The Slack group messaging system has become an integral part of work life (and even social life) for millions of people. It’s a feature of the modern business landscape, but how can you make the best use of this powerful, 21st-century tool to both get your job done and have fun? In this book, Glenn Fleishman addresses every major type of Slack user:
- New user: If you’re interested in or tempted by Slack but have never used it, this book will help you get up to speed quickly.
- Experienced user: If you use Slack already and want to get more out of it, this book will guide you to more efficient and more sophisticated use and control.
- Reluctant user: If Slack is a requirement for your workplace, nonprofit group, or other organization, this book will help you overcome frustration and confusion.
Slack can make your work life better. This book helps you master Slack! It shows you things you’ll never learn by reading the online documentation or simply poking around, based on Glenn’s years of experience in multiple Slack teams.
Among the many questions this book answers are:
- How do I get started using Slack, including creating my first workspace?
- How can I manage the number (and manner) of notifications I get on my desktop and on my mobile devices?
- Is there any way to edit the message I just posted so I can fix a mistake?
- How do I find other channels in my Slack workspace—or make new ones?
- How do I make audio or video calls in Slack, or use screen sharing?
- What are the differences between direct messages and public messages in Slack?
- How much privacy can I expect in Slack from coworkers, bosses, owners, and Slack itself?
- How much can I do in Slack for free? What features make sense to pay for?
- How do people find and enter emoji in messages?
- What does it mean when names in the sidebar are bold or italic?
- What do the numbers next to channel or conversation names indicate?
- What exactly is Slackbot, and why is it talking to me?
- How do I perform advanced searches to find what I need?
- How do I find and install Slack apps?
What’s New in Version 1.2.1
Slack made two minor but significant changes in its desktop and web apps since version 1.2 appeared:
- You can resize the width of the main sidebar at left and the Details sidebar at right. This may let you free up more screen real estate for the main messaging timeline or display longer channel names in the main sidebar. See “Resize the Main Sidebar.”
- If you want to receive simultaneous notifications in both mobile and desktop and web apps, Slack has added a very odd menu item in Notifications preferences that is literally contradictory. I explain how to find it, configure it, and why it’s so weird in “When Mobile Devices Get Alerts.”
What Was New in Version 1.2
Slack never stands still. The company believes in continuous improvement, and that means regular updates. In March 2020, Slack revealed a major interface redesign for desktop and web apps that they rolled out to workspaces over a few weeks. Then, in May 2020, they released overhauled mobile apps that had the same slow release to workgroups.
This was confusing, because if you were logged into multiple workspaces, you had some using the old interface and some with the new across the rollout. Because Slack released desktop updates first and then mobile, some people had to deal with multiple versions of workspaces across three months. Not ideal.
However, the improvements have finally eliminated a number of differences among apps, moved some items that were harder to find into more prominent positions—and arguably added wasted space.
This version of the book is updated to cover the many many many (many) small and large changes introduced in those interface overhauls. To wit, as follows!
Slack dramatically simplified the main window view, while also allowing better grouping and organization of the main sidebar, which could previously become long, cluttered, and somewhat randomly ordered as workspaces added channels and you had conversations with other members. See “Master the Interface.”
But the main sidebar now includes mandatory items and requires configuration on each app you use to remove items you don’t want. I presume Slack will continue to evolve and improve. See “Main Sidebar.”
A brief list of changes in desktop and web apps include:
- The toolbar has been split and reworked into new elements that break out into three areas:
- The navigation bar includes workspace navigation arrows and a history menu that reveals all channels and conversations across all your workspaces, listed from newest to oldest. A search field and a help button are also relocated here. See “Navigation Bar.”
- The channel header includes the channel or conversation name, number of members, and topic. (This item used to be nameless.) See “Channel Header.”
- At the far right above the message timeline, a new Details link now opens a sidebar filled with channel-specific information. (This was formerly called Channel Details.)
- Several items formerly in the toolbar have been shifted into the main sidebar at its top. These include “Mentions & reactions” and Files. Some new items appear there, too, gathered from elsewhere in the interface.
- The main sidebar now allows sections to be collapsed. The top section of new items has a “Show less/Show more” link. Below that, items like Starred and Channels can be collapsed by clicking a disclosure triangle, common to file-system interfaces.
- In paid plans, you can create custom sections in the main sidebar in which you group items together that are useful to you, and expand and collapse them. You can also opt to delete sections.
- When you create a reminder, a dialog appears where you can fill in details, eliminating the need for a full invocation from a message.
Mobile apps sport these changes:
- Mobile apps are generally now more aligned with desktop apps’ appearance and features. There are still differences I call out where appropriate.
- The workspace menu view now has four icons at the bottom: Home, DMs, Mentions, and You. This makes items formerly jumbled together in a settings menu more easily available. Preferences are found on the You tab. See “Main Sidebar.”
- If you liked mobile apps’ darker color scheme, too bad! The new apps have stark white backgrounds as you navigate through views. A workspace theme you’ve chosen appears only as a color bar in the main sidebar view.
In all versions of Slack’s apps:
- Messages no longer have to be composed in the message area at the bottom of a channel or conversation. Instead, there’s a big New Message button that you can click or tap to create a message and decide to whom or for which channel it’s intended. See “Create and Post a Draft.”
- In-progress messages may be saved as drafts. You can complete them later or delete them without posting.
- A new shortcuts icon in the message area lets you access a number of scattered features, including reminders and integrations, as well as create all sorts of native items in Slack, like posts. See “Write a Message.”
Posted by Glenn Fleishman on March 11, 2019
In macOS and Windows, Slack offers both native desktop apps and a robust web app that works across major browsers. The native apps have a few distinct advantages I mention in the book over using the web app. However, Slack just removed a feature from the native desktop apps, that you would think makes the desktop app worse—but, in fact, makes it better.
You can no longer log into a workspace from a native desktop app. Previously, you could click the big + at the bottom of the native desktop app’s Workspaces sidebar, and you’d be prompted within the desktop app to enter a workspace subdomain name, and proceed through a log in or generate a magic link sent via email. (The magic link is a URL that, when clicked, opens the web app, which in turn triggers the Slack native desktop app and adds the team.)
As of March 11, 2019, however, the native desktop apps no longer allow a direct login. Click the + in the Workspaces sidebar, and the Slack desktop app opens a browser window that’s related to all workspaces for which you use the same email address. From there, you can either click on any workspace listed that you’re already logged into, saving time and effort, and the web app requests opening the native desktop app, which then adds the workspace with no further effort. You can also enter the Slack subdomain in the web app’s login page, and then proceed through a normal password (and second-factor) login entry or use a magic link.
You’d think this would be a worse experience because of the round trip. However, because the web app populates the login page with all your active workspaces, it actually reduces effort—it’s better than the native desktop login approach. Now, in the future, I would hope Slack could provide that same ease within a native app, but for now it’s a weird but positive step forward.