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Demystifying Microsoft Teams Apps

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Haniel Croitoru
MVP

Microsoft continues to pack new functionality into Teams at an astonishing pace!  What’s great to see is the various types of integrations, or Apps available with other systems.  At first, it may seem a bit daunting, even confusing to get a sense of the differences between these apps.  In this article, I’m providing a quick overview and recommendation on when to use what.

A Microsoft Teams App is web app that is built to serve a specific purpose.  Depending on the needs, a Teams app can include one or more of the following capabilities:

  • Tabs
  • Bots
  • Connectors
  • Messaging Extensions
  • Activity Feed
  • Outgoing Web Hooks

Tabs

Tabs display rich content that fills most of the main panel of the application.  Users typically view and interact with content inside the tabs.  Each channel can be configured to have its own tabs.  When a user is inside a tab, they can work within the context of that content.  Many app developers also provide a link that will take the user to an external site that is native to the application being hosted inside the tab.  As content inside a tab is often shared between different users, tabs can also be used for collaboration purposes.

 

Bots

Bots are intelligent apps with which users can interact either via predefined buttons, text commands, or through natural language conversations.  As far as users are concerned, bots can be treated just as other team members on conversations.  Behind the scenes, bots can perform a variety of actions and operate on content within a team or outside.

 

Connectors

Similar to bots, connectors are used to share updates in a Conversation.  Connectors can even be set up so that users can provide actions for the content in the form of buttons on the connector cards.

 

Activity Feed

Activity Feeds are used to inform users of an important event that occurred by drawing their attention to the Activity icon. 

 

Messaging Extensions

With messaging extensions, users can pull in specific information from their services into a message that they are composing and act on it.  This helps in keeping the content and input from the user well organized.

 

Outgoing Webhooks

You can use Outgoing Webhooks to send information to another service (e.g. Microsoft Bot Framework) that can be acted on.  Outgoing Webhooks are invoked from a channel using the @mention.

 

Summary

When you want to…

Consider using…

Display a large amount of content that users can view and interact with

Tabs

Collaborate on content with other users

Tabs

Ask questions in a natural language

Bots

Perform operations based on information provided

Bots, Connectors, Outgoing Webhooks

Display updates in a conversation

Bots, Connectors

Make sure you’re not missing an important update

Activity Feed

Include predefined content as part of your messages in a conversation

Message Extension

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