One Shortcut to a better Teams UX

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I prefer to use Zoom over Teams for one simple reason – the “push Space to talk” shortcut key – however corporate choices mean I end up in more Teams meetings. There are some calls – particularly when you’re the one hosting – where you need to stay audible as you’re doing a lot of the talking, however there are other calls where others are leading where it’s common courtesy to remain on mute until you have something to contribute. With Zoom it’s a case of holding down the Space bar while you speak and then releasing it to return to muted. Simple and low friction. You don’t even have to look down at your keyboard. There is no equivalent in Teams.

Every time there’s a new release of Teams I check for this one feature – I can’t be the only one feeling this frustration – however I’ve come to the conclusion that if they were going to introduce it they would have by now.

What can Teams do?

What shortcut keys are available in Teams? There’s no ‘push to talk’ key, but there is a ‘toggle mute’ which is almost as good. Unfortunately it’s not a particularly user-friendly key combination = Ctrl + Shift + M. A lot of people are going to need to glance down at the keyboard for that one and the opportunity to add to the conversation may have passed.

There’s no way I can see in Teams to alter this to something easier to press either.

My fall-back – and I suspect this is the same for most people – is to put down my pen and notepad, reach for my mouse, locate the cursor on-screen and click on the Mute button. Again, not super-slick.

A better way

Rather than tolerate the issue, there is an alternative. You can simply remap a key on your keyboard to the Teams shortcut. It’s still not ‘push to talk’, but if you can toggle mute with a single keystroke it’s an improvement on the current situation.

A quick google shows there are a number of ways to remap keys on your keyboard. There are many free tools (see a list here) however I opted for one which isn’t on that list. Microsoft PowerToys is a free set of utilities from Microsoft intended to make Windows 10 better. One of the utilities it contains is ‘Keyboard Manager’. Here’s what it looks like:

I’ve remapped my Pause/Break button to the Teams shortcut for Mute/Unmute. I’ve picked Pause/Break (shown in red below) as it’s a key I can find quickly and without looking down at the keyboard. Depending on your layouts and usage, other possible options could be keys I’ve shown in blue – they’re on the edge of the keyboard so they’d be easy for your hands to locate.

Note: the Teams window must have focus in order for this to work – as otherwise the shortcut combination is sent to whichever application is currently active – but we should be paying attention to the meeting and not clicking around in other windows anyway, right? 🙂

You could always take this a little further by assigning other hotkeys too. I never use the ‘Scroll Lock’ key so that would make a good ‘Leave Meeting’ shortcut instead of CTRL+SHIFT_B or the pause while everyone reaches for their mouse, locates the cursor on screen and hovers over the leave button.