Not getting Slack notifications for every message? Read these troubleshooting tips

If you find yourself missing out on Slack notifications, follow this tech expert's advice.

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Image: iStockphoto/oatawa

Slack has become a key piece of technology in the new work-from-home paradigm. This is especially true when your job requires you to effectively work with teams. Slack not only makes that possible, it makes it easy. Slack isn't perfect, and it often requires your attention to avoid missing out on important discussions, messages, and other notifications.

That means you have to put in the time to set Slack up properly, otherwise you stand to miss out on those notifications--and you know what being out of the loop could mean:

  • Missing deadlines

  • Falling behind in projects

  • Generally not being in the know

Unfortunately, one of the things Slack doesn't have is a general notification section. It would be nice if the developers would add a Notification tab, where users could visit to see what they've missed out on, but that's just not how Slack works.

So what do you do? Here are a few tips you can use to make sure you're getting every notification and message sent to you.

SEE: 10 Slack tips: A how-to guide (TechRepublic download)

Mobile support for the desktop

I'm going to assume you mostly use Slack on the desktop. Even if you don't, you probably do spend some of your Slack time on a PC or laptop. One little thing you can do to ensure you don't miss any notifications or messages is to set a Slack channel up such that you are notified on your mobile device for all new messages. When you do this, you'll always have a backup plan for Slack. Even if you miss a notification or message on the Slack desktop, it'll still be visible within your mobile device notification system (such as the Android notification tray).

How you do this is simple. Open Slack on your mobile device. Click the You tab at the bottom-right corner and, in the resulting window, tap Notifications (Figure A).

Figure A

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The Slack You tab on Android 11.

In the next window, tap the top entry (On Mobile, Notify Me About…). In the popup, tap All New Messages (Figure B).

Figure B

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Setting your mobile Slack notification option.

Back out of the window, and your mobile device should start receiving all new notifications from Slack.

How to use keywords to avoid missing Slack notifications

I've already addressed this subject in my article How to set up Slack keyword alerts, but it bears repeating. One sure-fire way to avoid missing out on specific Slack notifications is to use keywords and set up alerts for those keywords. With this feature, you can always create specific keywords that are often used in notifications. For instance, say there's a specific project you are working on and you cannot afford to miss notifications about that project.

This is tricky, because not every message, direct message, or mention is going to include the name of the project. If, however, more people than just yourself are missing notifications, it might behoove you or your project leader to insist that all messages about that project begin with the project name. With this policy in place, you could then set up a keyword alert so you will always have a backup for every notification that comes in about the project.

How to create a special Slack section

In one particular workspace I belong to, I mostly only interact with one team member and one thread. Because of that, I've created a special section that contains only those two items. With this in place, I know that I only ever have to really view that section to see if I've missed anything.

To create a special section, click the + button associated with Channels and click Create New Section (Figure C).

Figure C

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The Channels option allows you to create special sidebar sections.

In the resulting window, give the new section a name and then click Create.

Once your section has been created, locate the threads or the direct messages that you want to add to it from within the Slack sidebar and drag them to the new section. Once you have that special section crafted, you'll be able to more easily keep up with the thread(s) and/or direct messages you receive.

Don't rely on just the Slack mobile app

I'm going to be painfully honest here. The Slack mobile app is nowhere near as reliable as the desktop app. There have been days where I've either forgotten to open the desktop app or was away from my home office and the mobile app failed to notify me on anything--no direct messages, not keyword alerts, nothing. This on-again/off-again problem has been going on for some time and it seems no resolution is in sight.

Since then, I've come to realize that I cannot rely on the mobile app for notifications. To that end, I always have the Slack desktop app open when I'm in my office. That way, should the mobile app fail me, I know I won't miss out on important notifications, because I have the desktop app running.

If you do work at a desk, consider having the desktop app installed and running a must. It's dependable and it offers quite a bit more in the way of features than the mobile app. At the same time, make sure to configure the notifications on the desktop app to meet your needs. You can configure Slack to notify you for:

  • All New Messages

  • Direct Messages, Mentions & Keywords

  • Nothing 

If you find yourself missing a lot of notifications, set Slack up to notify you of All New Messages, otherwise you can stick with Direct Messages, Mentions & Keywords (Figure D).

Figure D

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Configuring notification options in the Slack desktop app.

Slack isn't perfect--especially for those who depend on notifications--but, if you're willing to put in a bit of extra work and use both the mobile and desktop apps, your chances are pretty good that you won't miss any of those crucial notifications. 

Give these tips a go and see if they don't help you in your quest to never miss a beat in your Slack workspaces.

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