the comments if you’ve found any good ones worth sharing.

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