How to effectively use keyboard shortcuts in Slack

Make Slack keyboard shortcuts part of your daily usage so you can be a master of collaboration.

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Image: Slack

Slack has become the de facto standard communication tool for teams. Once you're up to speed on how to best use the application, you'll be communicating and collaborating with an unheard of efficiency. But that's the key—getting up to speed. Although the learning curve isn't terribly steep, it does exist. While you're busy learning the ropes, your colleagues are busy collaborating. That's the last thing you want when you're on the go. Being mobile means you must work with a level of efficiency not always necessary when in the office.

What do you do? You make use of keyboard shortcuts. The developers of Slack have done a remarkable job adding a metric ton of shortcuts to make using the service even easier. But, because there are so many, the chances of you knowing and remembering them all are slim.

For example, it can be hard to remember that:

  • Ctrl + Shift + K opens the Direct Message browse window
  • Ctrl + Shift + L opens the Browse Channels window
  • Ctrl + Shift + Y allows you to set a status
  • F6 moves to the next section
  • Ctrl + . opens the right pane
  • Ctrl + Shift + M opens the Activity window

The list goes on. And on. And on. And on. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find an app with more keyboard shortcuts. 

How to view the list of shortcuts in Slack

Before we continue on, know that this only works with the desktop Slack client (as there are no keyboard shortcuts for the mobile app). With that bit of bad news out of the way, to access the Keyboard Shortcuts help window, use the following combinations:

  • On macOS: Command + /
  • On Linux/Windows: Ctrl + / 

After hitting that key combination, the shortcut pane will open to reveal the available Slack shortcuts (Figure A).

Figure A

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The Slack Keyboard Shortcuts pane.

How to format shortcuts in Slack

One of the more handy set of shortcuts involves text formatting. As you may (or may not) know, with Slack you can format text by doing things like wrapping a word or phrase in *for bold text*. However, you don't have to remember that as you can use keyboard shortcuts for the same purpose. Highlight the text you want to format and use one of the following shortcuts:

  • Ctrl + B for bold
  • Ctrl + I for italics
  • Ctrl + Shift + X for strikethrough
  • Ctrl +Shift + C for code
  • Ctrl + Shift + 8 for bulleted list
  • Ctrl + Shift + 7 for numbered list
  • Ctrl + Shift + > for quote

Although that might seem like a bit to remember, we tend to recall keyboard shortcuts more easily once we've used them enough than we do formatting declarations like ~strikethrough~ and *bold*.

And that, my friends, is how you can effectively use Slack keyboard shortcuts. It's not even remotely difficult, but getting some of these shortcuts into your muscle memory will make your use of Slack exponentially more efficient. Just remember to open that shortcut reference pane, so you can learn a new shortcut now and then.

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