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Microsoft to release threaded message replies in Teams

Desktop Teams users will be able to quote previous messages in their responses instead of responding chronologically. Rivals like Slack have had a similar feature for years.

Microsoft plans to release in April a feature that customers have wanted for a long time: the ability to reply in threads on the desktop version of Teams.

Soon, people will be able to reply to specific messages in threads instead of responding only chronologically. They will be able to select the message they want to reply to, and that message will become part of the new message.

Teams customers have expressed frustration for years about the lack of threaded replies. Not having that ability has brought confusion and repetition, they said. The issue garnered more than 44,600 votes for its implementation on the Microsoft Teams feedback forum, making it the most requested feature.

Threaded replies are a feature that Slack, WhatsApp and Cisco Webex have had for years. Teams has had it in only its mobile version.

"It's strange it's taken Microsoft so long to bring it to their desktop app," said Tim Banting, an analyst at Omdia. "It's certainly well needed, especially when messages are coming in fast and furious. It's really hard to work out who is replying to whom."

Banting added that he was surprised Microsoft had not prioritized message threads over some of the Teams features rolled out recently, such as the ability to send a message from the command box.

Sebin Benjamin, a developer at the technology training company Mission Ready HQ, said he relies on the desktop version of Teams and uses the mobile version for only quick replies on the go.

He pointed out that requests for a threaded reply for the desktop version of Teams started at least as far back as 2016, around the time when Microsoft was looking into acquiring Slack.

Benjamin said he's pleased the capability is finally coming. "This is such a basic feature," he said.

Microsoft has been slow at addressing the demands of its customers for features that would make their jobs easier.

Last year, Microsoft rolled out a feature that lets people open chats, calls and video meetings in separate windows. Customers had been asking for that feature since 2016. In September, Microsoft unveiled breakout rooms for Teams video conferencing. Customers had been requesting breakout rooms since at least 2018.

Microsoft has yet to address the popular demand for moving channels between groups or requests for a countdown timer in Teams. Both proposals have been around for years.

Banting said Microsoft used to rely on its "UserVoice" feedback forums for ideas on what customers wanted to see in their products. But lately, Microsoft has been shutting down those sites.

"It seems that Microsoft may be moving away from this crowdsourcing method of gauging and prioritizing feature development," Banting said.

This week, Microsoft also announced that it is bringing new features to the Lenovo ThinkSmart View display, a product designed for use with Teams.

People will have the option of using Cortana, Microsoft's digital assistance, on ThinkSmart View to conduct search queries on Bing. Also, ThinkSmart View will support changing and blurring backgrounds for video conferencing sessions and let people send emojis, such as applause or laughter, during their calls.

Maxim Tamarov is a news writer covering mobile and end-user computing topics such as desktop management. He previously wrote for The Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C., and the Sun Transcript in Winthrop, Mass. He graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @MaximTamarov.

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