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Tips & tools for improving the Microsoft Teams search experience

28 January 2022

Ever tried to find something on Teams and got nowhere? I think we can all relate. Google or Bing 'Microsoft Teams search' and you'll see a long list with terms like 'Microsoft Teams search not working'.

In this blog I will share my tips on how to use the search function in Microsoft Teams.

Using the search bar

Now that we're using Microsoft Teams more, chat messages tend to pile up. To find an old message, type a keyword from the message in the Search Bar at the top, and press the ‘Enter’ key.

To get a result, you have to type the correct keyword, partial or complete, that the message contains.

Are you struggling with MS Teams search?

Once you use the correct keyword, numerous messages containing the keyword will appear, whether posted in a Channel or a private conversation.

Filtering MS Teams search results

If there are multiple search results, you can use filters to optimize the search.

  • To limit the search results to a single person, use the filter From, and enter the person’s name. You can only filter messages from a single person at a time.
  • Use the filter Type to filter the search results by messages received in a ‘Channel’ or ‘Chat’. Select ‘All’ to go back to viewing all types of messages again.
  • You can also set context for searching on specific Team or Channel (good luck with that as you need to guess from what's likely to be a long list of Teams/Channels that you're a member of).
  • Date, attachments, and mentions can also be used to refine further your results.

Ways to refine what you are looking for

Typing / will give you several options to explore, some related to search and some related to different actions in Microsoft Teams. The ones I find most useful are:

  • /files – this will show you all the most recent files you’ve been working with in Microsoft 365
  • /mentions – this will show you when someone has mentioned @ you. This is only for your specific name and not for a team you are a member of
  • /saved – this will show you all messages you’ve saved (or bookmarked as the icon actually looks like a bookmark)

Typing @ will give you a set of other actions, such as showing the people you most often chat with.

NOTE: External users to your company (guest users in Teams) will have a tough time as they won’t be able to search for Files, even if they are members of a few Teams with access to files in them. Currently, for extranet scenarios guest users cannot search for a document in Teams.

Refining search result with search operators

The search operators are the same you can use in for example google or the Office 365 portal. Note that search operators only work with when searching for files and not messages.

  • “” – putting your search term within quotation marks will search for an exact result
  • OR – this will search X OR Y, meaning you can search for more than one word if you aren’t certain what you are looking for
  • AND – this will search for X AND Y, meaning you can narrow your search if you know what you are looking for
  • * – adding a wildcard will search for a word that contains what you’ve searched for, e.g., train* gives training as a result as well

Microsoft Teams search functionality updates

Microsoft Teams search has been recently updated including a design refresh to use all of the screen (not just the side column) to show results, an initial screen with top results across Messages, People and Documents, and the ability to expand conversations for messages found for better context. The image below is from Microsoft Teams Desktop public preview release. This is expected to roll out shortly for everyone.

Searching messages in MS Teams.

Atlas Search - elevating your Microsoft Teams Search experience with Microsoft Viva

Atlas enhances Microsoft Teams search to surface all content for all types of users, including Guest users, from a single interface with pre-configured search scopes.

With Viva Connections your organization users will have access to Atlas Search within Microsoft Teams providing them with an enterprise class search experience that increases productivity and saves time by delivering more relevant results and enables users to find knowledge fast.

The more intuitive Atlas search experience is easy to access from the users’ digital workspace homepage. 

Atlas makes MS Teams search more intuitive.

Accessing this direct search enables search across all sorts of pre-configured business or information architecture verticals. This works even without typing any keywords as you can just go straight into a search listing page and start refining using a wide range of taxonomy and metadata filters, being able to discover this way information sitting in data silos as well.

Within each search listing Atlas is capable of providing different types of content providing a unified user experience to reach any type of content in a single place.

Atlas search dashboard.

For guest users, that can’t search at all within Teams, Atlas provides a great experience and within the context of each team they have access to. Atlas enriches each Team with additional features like having access to the home page from a Teams tab in the General channel. Providing access from within Teams to the full Atlas Search for guest users, increases productivity and engagement of your extranet users.

It is worth noting all access through Atlas Search is permission trimmed ensuring the same level of compliance access to your data as from the native Microsoft search while providing a consistent experience and unleashing your user’s productivity.

Atlas search provides the same level of compliance as MS Teams search.

In context links and file preview

Atlas Search provides several productivity boosters to empower every user in your organization to achieve more from the context of each search result returned.

While browsing the list of documents found through a search query, you can just hover over the different file cards to access a full preview of the Document in line without having to leave the page or click anywhere.

Atlas search lets you hover to get a preview of the document without having to leave the page you're on.

Once you're sure that you've found the document, page or item you require, Atlas provides a context menu with specific actions relevant to that type of file or item. This allows fast shortcuts - like sharing the document with a colleague, copying the link to share with someone or downloading the document for quick attachment into email, as well as providing direct access to the folder where the document is stored so you can find other documents in the same area.

Atlas search provides a context menu allowing quick actions.

Recap: Atlas search lets your users achieve moreSearch Screens complete

In this article, we have covered how to use Microsoft Teams search, including some tips & tricks to get the most out of the Teams search experience. Also, we went through some of the gaps that experience has today and how we can elevate the experience for our users by using Microsoft Viva and Atlas Search including:

  • Find knowledge fast
  • Discover data silos
  • Advanced filtering to desired results
  • Delivering multiple result types in a single user experience
  • Permissions for content security
  • Context driven links
  • Consistent experience

Atlas enhances Microsoft Teams search to surface all content from a single interface with pre-configured search scopes.

  Learn more

Atlas: The best Digital Workplace platform for Microsoft 365

Atlas is the digital workplace platform of choice that powers Microsoft 365. 

  • Platform of choice for organisations using Microsoft 365.
  • Recognised digital workplace platform leader.
  • Redesign and reimagine the creation and use of information to drive business value.
  • Optimises an organisation's investment in Microsoft 365.
  • Enterprise-grade security and smart governance tools, as well as integration capabilities.

Find out what Atlas can do. Book a demo now.

Collection of illustrations for the digital workplace 6


Author bio

Guillermo Bas

Guillermo Bas

I enjoy sharing my thoughts as a Product Manager in a Microsoft Teams world. Personally, I like to play in local table tennis leagues on the weekend.

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