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Have your email cake in Teams and eat it too!
Have you ever found yourself copy+pasting content from a vendor’s email into Microsoft Teams? Or maybe summarizing into a new Teams post a question a customer sent in via email? Maybe you're a teacher who's sick of uploading parental permission slips into Teams that were emailed to you.
It’s a common occurrence. But it’s basically unnecessary. Office 365 has an amazing feature built between Outlook and Teams and you should be using it: share an email to Teams. There are two ways to do it. This post covers how and why to use either... or both. One is easier, but less customizable. The other is a bit more difficult, but gives you a bunch more option. For a video version of this post, click play below.
Why share an email to Teams?
If you’ve moved to—or are moving to—Microsoft Teams, it quickly becomes clear that it’s best to keep as much of your ongoing work and conversations there as opposed to anywhere else (including email). Back-and-forth conversations and threads are significantly easier to have and scroll through in Teams than email and Teams gives you a central location for storing any relevant files while you’re collaborating.
For the most part, organizations that have moved to Teams work mainly in Teams with internal colleagues. (Yes, your mileage may vary.) All the Company A work stays in Teams. But any real-world organization has to work with customers, vendors, peers, etc. outside of the organization. And in many cases I’ve seen, they avoid giving guest access in Teams if they can avoid it (confusing, difficult to manage) and instead they email those people, since everyone knows how to email.
But emailing still comes with its problems: attached files and multiple versions, difficult-to-read threading, replies that change recipient lists, and an overall archaic user experience. So if you’re dialoguing with an outsider and you want to discuss an email they sent internally, you can easily share that email to the relevant Teams channel you’re using to discuss that topic, hash everything out there, come to a consensus with your internal colleagues, then respond once to the original, external email sender.
It keeps things clean: debate remains internal, no mistaken reply-alls with sensitive discussion, one message in, one message out, easy.
Option 1: 'Share email to Teams' in Outlook
The quickest and easiest way to share your email with Teams is in Outlook. If you open an email in Outlook, you can open the ⋯ More options menu and click Share to Teams. From here, choose the channel or person you want to send the email to, decide whether you want to include attachments, and press Share. You'll find "Share to Teams" in the message ribbon in Outlook for Windows and macOS. When you share, you can send the email to a channel, a person, or a private group chat. If you don't see the Share to Teams option in Outlook yet, don't worry: it's coming soon. Just be patient. Though you should make sure the Outlook Add-in is enabled.
A copy of the email is posted as the initial message in a new conversation in the channel or a new message in a private chat (depending on where you shared the email to). The subject of the email becomes the subject of a channel conversation. Any text in the email is part of the message. A full copy of the email file itself (.eml) is uploaded to a folder in the channel's Files tab called Email Messages when sharing to a channel or in the sender's OneDrive for Business when using private chat. Any attachments are also uploaded into this folder as copies of the original. The conversation and files in Teams have no connection to the original email, so you can discuss the email with a reply in Teams safely and you can open and edit the files in Teams just like you would any other file. You may want to rename the file, though, because Teams adds a timestamp to the file name.
Now, this way of sharing to Teams is extremely easy and simple. But "easy" usually means "very few options". For example, you can only send emails from Outlook in your organization, not other email tools or organizations. The email itself also can't be edited; it presents as a preview of the .eml file, specifically made for this experience (I think). While you can edit the message around the email (perhaps you want to @mention the channel to let them know it's there), you can't change what the email says or remove any of the email artifacts like the from/sent/to/subject lines in the case when they get in the way.
Editing the message in Teams
Once you share the email to Teams, you can edit the message you sent, which can be useful for @mentioning people or the channel to let them know to review the info. You can also include additional information, messages, a preamble, whatever you'd like. Just don't mix up the message's ⋯ More options menu with the ⋯ More options menu of the email preview itself.
- Very easy to do.
- Email posts to Teams almost immediately.
- Can send to a channel, person, or private group chat.
- Can choose to include or not include attachments.
- Can edit the initial message after it's sent and add message content (though you can't edit the email content).
- Can't edit email message or clean it up; it goes through completely as-is.
- Can only be sent from Outlook in your organization.
- If you want to edit the conversation in Teams, it can be confusing how to edit the message.
- Can't @mention in the share. (Edit the message or reply to it to @mention people.)
- It appears some ad blockers will disallow you from adding someone or a channel in the Share to box. Disable your ad blocker before using this.
Option 2: Forward an email to the channel email address
If you want to have more control over what's sent and you only need to send the email to a channel, using the forwarding email address is likely a better option for you. Each channel in Teams has an email address, that includes private channels. You can set who can use the email address, too (see below).
To forward an email to a Teams channel using the channel's email address:
- Next to the channel name, click ⋯ More options > Get email address. If it's the first time anyone's ever used this email address, it will take a few seconds to create. Each channel has a unique email address. If you don't see the option, make sure this feature is enabled in your system and in your Team.
- Copy the email address that's provided.
- Open the email you want to forward and click Forward. Remember that you can send this email from any email account including Gmail, iCloud, Live, or your work or school account.
- In the To field, paste the email address you copied in step 2.
- Clean up the email (see below for guidance) if necessary. Remove unnecessary attachments (e.g., redundant files, email signature files) if necessary. You cannot edit the message in Teams after you've sent it, so make your edits in this step.
- Press Send.
Clean up your email first
Teams is going to display everything you send over as part of the email, so take the opportunity to clean it up first. The extraneous stuff that might be useful when reading an email in Outlook is not as useful in Teams.
First, unless you need it, remove the from/to/date/subject info on the top of the forwarded email. It’s super ugly in Teams and forces you to take longer to get to the meat of your message. If you need the sender’s contact information, add it somewhere else in the message (you have every ability to edit the email, of course) or add it as a response to the forwarded email’s conversation in Teams.
Next, update the subject line. The subject that the sender used is likely not as relevant or useful to the people who will be using this message in Teams. Make it whatever you would use if you were posting this message in Teams. A nice detail about this process is the email subject is also made the Teams conversation subject, so it’ll be large and readable at a glance.
Remove your signature. You don’t need it if you’re forwarding to a Team where everyone already knows you. You want to especially remove your signature if it uses any images or files. They will end up getting uploaded to Teams and associate with the email as an equal to any actual attachments that matter. The same goes for any sender's signature and, again, especially if their signature includes image files.
Working with attachments
I think the slickest part of this experience is the fact that Teams knows exactly how to handle attachments. Teams automatically uploads the email itself (a .eml file) and any attachments to the Email Messages folder in your Files tab. (If that folder doesn’t already exist, Teams creates it.)
These work as any standard file uploaded into Teams. You can open them and edit them right in Teams, in SharePoint, or in the desktop apps. You can add metadata, you can sync them, everything.
Just know that as you start editing them, these files are new copies of the original attachments. Changes made to the files in Teams do not update the attachments in the original email.
If there are files in the original email that aren't important to share with Teams, you can also remove them from the forwarded email. This is another benefit of this option (over Share to Teams). Make sure to remove any extraneous files like email signature graphics or other randomly added files that happen as emails are forwarded between people. Otherwise they get uploaded into Teams and things get messy.
You can also add attachments if you find the need (though you could also just directly upload them into Teams).
Editing the message in Teams
You can't! Hope you cleaned it up before you sent it! But you can reply to the message with additional details, @mentions, and the like.
Manage who can send emails to a channel
By default, anyone with the channel's email address can send an email to that channel. This could be a bit of a security risk if the email address somehow got out to the wrong person (or worse, email list or bot). No worries: Teams lets you control who can send an email to your channel. You just have to modify the setting to protect it.
- Next to the channel name, click ⋯ More options > Get email address > Advanced settings.
- Choose between the three options: anyone can send an email, only people already in the Team, or only certain domains.
The third choice is useful if you're working with people in an organization outside of yours, like a customer, vendor, or partner. Add companyB.com in the box and save it to allow only emails from people with addresses that end in that domain. Restricting domains to, say, gmail.com wouldn't be great (even though Teams uses that as an example) because there are millions—maybe even billions—of Gmail accounts out there. So it's not really saving you from anything if you're actually trying to protect your channel from spam or something.
Save the middle man
If you are posting a request for proposal on a project or any other process that requires multiple external organizations or people to submit something, this can work really well.
Create a “Receiving” channel just for accepting these messages and share the channel’s email address as the ‘send to’ address for the external people.
Each time a new one is sent, you’ll see a new conversation and you can start discussing it internally. This also lets you rearrange the files and do what you want internally while keeping things organized.
Similarly, if you have ongoing interactions with various vendors, clients, or partners, you could have separate channels for each and give each one the email address to their own and ask them to send any submissions to that address only. Same for those parental permission slips I mentioned earlier; if you work at a school and interact with external people regularly (e.g., parents), and you need them to submit things, a designated channel can be really useful. Keeps things organized for you without any unnecessary email back-and-forths. This can be a good workaround if external sharing is too cumbersome for your peers or not allowed by your IT security team.
- Edit the email content before sending.
- Email posts to Teams almost immediately.
- Can forward any email from any email address.
- Can limit which email addresses can send an email.
- Can remove individual attachments.
- More complex than Share to Teams.
- Can't customize or shorten the email address (at least not out of the box).
- Can't edit the initial message once it's sent.
Work in Teams, then reply to the email
Now that the email is in Teams, your Team members can discuss it, link to files, @mention colleagues or other Channels, share gifs and memes, and anything else you could do in any other conversation.
Replies to this post are contained only in Teams and will not be sent as a response to the original email. Teams even pops up a handy reminder that basically says “this conversation is in no way connected to the email thread associated with this email.”
There is no magical connection between this conversation or its files and the original email. The email forwarded to Teams is an unconnected copy of the original.
Once the email is forwarded, I generally like to call out the channel name or individuals to send them all a notification informing them that the information is there. Here your colleagues can reply, you can all debate and banter on what to do, and once you’ve all agreed you’re finished, someone responds to the original email attaching (or sharing a link to) the updated versions of the files. No nasty and awkward reply-all chains that start cause everyone to roll their eyes!
The new Share to Teams feature is incredibly easy and useful for most situations and the email a channel option is a great backup when you need some more freedom and flexibility. How are you using this feature? And if you're not, how are you planning to use it now?
Obviously you have an opinion, so share it!