Microsoft Teams on Linux – crippled?

Now that the Corona Pandemic is taking its second (or is it its third?) swing, online collaboration seems almost like “state of the art” and many of us are used to using it, one way or another.

Despite of having many Opensource options, a number of commercial solutions seem to dominate the market, Microsoft Teams being one of them. And on top of the browser-based access path, Microsoft even offers a native Linux client! That’s great, Microsoft now belongs to the good guys. Or don’t they? Well, it certainly depends on your point of view. And what you may notice: Microsoft Teams on Linux is not what Microsoft Teams is on Windows. The net is full of user feedback i. e. asking for remote control via Linux desktop Teams client, there even is a MS user feedback forum you get redirected to by Microsoft employees:

“It recommends you give a feedback to
Microsoft will always focus on customer’s feedback and experience. Some new features would be added to the services based on customers’ feedback in the future, and your good ideas will be very helpful for them to improve the service.”

Said forum thread was started February 4, 2020, but up to today no Microsoft feedback was received, nor was that functionality added to the software. But wait: Maybe the feature already is available?

On Microsoft’s Q&A pages, “Menno-4505” answered a user in need of said feature and pointed out that you can simply enable this feature for the Linux desktop application for Teams, via the settings file. So the feature is there, but just disabled?

From my own tests with the Linux Teams client (current as of the day this article was written), I can confirm that I could enable the feature and use it to control a remote user’s (Windows) desktop, shared during a Teams meeting via that user’s MS Windows Teams client.

There are a few notes on my list, though:

  • You’ll have to re-enable this feature before starting the Teams client, see my example wrapper script below.
  • If Teams decides to (re-)authenticate you during a session, you’ll have to restart the Teams client: The feature (at least for me) was no longer enabled after re-authentication, although the Teams software was not restarted on my system.
  • Using the “AltGr” key on my NLS keyboard layout did not have any effect. Fortunately, using “Ctrl” plus “Alt” instead, did do the trick.
  • [update] Today, when using “putty” in a remote Windows system’s shared desktop, i.e. the “\” character could not be entered at all, neither via AltGr nor via Strg+Alt

Of course, there may be other drawbacks, and Microsoft may decide at any point in time to not only disable this feature via configuration, but to rather completely remove it from the software, to try to force users to switch to using Microsoft Windows and its full-featured Teams client. But until then, feel free to use below code as a wrapper to starting Teams, or do create your own (and maybe better) way to enable remote desktop control:

SETTINGSFILE="$HOME/.config/Microsoft/Microsoft Teams/settings.json"
sed -i 's/"enableScreenSharingToolbar":false/"enableScreenSharingToolbar":true/g' "$SETTINGSFILE"
$BIN $*

And in case you find new ways of enabling further features, please do not hesitate to leave a comment!

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