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Groups



What is an Office 365 groups?

An Office 365 group is a space for team collaboration. It comes with a shared:

  • Mailbox for group email communication
  • Calendar for scheduling group meetings and events
  • Library for storing and working on group files and folders
  • OneNote notebook for taking project and meeting notes
  • Planning tool for organizing and assigning tasks and getting updates on project progress

About Office 365 groups

Getting things done at work or school means sharing information and collaborating with others. The folks you collaborate with might be in the next room, across town, or in a different time zone, but with an internet connection and common set of tools, you can get your project done from wherever you call home.

Office 365 Groups is a service developed with collaboration in mind. It works with the Office 365 apps you use already so you can collaborate with your teammates when writing documents, creating spreadsheets, working on project plans, scheduling meetings, or sending email.

What's the difference between an Office 365 group and a distribution list?

A distribution list is a set of email addresses. You can use the distribution list to send an email message or meeting invitation to all the addresses at once. An Office 365 group includes a distribution list but also includes a shared:

  • Document Library for storing and working on group files and folders
  • OneNote notebook for taking project and meeting notes
  • Planning tool for organizing and assigning tasks and getting updates on project progress

When you join a group, your email address is automatically added to the distribution list and you gain access to all group information. You don't have to wait to see group email or view a shared document. You join, you have access to everything, from everywhere: in the cloud, on the desktop, or on a mobile device.

Additionally if you are using your Office 365 group in Outlook or Outlook on the Web, you will get an Inbox for that group that contains all of the group messages and a shared Calendar for scheduling group meetings and events. If you're using your Office 365 group in Yammer, you will use Yammer conversations to exchange those messages among your group.

Have a Group Conversation in Outlook Web Access

Having a group conversation is similar to having an email thread but only group members participate. You can start a new conversation with the group members or reply inline to a message. Conversations are stacked in your group inbox, and when you select one, you'll see the original message plus all the replies in sequence from oldest to newest.

Group subscribers will also receive conversations in their personal inbox. Learn more about subscribing to a group.

Applies to    This article applies to groups in Outlook on the web (Office 365). If you're using groups in Outlook 2016, see Start a group conversation in Outlook 2016.

Create a conversation

  1. Open Outlook on the web.

  2. In the navigation pane, under Groups, select your group.

    Left nav from Outlook in Office 365

  3. Select Start a group conversation.

    Groups header with start a group conversation highlighted

    Create a conversation

    If guests are part of your group, you might see this message informing you that some recipients are outside of your organization.

    When having a conversation with a group that includes guests you'll see a message that reminds you some recipients are outside your organization

    If the tenant admin has restricted guest access to group conversations and calendar invitations, you'll see this message:

    When sending an attachment to a group that has guests you might see a message saying guests are blocked

  4. Select Send.

TIP: You can also send an email to a group from your main Outlook Inbox, just like using a distribution list. Just add the group's alias in the To line in your email.

Reply to a conversation

  1. To reply to the latest message in the conversation, select Reply all.

  2. To reply to an earlier message in the conversation, select the message > More actions dropdown button > Reply all.

    More Actions menu with Reply All highlighted

TIP: If you like the message, select the Like button icon to show your support.

Forward a conversation

When forwarding a conversation, you'll send a copy of the conversation as an e-mail message. You can send it to a group or to individuals inside or outside of your organization.

  1. Select a message in the conversation.

  2. Select More actions dropdown button > Forward.

  3. Type the recipients' email addresses and your message to them.

  4. Select Send.

Delete a conversation

Only group owners can delete conversations. How do I know if I'm a group owner? It's not possible to delete multiple conversations so you'll have to delete them one at a time.

  1. Select the conversation you want to delete.

  2. At the first message in the conversation, select More actions dropdown button > Delete conversation.

  3. Select Yes to confirm.

Start a Group Conversation in Outlook 2016

Group conversations are stored in the group's mailbox, separated from individual members' mailboxes. The messages in the group inbox are displayed in a list view, which includes members' photos to visually show the contributors to the conversation.

You can start a new conversation with the group members or reply inline to a message. Conversation details are displayed in the reading pane, organized from oldest to newest messages for easy reading.

Create a new conversation

  1. Choose a group on the left nav side.

    Groups on the left Nav bar

  2. Select New Conversation on the upper left corner of the ribbon.

    New Group conversation

    Notice the group's alias is automatically added in the To line.

  3. Type your message and select Send. All the members of the group will receive your email.

TIP:  You can also send an email to a group from your main Outlook Inbox, just like using a distribution list. Just add the group's alias in the Toline in your email.

Reply to an existing message

  1. To reply only to the sender, right-click a message and select Reply.

    Your messages is sent only to that person, and not the group.

  2. To reply to the group, either right-click the message and choose Reply all, or type in the Add a message box in the reading pane and select Send.

    Add a message

TIP: If you like a message, select the Like button in a group icon at the bottom of the message to show your support.

Schedule a meeting on a Group Calender

You probably already know that when you join a group in Office 365, you get a dedicated workspace for you and other group members to converse, collaborate, and share. But did you know that within that workspace is a shared calendar where you and every member of your group can schedule and see upcoming events? You can also share the events with other groups in your school or workplace.

The benefit of creating events on a group calendar is that everyone who's a member of the group can edit the events.

Color coding helps differentiate among group meetings, and you can overlay your personal calendar (for your eyes only) for an at-a-glance view of your day, week, or month. Here's an example of a groups calendar for someone who belongs to multiple groups, which are indicated by different colors.

Example of a groups calendar with color coding to indicate different groups

Join versus subscribe

Before we go any further, it's important to understand the difference between joining a group and subscribing to it because the difference affects your groups calendar.

When someone creates a group, they have the option to subscribe all new members automatically.

Create a group dialog with subscribtion checkbox and explanatory text highlighted

If they choose not to subscribe members automatically, the members will be joined to the group but won't receive conversations or calendar events in their private inbox. These items will only appear in the group mailbox.

A subscribed member receives conversations and calendar events in both their private inbox and the group inbox. The benefit of this is that you don't have to be in a group to see group emails and calendar invitations. Also, you can open and reply to them from either location. If you aren't subscribed to a group but want to be, see Subscribe to a group for instructions.

Open a group calendar in Outlook on the web

  1. Sign in to Office 365.

  2. In the app launcher, select Calendar.

    app launcher with calendar button highlighted

  3. In the navigation pane, select Groups, and then select your group.

    If you have multiple calendars open, the events for each will be displayed. Colored tabs across the top indicate which events align to each group.

    Group calendar
  4. Select Day, Work week, or Month to change the calendar view.

Add an event to a group calendar

Adding an event to a group calendar is very similar to adding an event to your personal calendar. Events added to a group calendar are treated as meetings, and invitations are sent to all subscribed members. When you create an event on a group calendar, it appears as organized by the group. You're automatically added as an attendee, and the event is added to your personal calendar.

Here's a video that walks you through the process.

  1. From the group calendar, select the time at which you'll schedule the event.

  2. Enter a meeting title, location, and end time in the details window.

    Groups calendar with quick add screen

  3. By default, the meeting invitation will be sent to everyone in the group. If you don't want this, clear the checkbox and select More details to specify the invitees.

  4. Select Save.

Want to add vacation or out-of-office time to the group calendar?

Edit an event on a group calendar

  1. From the group calendar, double-click the event to open it.

  2. Make the changes you want and select Send.

See who's attending your group event

Email notifications such as “Accept,” “Tentative,” and “Decline,” are distracting and can clutter your inbox. When you use a group calendar to schedule your event, you can easily get an at-a-glance view at who's coming, who's not, and who has yet to respond.

  1. From the group calendar, double-click the event to open it.

  2. Under Attendees, see the status (Accepted, No response, Tentative, Declined) under each invitee name.

    Calendar event with attendee list highlighted

Cancel a group event

When an event is created on the group calendar, anyone in the group can cancel it.

  1. From the group calendar, double-click the event to open it.

  2. Click Cancel and select the appropriate cancellation option.

    Meeting cancellation options

Schedule a Meeting on a Group Calender in Outlook 2016

A group calendar is a shared calendar where you and every member of your group can schedule and see upcoming events. You can also share the events with other groups in your school or workplace.

The benefit of creating events on a group calendar is that everyone who's a member of the group can edit the events. Why is that cool? Because if you're sick or decide to take a vacation day and forget to cancel the meeting, anyone else in the group can cancel it for you. No more marooned meetings!

Join versus subscribe

It's important to understand the difference between joining a group and subscribing to it because the difference affects your group calendar.

When someone creates a group, they have the option to subscribe all new members automatically. If they choose not to subscribe members automatically, the members will be joined to the group but won't receive conversations or calendar events in their private inbox. These items will only appear in the group mailbox.

A subscribed member receives conversations and calendar events in both their private inbox and the group inbox. The benefit of this is that you don't have to be in a group to see group emails and calendar invitations. Also, you can open and reply to them from either location. If you aren't subscribed to a group but want to be, see Subscribe to a group for instructions.

Schedule a meeting on a group calendar

  1. In Outlook 2016, choose a group from the left nav.

    Groups on the left Nav bar

  2. On the ribbon, select Calendar.

    Select calendar

  3. Select New Skype Meeting or New Meeting. If you make this a Skype meeting, call details will be added to the message body. For information about Skype meetings, see Skype for Business meeting help.

    New meeting

  4. You'll notice the group's alias is entered automatically in the To line. Enter a subject, location, and start and end time for your meeting.

  5. In the meeting area, type an agenda. If you're setting up a Skype Meeting, be careful not to change any of the online meeting information.

  6. Select Scheduling Assistant on the ribbon to make sure you have the best time for the meeting.

  7. Select Send.

The meeting appears on the group's calendar, as well as the personal calendar of each subscribed each member.

Share Group Files

Sharing content, such as files and folders, is a hallmark of group collaboration. An Office 365 group makes this easy by including a dedicated library, which is the primary place for storing all your group files.

When you create a file or folder in the group's library, all members of the group will be able to access it. When you add new members to the group, including guests (external users), they too will be able to access the files. Group subscribers can view and edit the files; group members can only view.

Post files to the group library

To share a file on your computer with a group, just drag it from your computer to the group's library. See Upload files to a library for more information. If the file you want to share is already in your document library, you can keep it where it is and invite the group to it.

View group files

  1. Sign in to Office 365, and navigate to Outlook, People, or OneDrive.

  2. In the navigation pane, under Groups, locate the group, and then click the group name.

  3. In the group header, click Files.

    Groups ribbon with Files tab highlighted

Share group files with guests

You can share group files with guests by attaching any file stored in your group library.

Attach a shared file
  1. From your group, start a conversation.

  2. At the bottom of the conversation pane, select Attach button in groups conversation view .

  3. Select the source of your file: group or computer.

    Choose the source of the file you want to attach

  4. If you select a group as your source, select the file you want to attach.

    If you select Computer as the source, select either Upload to group files or Attach as a copy. Uploading to group files enables group members to see the latest changes and co-author in real time. Attaching as a copy gives each recipient their own copy of the file for review.

    Upload or attach options

NOTES: When a group includes guests, you might see a message like this one informing you that attachments to guests are blocked.

Share Group Files in Outlook 2016

The majority of shared files for your groups are stored in a dedicated document library on OneDrive for Business, but you can also access additional shared and followed documents that you may need to further collaborate with your group.

  1. Select a group on the left nav bar.

    Groups on the left Nav bar

  2. Select Files on the ribbon.

    Group Files in Outlook

    You'll be directed to OneDrive for Business where you can create and upload files as well as manage the documents.

Any files and folders added to you group's OneDrive for Business library are automatically shared with all the members of the group. By default, group members have view/edit access to the files, while everyone else in your organization has view access.


Get Started Quickly with Microsoft Planner

Create a plan, build a team, assign tasks, and update status—in a few easy steps.

Step 1: Sign in and create a plan

Step 2: Add tasks and give them dates

Step 3: Sort tasks into buckets

Step 4: Add people and assign them to tasks

Outlook Groups Mobile App

The Outlook Groups mobile app brings the Office 365 Groups shared mailbox to your mobile device so you can collaborate with your team while on the go. Just like Office 365 Groups, the Outlook Groups mobile app requires an Office 365 work or school account.

With Outlook Groups you can:

  1. Easily participate in group email conversations

  2. View and co-author Office documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) shared with your group

  3. Share photos and “like” a message, or @mention a person or a group

    Outlook Groups Mobile Home

You can also work together using the group's shared OneNote notebook and discover and join Office 365 Groups relevant to you. To see a list of Office 365 Groups features available on the various platforms, see Compare Outlook Groups on all platforms.