With the current scenario across the world, due to the coronavirus outbreak, which is making people stay home and work remotely, there are a few tools and services that have come to the rescue to help people catch up on their work and all its related developments with their teammates. Some of these tools include video conference services (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts) and collaboration platforms (Trello and Slack). While we already have a detailed tips and tricks article on Zoom — one of the most popular remote conferencing solutions right now — this time, we bring you the same for Slack to boost your productivity.
For those new to Slack, the platform is essentially a project management solution, with team communication as one of its primary objectives. It is available for Linux (in Beta), Mac, and Windows on the desktop and Android and iOS on the mobile device side of things. With Slack, you can essentially create workspaces that contain different channels, which the members can use to have organized communication with other team members or peers to better collaborate on projects. Moreover, you also get the ability to connect other apps and tools that your project requires, and the team relies on, to work seamlessly, without having to leave the workspace. So, if you are just getting started with Slack, here are a few tips and tricks to help you use the tool to its full potential.
Slack Tips and Tricks
1. Create channels
Slack revolves around workspaces. And these workspaces can be used to their full potential well when you have various channels in them. That way, you can keep all your discussions organized and improve your collaboration experience. For instance, if you have a workspace for your ongoing project that relies on a huge software stack, you can create channels for different modules to maintain relevancy locally and make it easier for users to discuss and find related conversations.
To create a channel, first, head over to your workspace. Here, tap on the + icon next to Channels and select Create a Channel. On the next page, give your channel a name and add a telling description to let everyone in your team know about its purpose. Finally, hit Create. Besides, when you need to keep conversations restricted to a few team members, you can create a private channel. Private Slack channels are only accessible to those with an invitation link.
2. Enable two-factor authentication
We cannot stress how crucial it is, these days, to have a second factor of authentication — in addition to the password — across all your different accounts to protect them with an extra layer of security. [Guide to enable two-factor authentication] Although some people think there is not much at risk with their Slack account, certain events in the past suggest otherwise, which is why we think you must secure your Slack account with two-factor authentication.
To secure your account, first, upgrade to a premium tier subscription. Once you are on the premium plan, head to the Settings & Permissions page and go to the Authentication tab. Now, click Expand, besides the Workspace-wide two-factor authentication option, and tap on Activate two-factor authentication for my workspace. Finally, choose between text messages or the Authentication app to get your authentication codes.
3. Integrate third-party apps
For teams that rely on third-party apps to get things done, Slack offers the option to integrate these apps into your workspace. Some of the available apps include the likes of Google Drive, Google Sheets, Box, OneDrive, 1Password, Giphy, IFTTT, and RSS, among others. To do this, go to your Slack workspace on the web and log in. Next, tap the hamburger menu on the top left, and from the list, choose Configure apps. Now, go to the App Directory to find all the supported third-party apps, organized into different categories. From here, select the app you want to integrate into your workspace and tap on Add to Slack. Finally, grant it access to the required permissions. Alternatively, you can open the Slack app, go to your workspace, and tap on Apps to find all the supported third-party apps and integrate them from there.
4. Allow video calls and change the default calling app
If you often need to be on video conference calls with your peers to keep a check on the progress, you can take help from the above tip to integrate your preferred third-party video calling app of choice into your workspace. Once done, head over to your workspace on the web and log in. Next, go to Settings & permissions under Administration. From here, scroll down until you find Calls and mark the checkbox that says Allow video calls in Slack. Finally, select the checkbox next to the app you want to perform video calls on.
5. Create better polls
Companies with a large number of employees working in different departments often find the need to get collective feedback or other valuable input on different matters. If you happen to have a startup or you lead a team at an organization, and you need to conduct surveys (or polls), Slack has got you covered, all thanks to third-party integration. To create a poll, open the workspace you want to create polls in, and go to the Slack app directory. Here, enter the term “poll” to view a list of all the poll taking apps and hit Add to add the app to your workspace. We recommend Polly and Survey Monkey, which are two of the most popular poll and survey apps.
6. Limit third-party app installation
When you get started with Slack, the ability to install third-party applications is enabled by default to give you the option to integrate the apps and tools that your team/project relies on to your workspace. However, if you want, you can disable this to limit the number of third-party app installations on your workspace. After this, if a member tries to install an app, it needs to be approved at your end before they can add it to the workspace. To disable the option, head over to App management settings, and toggle the button next to Approve apps. From here, you also get to customize the settings further and permit people who can install apps without requiring your approval.
7. Filter messages
Given you are always on and off with Slack throughout the day, you will likely end up with an inbox full of messages related to different subject matters. To cope with such situations and avoid missing out on important messages, Slack offers the keyword filter feature to help you get to the messages with the most relevance. To utilize this feature, open your workspace in the app and head to Preferences. Here, with Notifications selected from the left corner menu, select the radio button that says Direct messages, mentions & keywords. Now, under My keywords, enter the relevant keywords to your related field or for the subject that you are anticipating the incoming messages.
8. Hide email address from profiles
If privacy is one of the concerns for you or your team members, you can hide the email addresses of your team members from their profiles and make them private. To do this, open your workspace on the web and go to Settings & permissions. Now, scroll down to Email address display and tap Expand. From here, uncheck the box next to Display members’ email address and hit Save.
9. Limit invitations
By default, Slack gives all members of a workspace the ability to invite new members to the workspace. Although this can be useful sometimes, in general, you should restrict this option and enable a check on who gets to add people to the workspace. To turn off this option, go to the Permissions and hit Expand next to Invitations. Here, check the checkbox next to Require admin approval, and from the available options under Send invitation requests to, select either Add admins or This channel. While the former requires the approval of admins, the latter sends the requests to a channel, which then needs to be approved.
10. Set a reminder for yourself
When you work with teams, oftentimes, the tasks get distributed among team members to improve efficiency and maximize output. So, for such times, setting up a reminder to finish a task in the stipulated time frame can help you stay on top of your work. To create a reminder, with any channel open, tap on the lightning icon in the message box and select Set myself a reminder. On the next screen, give your reminder a suitable name, time, and description. Finally, click Create, and you should have your reminder set.
11. Create custom Slackbot responses
While you can have multiple channels in your workspace for different projects and departments in your organization, there is always the need to reply to messages or queries that require an instant response. And although you or your other team members can do this, leveraging the power of Slackbot to respond to queries that arise every-now-and-then is a godsend. For instance, if you get a lot of queries around passwords, links, etc., you can have the Slackbot answer such queries for you. To set this up, go to Customise your workspace, and here, enter the most asked questions under the When someone says input box and the response under the Slackbot responds box. Finally, hit Save response. To add more such responses to common queries that you often come across, hit the Add new response button, and follow the same steps.
12. Create a to-do list
Working with team members requires you to be on top of the tasks allotted to you or checking-in on others if you are the lead. With Slack, although you can leverage the potential of Starred messages, Saved messages, and Pinned messages, to keep a tab on tasks and revisit them later, there is also the option to create a to-do list that you and other team members can interact with. To create a list, open the channel you want the list in and hit the lightning icon in the message window. Now, choose Create a post from the options and start creating your post. To list to-do items, select the text, and tap on the checklist button in the pop-up window. Once done, hit the Share button, select where you want to share it, and tap on Share.
13. Universal search
Although you can move around messages, channels, or workspaces by clicking through the shortcuts pane on the left pane, there is a quick and efficient way to do this to save yourself a few clicks. For this, from anywhere in the workspace, hit the command + K or Ctrl + K shortcut and enter the name of the workspace, channel, or thread that you want to go to, and hit return / Enter.
14. Power search
In general, when it comes to performing a search on Slack, most users tap the search box and enter their queries. While this works for casual searches, it fails to offer results when you request complex deep-rooted queries. So, for such instances, there are a few hidden key-modifies in Slack that give you the option to modify your search based on things like time/day/date, channels, type, and more, and get a response for your query. Some of these essential ones include –
- from: [name of Slack user] or to: [name of Slack user] — to find relevant messages from/to a particular team member
- in: [channel name] — to restrict search to a particular channel
- type: [text, image, etc] — to specify the type against your search
- before: [date] or after: [date] — to modify results based on date
- has: [link, image, etc] — to filter results that contain the modifier
Learn mode about search modifiers here.
15. Take advantage of the shortcuts menu
The shortcuts menu in Slack allows you to perform certain actions on the platform quickly and easily. To access these shortcuts, click on the lightning bolt icon to the left of the message field, and here, look up an action. Alternatively, you can also use slash commands to find and perform such specific actions in Slack. There are three types of slash commands: built-in, app-specific, and customized. However, for the purpose of this guide, we will stick to built-in slash commands. To use slash commands, type a forward slash (/) in the message field and enter the associated command.
List of built-in slash commands:
- Archive the current channel: /archive
- Send a direct message to someone: /dm
- Send a message to a channel: /msg [#channel]
- Collapse inline images and videos in the channel: /collapse
- Expand all inline images and videos in the channel: /expand
- Set or clear your status: /status
- Set the channel topic: /topic
- Search Slack messages and files: /search [your text]
- Learn more built-in slash commands here.
16. Taking advantage of keyboard shortcuts
Although you can go about navigating your way on the platform and performing different functions as you normally do, using keyboard shortcuts certainly helps minimize the effort and save a few extra steps.
List of shortcuts:
- Jump to a conversation: command + K or Ctrl + K
- Open direct messages menu: command + shift + K or Ctrl + Shift + K
- Browse all channels: command + shift + L or Ctrl + Shift + L
- View previous unread channel or DM: option + shift + ↑ or Alt + Shift + ↑
- View next unread channel or DM: option + shift + ↓ or Alt + Shift + ↓
- Open Preferences: command + , or Ctrl + ,
- View Saved items: command + shift + s or Ctrl + Shift + S
- Open search window to find perform a quick search: command + F or Ctrl + F
- Switch to previous workspace: command + shift + [ or Ctrl+ Shift + Tab
- Switch to next workspace: command + shift + ] or Ctrl + Tab
- Upload a file: command + U or Ctrl + U
- View all downloaded files and documents: command + shift + J or ctrl + shift + J
- Mute audio: M
- Toggle video: V
- Edit message: E
- Add an emoji reaction: R
- Open or reply to a thread: T
- Bold selected text: command + B or Ctrl + B
- Cross out selected text (strike through): command + shift X or Ctrl + Shift X
- Pin/unpin a message: P
- Share a message: S
- Save a message: A
- Delete a message: D
Learn more Slack keyboard shortcuts here.
Slack feature rundown
- Change Slack notifications to cut down on distracting notifications
- Customize Slack and choose from different Slack themes
- Sign out of all sessions with Slack’s one-click signout
- Use the sync feature to sync your status across different calendars
- Star channels or messages to keep a tab on important updates and conversations
- Share code snippets when collaborating with programmers
- Use Slack’s built-in call functionality to collaborate with team members and solve problems together with screen sharing
With the aforementioned tips and tricks, you should now be able to use the different features of Slack to your advantage and get more out of the platform. While we can’t guarantee these Slack tips will turn you into a Slack expert, you can certainly incorporate them in your daily workflow to streamline it, and in turn, get better at managing your projects and organizing teams and collaborations.