Microsoft TeamsLet’s talk about opening files in Teams. We’ve talked a lot about Teams as a collaboration platform. Certainly, working with files is one of the big activities people will be doing with Teams. If you’re using Office applications—Word, Excel and PowerPoint—opening files in Teams is easy. Just click on the file and it will open in the Teams workspace.


opening files in teams open file

Figure 1

Just Click to Open Files in Teams

If you just want to look something up, you’re probably fine if you stop here. You can scroll through the document and find what you want. If you want to work on the file, you’ll want to open the file in either a browser or in the desktop app (see the upper right portion of the figure above). Once you select one of these choices, the file will open in either the desktop or online version of the app (Word, in this case.) When you open the file in a browser, the app will automatically save changes back to the original file. (It will assign a new version to the file if you have versioning turned on; we recommend it!) Likewise, if you open the file in the desktop app, it will again automatically save changes back to the original file.

This auto-saving behavior highlights one big benefit of opening files in Teams. That is, the user doesn’t have to remember to save the file back to its original location. Teams takes care of that for you. Open the file in Teams. It’s saved back to the same file name and location (again, with a different version if that’s set up.)

For Some File Types, Opening is Complicated

Freeing the user from managing where files are located is a great benefit. But people use more than Office applications. What happens in those instances? Things are not as straightforward. However, there is a way to still open files in Teams.

Here’s an example we experience all the time. Whenever we put a project proposal together, we generate three documents.

  • A Word document that contains a narrative of the work we’re planning to do.
  • An Excel file that breaks out project costs.
  • A Project file that captures the project tasks, milestones, dependencies and timing.

As I said earlier, handling Word and Excel files is no problem. But when we get to the Microsoft Project file, we can’t just click on the file name; when we do, we get this error message. Our only option is to download the file and work on it locally. Wait; there’s a better way!

opening files in teams edit mpp

Figure 2

Use SharePoint to Open non-Office Files in Teams

There’s no “preview” app for Project, the way there is for Office applications. For Project, when we want to open files in Teams, we’re going to select the Open in SharePoint option. (Remember that Teams is built on SharePoint. So, even if you don’t otherwise use SharePoint, Teams will create a SharePoint site when you create the Team.) Once we open the file in SharePoint, Teams launches a browser page that takes us to the SharePoint site for this Team. From there, we can click on the Project file and open it.

OK, not quite yet. First, we’ll get this generic warning message asking us if we trust this file, since it came from the (insert creepy sounds) Internet. We click “yes” and we’re on our way.

opening files in teams warning message

Figure 3

Of course, you can’t open the Project file if you don’t have a copy of Microsoft Project installed on your computer. It’s also true that Project isn’t smart enough to automatically save changes to the file. So, you have to click on the Save icon now and then. Project will save the file back to its SharePoint location. There’s no download-and-upload sequence you must go through.

Give it a Try!

Opening files in Teams is a breeze when there’s a Teams app, as there is for Office apps. I’m sure over time more desktop applications will create apps that allow for editing in Teams, or at least for launching the desktop app within Teams. Nonetheless, the option of opening the Teams Files site in SharePoint provides a way for users to access their documents. If you were struggling with how to open files in Teams for non-Office applications, now you have a solution. Read more about collaborating on files in Teams here. Most importantly, go out and try it!


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