Migrating Public Folders to Microsoft Teams

Outlook Emails in Teams with MacroView – Feature Summary
October 18, 2020

Public Folders have been a popular way to save and retain the Outlook emails that are important to an organization. I say ‘have been’ because recent moves by Microsoft to discontinue support for on-premises Public Folders and to restrict the size of online Public Folders has caused organizations to look for an alternative to their Public Folders. With the stunning rise in adoption of Microsoft Teams, the question arises – Can Public Folders be replaced by Microsoft Teams?

In this post we see how software from MacroView enhances Teams so that it has excellent functionality and ease of use for managing Outlook emails. The resulting solution is an attractive replacement for on-premises Public Folders. A MacroView + Teams solution provides the features that are familiar to a user of Public Folders, together with additional features that enable higher productivity.

Managing Emails with Out-of-the-Box Teams
Each new Teams site comes with a Documents library that can store documents, including Outlook emails in MSG or EML format. Teams uses the Microsoft 365 cloud to store its content, which means that documents and emails in Teams are accessible from anywhere you can connect to the Internet, while you work on a wide variety of devices.

But out-of-the-box, Teams is not that good at managing Outlook emails.

MacroView Makes Teams Great at Managing Emails
Teams automatically creates a SharePoint Online site collection, which contains a Shared Documents library and a General channel. These all display nicely in the tree-view of the structure of SharePoint Online that is displayed by MacroView software running in desktop Outlook (MacroView DMF and MacroView Message). Any channels in the Teams site display as folders, and when you click on one of these folders MacroView displays the All Documents view so you can see all the files that have been stored in the channel. You can save additional emails and attachments to the channel by dragging and dropping from any Outlook folder – e.g. the InBox.

If you right-click on a Teams document library in the MacroView tree display you can choose the Provision option, which extends that Teams library with the metadata components that enable automatic recording of the attributes of emails that you save using MacroView. The Provision option also adds an Emails view, which displays the emails that have been saved to the channel, together with their metadata attributes.

To summarise, MacroView enhances a Teams library so that you can save and view Outlook emails much as you would in a native Outlook folder. What’s more, if you go back to the Teams UI, you can view the saved emails using the newly added Emails view.

Familiar Public Folder Features, With an Even Better User Experience

  • Be able to work in Outlook
  • Drag and drop to save
  • See the metadata attributes for emails
  • Search for emails
  • Have emails filed automatically
  • Cope with Volume
  • Easy to add new folders

Be able to work in Outlook
An appealing aspect of Public Folders is that they let you do your email management while you work in a familiar application – Microsoft Outlook. In your Mail Folders pane you see a tree of Public Folders that you can expand or collapse. Clicking on any Public Folder shows the emails that it contains and clicking an email opens it in an Outlook Inspector window so you can Reply or Forward.

MacroView also lets you do your email management while you work in the familiar environment of Outlook. The MacroView pane on the right of your Mail window displays an accurate tree-view of all the Teams areas for which you have permission. When you click a channel or sub-folder in a Teams site, the default view displays in the main central pane of Outlook to show the emails that have been saved to that area. Clicking an email displays a formatted preview (just like the Reading pane) and double clicking opens the email in an Outlook Inspector window so you can Reply or Forward. That’s the same experience as with Public Folders, and better than the native email-opening experience in the Teams UI.

In other words, MacroView lets you visualise the structure of your Teams-based email store and work with the emails in that store in much the same way as you work with Public Folders. A MacroView + Teams solution is even better than a Public Folder solution by the way MacroView uses the SharePoint Online search engine to rapidly find and locate to a specific area, based on its name or part thereof.

Drag and Drop to Save
To save an email to a Public Folder you simply drag it from another Outlook folder (e.g. your InBox) and drop it on the Public Folder in your Mail Folders pane.

MacroView makes saving emails to a Teams area just as easy. You can drag one or multiple emails from another Outlook folder (e.g. your InBox) to any Teams channel or sub-folder displayed in the MacroView pane on the right of your Mail window. Slightly different location, but the same drag and drop action. Bulk saves are performed in the background so you can go on working in Outlook while the save proceeds. As it saves emails, MacroView records their attributes automatically as metadata in Teams (automatically meaning no prompting of the user).

Even better, MacroView automatically names the EML or MSG file that it creates to store an email so that duplicate copies of the email are NOT created if another recipient attempts to save the email to the same Teams area.

See the Metadata attributes for emails
Public Folders display a list of emails, with attributes such as Subject, To, From, Received Time etc displayed for each email.

The Emails view that MacroView provisions in a Teams library displays these same email attributes.

A Teams-based solution also enables the capture and display of additional metadata attributes – e.g. Client Name, Project Type, Policy Number, Claim Date, etc. Even better, these custom metadata attributes can be recorded automatically as emails and attachments are saved – i.e. with no prompting of the user. MacroView Solution Provisioning (MVSP) enables the scripted addition of these custom metadata columns to an existing Teams site, or the creation of new Teams sites with this metadata design.

Search for Emails
The Search box in Outlook lets you search across your Public Folders for all emails that contain a certain word or phrase, or where an attribute such as To or Subject contains a certain value.

MacroView lets you search across your Microsoft 365 tenant for emails based on their content and / or metadata. E.g. all emails in Teams sites where the automatically recorded To attribute contains ‘noel’ and the body of the email or one of its attachments contains the phrase ‘microsoft teams’. You see a formatted preview of each search result, can double-click to open a result in Outlook or be auto-navigated to the Teams area where the search result is located (so you can see the other documents and emails that have been saved for the same Customer or Project).

Even better, MacroView allows you to extend its list of Search Types so that you can search for emails (and documents) using custom metadata attributes (such as Client Name, Project Type, Policy Number, Claim Date, etc).

Have Emails Filed Automatically
You can use Outlook rules to automate the filing of sent and received emails to a Public Folder. E.g. all emails where the From contains ‘@acme.com’ might be filed to the ‘Acme Corp’ folder in the Public Folder tree. Those Outlook filing rules are specific to each user. You need to create a new Outlook rule for each new Customer or Project.

MacroView Corporate Email Filing (CEF) can be used to automate the filing of sent and received emails to a Teams channel or folder. CEF supports filing rules of the same style as the example Outlook filing rule in the previous para. CEF also supports filing rules that are defined using regular expressions. One of these REGEX-style rules can automate filing of sent and received emails to Teams areas for an unlimited number of Customers and Projects – provided the URL structure of all those areas is consistent. As the ‘Corporate’ term suggests, the CEF rules are deployed in a SharePoint Online library – individual users do NOT need to define their own filing rules.

Cope with Volume
Coping with large volumes of emails is one of the key reasons why organizations are looking for an alternative to Public Folders. Their on-premises Exchange-based Public Folders contain way more volume than is permissible in a new Exchange Online Public Folder environment.

The site collection that is automatically created for each new Teams site can contain up to 25TB of content. And you would typically have numerous Teams sites – e.g. one per Customer or even one per Project. In other words, a Teams-based email store is NOT volume constrained.

Easy to Add New Folders
Its easy to add new folders to a Public Folder tree – some would say too easy! A new folder might be required for a new Customer or Project and in due course there may be sub-folders created in that folder. The result can be a Public Folder tree that is quite deeply nested.

With MacroView it’s also easy to create a new sub-folder in a Teams channel – you simply right-click the channel folder and choose Create New Folder. MacroView also lets authorised users right-click in the MacroView tree display to create a new Teams site or a new channel in a Teams site.

Something else that MacroView facilitates is the automatic creation of a standard set of sub-folders in a new Teams channel. You can have multiple standard folder sets, to reflect different kinds of Customer / Project, etc. The automatic creation not only reduces user effort – it also improves governance and consistency. The standard folder sets are defined in an XML file stored in a central SharePoint Online library, so its easy to maintain over time.

And There’s More!
So far in this blog we’ve seen how combining Teams with MacroView software provides the functionality and user experience that you need to replace your existing on-premises Public Folders. And how a MacroView + Teams solution provides functionality and user experience that is even better than that provided by Public Folders.

But there are numerous other advantages of a MacroView + Teams solution, including:

  • Secure sharing of a Teams folder or individual emails with external users, without those users needing to have a paid subscription to your organization’s Microsoft 365 tenant.
  • Protection of saved emails from deletion or amendment using the Label Policy feature of Microsoft 365.
  • Support for saving emails and attachments while you work in the Outlook app on an iOS or Android device, on a Mac or in Outlook Web Access. This support is provided by an Office app called MacroView Mail.

In a future blog post we will look at MacroView software that can automate the migration of a large Public Folder tree to an optimal design in SharePoint Online, including one based on use of Teams.

For more information
See this blog post for a summary of MacroView capabilities for managing emails and attachments in Teams.

See the MacroView channel on YouTube or contact MacroView Solutions.