Right now, the options for enterprise messaging are seemingly endless. But, few apps and platforms have garnered the same amount of attention, or massive user growth, as Slack.
Started as side project for a video game company, Slack quickly moved front and center and took off as word of mouth spread among the tech companies that were using it. One of the company's mottos is "Be less busy," and many have heralded Slack as the product that could end reliance on email.
If you're planning on deploying Slack within your organization, here are some pointers to help get you going.
Channels are one of the most important features of Slack. General conversation topics are organized by channel so that users can quickly jump into a chat with the relevant users for a specific topic. It can be a channel for a specific team to discuss a project, or even a channel where people can post ideas for lunch.
At the onset, a few channels will likely be established by administrators, but certain users can start a new channel by clicking the + next to "Channels" on the left-hand navigation bar. If your organization has a lot of channels, you can star the most important ones by clicking the star icon on the top left of the screen next to the channel name when you are in that channel. Private channels are also available.
To get started, Slack recommends the following types of channels on its website:
- Channels for specific teams
- Channels for certain topics
- Project channels
- Channels based on location
- Integration-based channels
Quality search is the backbone of productivity. Slack allows users to search through titles, as well as search within shared documents and metadata. Search results can be filtered by their relevancy, how recently they occurred, or by what file type you may be looking for. Or, you can simply browse files if that's what you're looking for.
However, the key to productive search in slack is the use of modifiers. Much like what you'll find in Gmail's search, these modifiers further filter search results to get you the answer more quickly. The following modifiers are available for search.
- From - When you're looking for content from a specific team member
- To - For something sent to a channel, group, or direct message
- In - For content within a channel, group, or direct message
- After - Something sent after a certain date
- Before - Something sent before a certain date
- On - Sent on a certain date
- During - Something sent during a month or year
- Has - Contains a star or a link
Type the modifier with a colon following it, like "from:" and add what you want to include.
Users can connect some of the apps and tools they already use in their workflow to Slack through its integrations feature. Common apps such as Dropbox, Github, Google Calendar, Jira, and many others. If you have some programming skills you can also build your own integrations or customize them to your liking.
For example, you can integrate Twitter to have specific tweets post to certain channels. This works well for companies that handle customer service requests through social media. Also, integrating Google services like Hangouts allows you to start hangouts directly from a Slack channel.
Slackbot is the programmable AI feature within Slack. Users' first experience with Slackbot will be when they are setting up their profile. Slackbot is technically an integration, so you have to initially add it to your account before using it. You can find the integration here.
Once installed, Slackbot can be programmed to respond to certain prompts or to display relevant information when asked. For example, if asked whether or not the office is open a certain day, Slackbot can show the company calendar.
Within Slack, there are two distinct types of shortcuts you can use — traditional shortcuts and slash commands. The regular shortcuts operate just like you would expect, using a specific combination of keys to perform a command. The full list of Slack shortcuts can be found here.
Slash commands are actions that the user can perform using the "/" key and a corresponding word. For example, "/archive" will archive the current channel communication or "/prefs" will open the preferences dialog. Certain slash commands are restricted to administrators and users can also create custom slash commands. The full list can be found here.
- Cal Henderson: Slack CTO. Author. Science fiction fan.
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Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.