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Screen and app sharing options in Microsoft Teams meetings

Keep everyone on the same page — literally! — by sharing your screen, apps, or presentations during Microsoft Teams meetings. Here's how to do it right.
Published on
April 5, 2020

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When you’re on an audio or video call with colleagues or peers over a Microsoft Teams meeting, you’ve got a bunch of screen sharing options.

And screen sharing is always a good idea. To ensure everyone’s on the same page (sometimes literally), having one person share their screen to keep everyone on topic and together can make the difference between a bad meeting and a good one.

Teams gives you options. You can share any screen that’s connected to your computer, you can share a specific app, or you can open up Microsoft Whiteboard. There are also other third-party apps you can use that I won’t cover here.

You can share from the desktop and mobile versions of Teams; not surprisingly the best experience will be from desktop, but mobile absolutely can work in a pinch. And quite well, too.

Let’s get sharing

Once you’ve joined the Microsoft Teams meeting, you are able to “push” your screen to everyone else using the Share button in the meeting bar.

Share your screen using this button.

To be able to share your screen to the meeting, you must have the meeting role of organizer or presenter. Attendees of the meeting cannot share their screens.

Now Teams will give you a — somewhat overwhelming — list of things you can share. The safe, familiar bet is always going to be to share your whole screen. But Teams also lets you share individual apps, PowerPoint files, and a shared whiteboard space. Let’s cover each one and why they matter.

You have a ton of options for what you can share

Share your desktop (or whole screen)

All the way to the left of the selector is your desktop screen. If you happen to use multiple monitors, all of them will be shown as options.

This is what I default to. Sharing my whole screen ensures that I have full control of what’s on that screen without limiting myself to a single app.

Advantages

  1. You retain full control of the screen and you can move apps on and off of that screen.
  2. You can share control of your screen with other users in the meeting.
  3. If you present a PowerPoint file from the desktop app, you’ll retain full animation and graphics fidelity. (See PowerPoint section below for more information.)

Disadvantages

  1. It’s your whole screen, so if you left an app open you didn’t mean to, you might walk away embarrassed.
  2. Giving control of your screen to someone gives them full access to your computer, which can be risky.
  3. If you present a PowerPoint file, it’s difficult to follow meeting chat or access any other Teams features while in PowerPoint’s presentation mode.

Best practices

  1. Always zoom in. No matter which app you’re sharing, make the content bigger so everyone can see.
  2. Disable operating system notifications.
  3. Close any webpages that might receive notifications (including any Office 365 apps, since Outlook will usually send them when emails or appointment reminders come in).
  4. Use two monitors and separate what’s safe to share and what’s not between the monitors. I always use my right monitor for presentation-ready content. I can take personal notes, looking things up, etc., on my other monitor.
  5. If you’re sharing a PowerPoint file from desktop, join the call from your mobile device as well and follow chat from there, especially if you expect a lot of chatter or questions.
  6. Don’t forget to stop sharing when you no longer need to.

Share a window (or open app)

Teams lets you select an open window to share. In this scenario the window is the only thing shared with everyone else.

Advantages

  1. You’re only sharing what you want the other attendees to see. No risk of bringing another app with inappropriate content to the foreground.
  2. You can be doing things in other apps during the screen share and others will not know.
  3. You can share control of your app with other users in the meeting.
  4. Notifications won’t bother you when you only share a single app.

Disadvantages

  1. It can be difficult to remember that only one app is shared. You may start talking about content in another window and not realize for a while that nobody else can see that.
  2. You can only share one app at a time, which means you have to jump back to Teams to select a new one to share it. This could lead to awkward fumbling.
  3. The app has to be open to share it.

Best practices

  1. Always zoom in. No matter which app you’re sharing, make the content bigger so everyone can see.
  2. Have your app set up and ready before you share.
  3. If you’re sharing a browser, make use of tabs to have multiple web pages open. Otherwise you’ll have to jump between sharing multiple windows.
  4. Don’t forget to stop sharing when you no longer need to.

Share a PowerPoint file

Teams lets you share PowerPoint files directly from OneDrive or SharePoint. Teams will promote the most recent files you’ve had open. But you can also click Browse and locate a pptx from your OneDrive for Business, a Teams Channel, or you can upload one from your computer.

Don’t miss the “Browse” button if you don’t see a pptx you’re looking for.

Teams opens the file directly in the meeting via PowerPoint for the web (the browser version of PowerPoint).

Advantages

  1. Even while sharing the content, you can still access all the meetings features like chat, attendee list, and device settings. PowerPoint doesn’t take over the system like it would if you were using the desktop app.
  2. You’re only sharing what you want the other attendees to see. No risk of bringing another app with inappropriate content to the foreground.
  3. You can be doing things in other apps during the screen share and others will not know.
  4. Requires less bandwidth than sharing you're whole screen.
  5. Notifications won’t bother you.

Disadvantages

  1. PowerPoint for the web — while improving all the time — still can’t handle even some basic animations and transitions. It has an especially hard time with quick animations and the morph transition. PowerPoint will try to make up for this by using simpler options, but they usually don’t look good.
  2. Just like single app sharing, you can only share one piece of content (pptx, in this case) at a time, which means you have to jump back to Teams to select a new app to share it. This could lead to awkward fumbling.

Best Practices

  1. Make your content — especially text, graphs, and images — large. Don’t have a lot of text. You know, the standard slide design best practices.
  2. Try not to use animations or complex transitions on your pptx files. At all.
  3. If you do, make sure to test presenting the file in PowerPoint for the web before the meeting so you either know what to expect or you can fix the issues before your share the content.
  4. Don’t forget to stop sharing when you no longer need to.

Use Whiteboard

A recent addition to the Office 365 suite is the Microsoft Whiteboard app, which is now built into a few different tools Microsoft officers, notably Teams. The version in Teams is a web version of the Windows Whiteboard app; it doesn’t come with all of the features the desktop app does.

Most importantly, this means that at the time of publishing this post, Whiteboard in Teams only supports inking. It will not accept graphics or other content types. However, meetings participants can open the Whiteboard app on Windows or iOS to gain access to the more complex features in their meeting Whiteboard.

Advantages

  1. This can be a nice alternative to the Teams wiki or meeting notes for brainstorming. In some ways it can even be better than using OneNote.
  2. A link to a whiteboard can be shared after your meeting.
  3. A whiteboard can be exported as an image.
  4. All whiteboards you have access to will be centrally available through the Whiteboard app in the Office 365 app launcher.

Disadvantages

  1. You can’t really ink without a touch screen and a pen. I guess you can use a touch screen and a finger, but I find my finger still never does as good a job. Even a trackpad won’t suffice.
  2. It’s one more ‘space’ to manage and track in Teams.
  3. The only image export type is SVG, which very few people outside of graphic design have any idea how to use, let alone which apps open it. I understand why they do it: SVG is scalable without impacting quality. (Adobe Illustrator is the main — albeit expensive — app choice, though InkScape is free.)
  4. If you forget that Whiteboard is an app in the Office 365 app launcher, you’ll likely spend some time trying to find the meeting’s whiteboard in Teams afterwards. (It looks like you have to re-join the meeting to access it, actually. Though you could always share the link to it in the meeting chat, which could then be accessible in the Channel or private chat that goes with the meeting.)

Wrap Up

When you’re in a meeting, you’re likely talking about something, so it’s important to share that something so everyone can see it while you’re discussing it. Keep these tips in mind when you’re deciding what and how to share. For more information, see the Microsoft documentation on sharing content in Teams.

Matt Wade
Matt is an engineer-turned-IT nerd and Microsoft MVP. His career began in the nuclear power design field and ended up in SharePoint adoption, pretty much by mistake. He’s best known for his SharePoint and Office 365 infographics and advocating AI and chatbots to automate business workloads.

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