Learn about Office 365 groups

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

For the latest news and videos about Office 365 Groups see Office Blogs

This article will help introduce you to what groups are, and give you some helpful links to the next steps.

Tip: If you're looking for information on using Outlook contact groups to send email to a list of people - such as a group of friends - see Create a contact group.

What are groups?

Groups in Office 365 let you choose a set of people that you wish to collaborate with and easily set up a collection of resources for those people to share. You don’t have to worry about manually assigning permissions to all those resources because adding members to the group automatically gives them the permissions they need to the tools your group provides. Additionally, groups are the new and improved experience for what we used to use distribution lists or shared mailboxes to do.

Tip: For information on upgrading your traditional distribution lists to Office 365 Groups see this article.

The specific resources that are provided depends slightly on the groups experience your team wants to have, so let’s quickly look at the choices. While you’re considering the options it’s important to remember that one size rarely fits all. Different teams may prefer to work different ways and Office 365 has the tools to enable collaboration in whatever form your teams prefer.

Groups in Outlook

If you prefer the shared inbox mode of collaboration, then the groups experience in Outlook is for you. By creating a group in Outlook you’ll get:

  • Shared Inbox – For email conversations between your members. This inbox has an email address and can be set to accept messages from people outside the group and even outside your organization, much like a traditional distribution list

  • Shared Calendar – For scheduling events related to the group

  • SharePoint Document Library – A central place for the group to store and share files

  • Shared OneNote Notebook – For gathering ideas, research, and information

  • SharePoint Team Site – A central repository for information, links and content relating to your group

  • Planner – For assigning and managing project tasks among your group members

You don’t have to manually create any of those resources; creating the group automatically creates them for you and assigns the necessary permissions for your group members so they can start using them right away.

You can access these resources through the familiar Microsoft Outlook 2016 desktop client, via Outlook on the Web or using our dedicated Microsoft Groups apps on iOS, Android or Windows Phone.

After a group in Outlook outlives its intended purpose, you can delete it to free up system resources and to remove the group from being listed or displayed. See: Delete a group.

The newest part of our collaboration story is Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams is the inner loop for your team – a persistent chat board where you can have informal, real-time, conversations around very focused topics or specific sub-groups within the group. Creating a Microsoft Team adds this persistent chat capability to the groups experience in Outlook.

Groups in Yammer

Yammer brings the enterprise social experience to your collaboration. It helps you make new connections and discoveries across your organization. It can help you communicate and discuss ideas company-wide or around common interest areas.

By creating an Office 365 connected group in Yammer you'll get:

  • Yammer Group – A common place to have conversations and share information

  • SharePoint Document Library – A central place for the group to store and share files

  • Shared OneNote Notebook – For gathering ideas, research, and information

  • SharePoint Team Site – A central repository for information, links and content relating to your group

  • Planner – For assigning and managing project tasks among your group members

You can access these tools through Yammer in your browser or using the Yammer app on your iOS, Android or Windows Phone device.

What do I need to use groups?

Any Office 365 subscription that has hosted Exchange Server and SharePoint Online will support groups. That includes the Business Essentials and Business Premium plans, and the Enterprise E1, E3 and E5 plans.

If you have an Exchange-only plan you can still get the shared Inbox and shared Calendar features of groups in Outlook but you won’t get the document library, Planner or any of the other capabilities.

Private groups vs public groups

When creating a group you'll need to decide if you want it to be a private group or a public group. Content in a public group can be seen by anybody in your organization, and anybody in your organization is able to join the group. Content in a private group can only be seen by the members of the group and people who want to join a private group have to be approved by a group owner.

Neither public groups nor private groups can be seen or accessed by people outside of your organization unless those people have been specifically invited as guests.

To change your group from public to private (or vice-versa) go to the group in Outlook 2016 and choose Edit Group from the ribbon. On the group settings pane that appears you'll be able to toggle the privacy setting. In Outlook on the web click the settings button at the top right and choose Edit group from the drop-down menu.

How do I manage my groups?

Every group has at least one owner that can add or remove members and do some basic curation of the group and its content. Additionally, if you have Exchange Online Administrator permissions you can administer your groups from the Office 365 Admin center and from PowerShell.



Owners per group


Groups a user can create


Groups an admin can create

Up to default tenant limit of 500K

Number of members

More than 1,000

Users might notice delays when accessing the calendar and conversations in large groups in Outlook

File storage

1 Terabyte + 500 Megabytes per subscribed user + any additional storage purchased. You can purchase an unlimited amount of additional storage.

The default maximum number of groups that an Office 365 organization can have is currently 500,000.

For more information on SharePoint Online storage see SharePoint Online software boundaries and limits.

See also

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This article was last updated on February 9th, 2017 as a result of your feedback. If you found that it guided you to helpful information, and especially if you didn't, please click the feedback controls below and leave us some constructive comments so we can continue to improve it. Thanks!

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