16 Ways to Be a Slack Power User
Slack is fast becoming the go-to place for co-workers to collaborate and meet online in real time. In January, Slack announced that it had hit 10 million daily active users. Not bad for a company that isn’t even five years old, and great for a company that filed for its initial public offering earlier this year.
So there’s a good chance you’re already using Slack at your workplace. If you’re not, you may soon.
If you view Slack as nothing more than a glorified chat app, you’re missing out. We reached out to some power users to get their best tips, tricks and hacks for offices and individuals to get the most out of Slack. Here’s what they had to tell us.
Understand the Slash
First thing: Know the function and power of the slash command. Many of the ways to tap into the power of Slack involve the slash command — typing / and then a command, and then pressing enter.
Slack has a long list of commands, which you can see just by typing / in a channel or direct message. Many of our tips here involve using / commands.
The More the Merrier
The more people using Slack, the more useful it becomes. Jonathan Van Tonder of AWA Digital was an enthusiastic user when his company first implemented Slack. But it took a while for others at the company to come around.
“One of the main stumbling blocks initially was adoption, not mine but the rest of the team...If I had to do it over again, I'd do a better job of selling the benefits to the team and prompting them to get started,” he said. “The alternative is forcing everyone to use it, which doesn't align with our culture.”
Don’t Get Distracted By That Messy Sidebar
The sidebar on Slack can quickly fill up with lots of dormant conversations. But there’s an easy fix:
Go to Slack preferences and under “Sidebar” find “Appearance.” Under that, select “Unreads only.”
Voila. Now the only conversations you’ll see are the conversations that need your attention.
Save Time With Quick Switcher and Quick Messaging
When you have multiple messages and channels going, it’s easy to switch between them using Quick Switcher. Simply press Command + K. That will give you a list of your open messages letting you switch easily to another conversation. Open direct messages can be found in the sidebar, too.
You can also use the sidebar to open a new direct message. But why bother when quick messaging is so much easier? In any open message window, simply type /msg or /dm and the user name (@name) of the person you’re trying to reach followed by the message you want to send.
There are loads of other useful keyboard shortcuts built into Slack. For a refresher course, just click Command + /.
Use the Call Function
Voice and video calls are available from direct messages on any Slack plan. To start a call from a group DM or a channel, a workspace must be on one of Slack’s paid plans. To make a call from a direct message, simply click the phone icon at the top right and the call will start immediately. Click the video icon for a video call.
“It works great,” Van Tonder said. He adds that it has allowed AWA Digital to move away from Skype for internal group calls with team members located around the world.
In group calls, you click the phone or video icon and will then be prompted to give the call a name. Anyone in the channel can join the call. Up to 15 people can join group calls in paid Slack plans.
In either case, someone who has Slack set to “do not disturb” will receive a notification of a missed call.
Slack isn’t just for sending messages for co-workers. Almost all of the power users we spoke with said they use it as a way to keep track of notes, ideas, reminders and documents. Instead of sending a message to a co-worker, you send it to yourself by using the @me command.
A word of caution from Jonathan Bentz, the senior digital marketing strategist at Direct Online Marketing: Don’t try this if your company uses the free version of Slack.
“In the free version, you only get a 10k message limit, so don’t plan on that approval you got from a superior or client in their channel sticking around forever,” Bentz said. “Screengrab it or follow up with a more formalized type of communication.”
Take a Break With Do Not Disturb
Need a break? Type /dnd and the amount of time you want to be left alone. You can also do this by using the drop-down setting menu in the sidebar.
Set Up Keywords
Don’t miss important notifications and conversations. From the Preferences menu, click “My Keywords” and list words to receive a notification whenever they pop up in one of your channels. Make sure you separate each keyword with a comma.
Bookmark Important Stuff
Need to save a message for future reference? That little star next to the timestamp is your new best friend. Just click on it and you can access the message later, just like a bookmark or a favorite tweet.
Use the “Remind Me” Feature
Perryn Olson, the marketing director at My IT, says remind me is a "godsend." She uses it to set up reminders for meetings and to-do list items.
Use the /remind command anywhere in Slack, and Slackbot will send the reminder for you. You can also set a custom reminder to follow up on a message you sent using the preset menu of time options. The commands will look something like this:
/remind [@someone or #channel] [what] [when]
For example, if you wanted to remind yourself to submit a report on Monday, you would type /remind @me submit report Monday.
Make Slackbot Your Personal Assistant
Feel like you’re always answering the same question? Have Slackbot automatically respond to common questions (“What’s the weekly conference call phone number?”) by customizing Slackbot in the “Customize My Workspace” section under preferences.
There are loads of /commands. Try our favorite for random fun /giphy search term. The command will search the giphy database and select a random GIF related to your search term.
Quick Poll Co-Workers
Need to find the best time to get everyone together for a face-to-face meeting? Add the Simple Poll slack app. From there, you just need to type /poll “When should we meet?” ‘9 a.m.' '10 a.m.' '11 a.m.' 'noon.' That’ll end the needless back-and-forth.
Use Slack-Specific Search Terms
Searching Slack can be difficult with just a single search term when you consider how much goes on there. Use these commands along with your search term to find what you’re looking for faster:
- In:channel if you remember what channel it was in.
- To:me to look for something in a direct message to you.
- From:Username if you remember the person who sent the message.
- Before:date, after:date or on:date if you know when the message was sent.
Follow Key Twitter Feeds Without Leaving Slack
The Twitter integration app lets you get notified whenever a Twitter user tweets.
Similarly, you can type /feed and paste an RSS feed to have an RSS feed show up in a channel every time it is updated.
Text With People Outside Your Company
Burner is an app that lets people and businesses set up free secondary and temporary phone numbers. And the app integrates into Slack. Messages can be directed to a dedicated channel that anyone in the channel can respond to. The integration also lets people communicate with your team on Slack, even if they don’t have their own Slack account.
To integrate Burner into Slack:
- Create a Burner number and connect it to your Slack account (from your Burner's settings page).
- Pick a channel or use the default #burner channel the app creates for you.
- Give out the Burner number to whoever you want to communicate with your Slack team.
- When they text that number, the Burner Bot will post a message to the Slack channel — specifying the number it came from — with the contents of their text message.
You can respond back to any of those numbers in a few different ways:
- Use the command /burner [phone number to text with format +13334445555] [message to send]
- Use the command /burner last [message to send]
- Use the command /burner [last 4 digits of phone number] [message to send]
Burner is just one of many apps available that can help you and your workplace be more nimble and effective.