25 Productivity Tips and Hacks Every Slack User Should Know
Did you know that the majority of Slack’s capabilities go unused?
While marketed as “a messaging app for teams”, it’s so much more than that. One of the primary ideas behind Slack is to save time while increasing productivity. Yet often for busy users, tapping into its’ many features gets sidelined.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of most useful tips, to help you discover Slack’s many powerful features.
Keep reading, or use the below links to jump ahead to a particular section;
- Keyboard Shortcuts
- Integrate Google Drive
- Triggers: Keywords and Slackbot Responses
- Text Formatting Shortcuts
- Star Chats & Channels, and Save Messages
- Slack Operating Systems
- Desktop Notifications
- Google Calendar Integration
- There’s a Shrug Shortcut
- Emoji Nation
- Change Your Workspace Name & URL
- Advanced Search
- Track Logins
- Email Integration
- Generate Color Swatches
- Sign Out Everywhere
- Create, Refine, & Share Code
- Grab Attention!
- Manage Mention Permissions
- Remove Users
- Pin to Channels
- Archive Unneeded Channels
- Allow Signups From Your Domain
- Slack Support Is Awesome
Note: Since publishing this post, we’ve blogged about How Slack Has Completely Changed the Way We Work at WPMU DEV. Seriously, Slack has helped us organize and release a whole bunch of awesome product updates. That includes our performance and optimization plugin, Hummingbird; our answer to your security woes, Defender; huge updates to WP Smush (the most popular image optimization plugin for WordPress, by far!), and big changes to our SEO plugin, SmartCrawl. Thanks Slack!
Keyboard shortcuts are undoubtedly one of the fastest ways to increase your speed within any software program. Slack is no exception.
Here are some of the best shortcuts:
- Move between Messages
- Sidebar, left (Close/Reopen)
- Pane, right (Close/Reopen)
- Saved Items (view)
- Read/Unread (Messages)
- Edit (message already sent)
There are a lot of settings you can personalize via the Slack menu… from Notifications, Audio & Video, to Themes, and more. To access these, click on your Workspace Name (top of the left sidebar), then Preferences.
You can edit some shortcuts from this menu as well. For instance, you can change message send behavior; depending on the preference you set, pressing the Enter key on your desktop will either send a message or start a new line in Slack. This can be setup from Preferences > Advanced > Other Options.
You can also choose where you want your downloads to save to, under Preferences > Advanced > Download Location.
To bring up the keyboard shortcuts screen (from any channel): From the message field, type /key, then hit your Enter key (or click on the View Keyboard Shortcuts popup). All of the keyboard shortcuts will display in the right side panel with a scroll, sorted by categories.
A quick note, some of the shortcuts can vary, depending upon your keyboard (if it’s configured for a language other than English), and whether you’re using Slack through your browser or the desktop app. There’s a nice list compiled of the shortcuts specific to the Slack version you’re using, as well as a full listing of the shortcuts on Slack’s website.
One thing that makes Slack stand out is how well it works with a large variety of other tools, conveniently integrating your workflow into one central location.
Easily bring the third-party tools your team already uses—like Google Drive, Zendesk, Asana, GitHub, Dropbox, and more—into Slack. Your workspace can view information and receive updates right where you’re working, without constantly switching between different apps and windows.
You clan even build your own internal integrations with Slacks API, connecting your workspace to your proprietary internal systems.
Google Drive is one of the integrations we’re personally fond of. Because we use it as a company for file sharing and collaborative editing, enabling it in Slack allows sharing files directly in channels and messages.
To connect, simply paste a link to a Google Drive file in your message field, and Slacks built-in AI, Slackbot, will give you options to connect–permanently, or as a one-off. Alternatively, you can connect under the left sidebar Apps menu.
Permissions for integrated third-party apps can be reversed at any time, if desired.
There are two particularly useful features in Slack that act as a result of certain triggers.
The first is highlighting keywords. You can find this in your Slack menu, Preferences > Notifications > My Keywords.
Any words or phrases that you add here, when used in a message or channel you belong to, will add a badge (circle with a number in it) in your channel list. When you click on it, you’ll see the keyword highlighted in yellow.
If you have an interest in a company blog, for example, you could ask Slack to notify you whenever someone writes the words “post” or “blog”. It’s a good way not to miss out on any discussions you believe are pertinent to be aware of.
In addition, Slackbot can be used to deliver an immediate answer when someone types certain key phrases. This is a great way to provide automatic responses to commonly asked questions.
For example, you could set up the following phrase: “time-off requests email”
… to trigger this response …
“Hey there! Send any Time-off requests to [email protected]. Or visit the #HR channel for more details”.
These can be super handy and save time as well, but will need to be setup by your Workspace Owner/Admin.
Slack has a variety of different ways to format the characters you type, using a number of symbols in the text.
Here are some of the formatting shortcuts:
- bold → *bold* (asterisks before & after text)
- italicize → _italicize_ (underscores before & after text)
strikethrough~strikethrough~ (tildes before & after text)
- code → `code` (backticks before & after text)
- code block → ` ` `code block (three backticks before text)
- block quote → >block quote (greater than sign before text)
You can also click the Aa icon beneath the message field. This will show/hide the formatting toolbar, allowing for quick selections.
To help you keep track of important conversations, you can Star a channel or direct message (DM).
Think of Starring as making a collection of your most important or most engaged in communications. These can be channels or direct messages, comprised of one individual or a group of team members.
To create a Starred section, right-click on any channel or DM name; hover over Move Channel (or Conversation), then click on Move to… Starred.
Starred conversations automatically appear in the Starred section of your left sidebar. This section can be deleted, resorted, have read status changed, and more. For additional menu options, click on the three vertical dots icon next to Starred, then take any desired action from the resultant popup.
In addition to Starring, you can also Save any specific messages. Think of Saving as putting sticky notes on key items. You’re basically marking material that is important to you for quick and easy access later.
Hover over any message you want to Save, then click on the little bookmark icon, which will Add to Saved items. Once done, the bookmark icon turns a hot pink color, and the message itself is highlighted in yellow. Items can be unsaved later by clicking the bookmark again.
While Saved messages are in a section of their own, they won’t necessarily be visible in your left sidebar. (This can depend on the size of your Slack app window, as well as how many other categories you have showing in this section.) However, you can easily pin them to the top so they’re always within reach.
To do this, navigate to the top sidebar menu. Click on the three vertical dots icon next to More, then click on Customize this List in your preferences. Tick the checkbox for any sections you want to Always show in the Sidebar―in this case, Saved items.
If they still aren’t showing, try making your Slack window bigger, or removing some of the other sections you have pinned there that you don’t use as much. Should your preferences change, these will always be editable, at any time.
A final note here: you must have at least one item Saved for this section to show in your sidebar.
Reminders are an awesome feature in Slack. There are several types of reminders, as well as different ways to implement them. Let’s start with creating a reminder for yourself.
Click the plus + icon in the message field, then click on Set yourself a reminder. Choose the date & time from the dropdowns for each. In the Description field, add any details you want to note, then click the Create button.
Or you can type / in the message field, then type remind in the search field popup, again selecting Set yourself a reminder. The rest of the process is the same as above.
A third option: from the message field, type:
/remind me [at/in/on] [a given time] to [do something]―omitting the brackets & replacing the descriptive words with actual details. This accomplishes the same as the above, but instead of separate steps, we’ve done it in one fell swoop. Just be careful you’ve input the correct information.
Now let’s look at setting up a reminder for someone else or for a channel.
Click the plus + icon in the message field, then in the search field, type:
/remind [@someone or #channel] [what] [when]. As before, you’ll omit the brackets & replace the descriptive words with actual details. Slackbot will respond with a confirmation message (that only you can see), confirming the details of the reminder.
You can also remind yourself about a particular message. To do this, hover over any message, then click the three vertical dots icon in the top-right corner of the menu popup. Hover over Remind me about this, then click on a preset time or fill in for custom. Once again, Slackbot will send you a confirmation message (for your eyes only), confirming the details.
To view your Reminders at any time, in the message field, type:
/remind list. Slackbot will immediately respond with a list of your current reminders.
You can even view completed ones; click on the View completed reminders at the bottom of the Upcoming list that Slackbot displays. While viewing your list, you can mark any items as Complete, or Delete, or change the Snooze time. Just click the desired action associated to a reminder, and Slackbot makes the changes.
Slack has apps available for a variety of platforms, both desktop and mobile. For desktop, versions are available for Mac, Windows, and Linux. For mobile, versions are available for iOS, and Android.
It’s useful to keep in touch on your mobile, especially if your team is communicating online through Slack at all hours. That’s the case here at WPMU DEV, since we have team members all over the world, in different time zones.
The mobile apps have similar functionality to the browser version, but are tailored to perform better on your handheld device.
From a desktop, you can download the Slack App, or use the program from a browser. Both work well, but the desktop version has a bit more functionality.
For instance, the Slack desktop app gives you a larger selection of keyboard shortcuts. Not only are many of the keyboard shortcuts carried over from the browser, but additional ones are added.
Also, in the desktop app, it is more convenient to switch between different workspaces. In the browser, different Workspaces require separate, open tabs.
Additionally, with the desktop app you can close the window but minimize to your tray, so any notifications you may get will still appear. This allows you to put Slack out of the way without missing anything important. And gives you a little more freedom to control and monitor your notifications.
Speaking of which…
Slack’s notifications are controlled through the Desktop app under Preferences > Notifications.
There are a lot of options here. Here’s a summary list:
- Specify what you want to be notified about (DMs, keywords, nothing)
- Choose if you want Slack Connect invitations to show a badge in your sidebar
- Choose if/when you want notifications paused (days of week and times of day)
- Select the sound you prefer
- Decide whether or not you want a preview of your message to show
- Opt whether or not you want your window to flash
- Indicate where the screen notification will be positioned
- Decide if you want to use different settings for desktop vs mobile devices
- View a summary of your channel-specific notifications
Slack’s notifications in the Browser are under Your Account/Notifications. (The URL is: https://YourWorkspaceName.slack.com/account/notifications.)
The variety of settings here really allow you to fine tune Slack to best suit your personal productivity.
Integrating Google Calendar with Slack opens up a number of options, including posting reminders to yourself, or specific channels.
It also allows you to unify your staff’s out-of-office information, assuming you require your employees provide this in a company Google calendar. This means team members can easily see who’s working on any given day, without having to leave Slack.
To integrate Slack with any or all of your calendars, go to the left sidebar Apps menu, select the Google Calendar to open the app. From the app’s Home tab, click Connect an account and follow the prompts. Click Open Slack to return to your workspace.
Given how useful this integration is, it’s unlikely you’ll want to un-integrate it, but as with all third-party apps, you can do so at any time.
Because, why wouldn’t you want to append ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ in a message, at least once a day?
Simply type /shrug into your message field, and hit enter (or send).
As a visual person, and an artist, I personally can never get enough graphics in my communications―whether they be static images, gifs, icons, avatars, or the ever pervasive emojis.
Slack offers lots of graphic options for breaking up your text and adding that extra oomph. You can attach image files, and now even video clips, in your messages. And, Slack offers GIPHY, the most popular online collection of GIFs & Animated Stickers, as one of the third party apps for integration.
Last but never least, Slack has a rich collection of built-in emojis. Even better, you can add your own emojis to the collection, so there’s something to express every mood and convey specific actions.
Use emojis in any message. Beneath the message field, click the 😊 happy face icon, and scroll to/select the emoji you want. Or, just type a : (colon) in the message field, followed by a description of what your looking for. Slack will filter on your text, and provide a popup of emojis that match.
To add emojis to the workspace collection, click on the 😊 happy face icon, then the Add Emoji button at the bottom. Click the Upload Image button, then navigate to the image file you’re going to add. Give it a name, making sure to use all lowercase letters, no spaces, no periods, (nor most punctuation). Slack will automatically enclose your text in colons. Click the green Save button.
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For custom emojis, Slack recommends square images under 128KB with a transparent background. If your image is too large, they’ll try to automatically resize it, but the end result can vary in quality.
FYI, if you don’t like how it looks, or want to omit any custom emoji, it’s no problem to delete it. From your desktop, click your Workspace name in the top left. Select Customize [workspace name]. (If you’re an owner or admin, you’ll need to click Settings & administration first.)
Click the Emoji tab at the top of the page. (The URL is: https://YourWorkspaceName.slack.com/customize/emoji.) Search for the emoji you’d like to remove, then hover over it. The row will turn light gray, and the gray X icon will turn red. Click the red X to delete the icon. From the popup window, click on the Delete Emoji button to confirm. Members can only delete emojis they’ve added, while Workspace Owners/Admins can delete any custom emoji.
Aside from being fun, emojis are also quite functional. For instance, you could ask your teammates to add a check mark emoji to confirm that an important message was read. Or, different colored circles could be used to mark progress on a posted task. Since each user can react to each message as many times as they like, progress can be monitored quickly and visually by all.
You could even design a whole set of quick-reference images to implement actions through custom emojis. Team communication has never been so slick!
For obvious reasons, this is not something you’ll do often, but it’s good to know that if you ever need to, it’s incredibly easy to move the entirety of your Slack presence to a new subdomain.
Your workspace name is displayed in menus and headings throughout Slack, and is generally the name of your company. Your workspace URL is the web address your members use to access Slack. You can rename or set a new web address for your workspace or Enterprise Grid organization at any time.
To change a workspace name and URL: From the Slack desktop app, click your Workspace name in the top left. Select Settings & administration, then click Workspace settings. Click Change Workspace Name & URL, enter a new workspace name or URL, then click Save Changes.
For security reasons, only Owners and Admins can take this action. Also, keep in mind that you’ll need to update the URL in other services as well, such as single sign-on and some apps.
Sometimes if you’re moving fast or juggling tasks, you forget to bookmark an important message. If this happens, don’t panic. Assuming you can remember any details, like approximately when or to whom it was sent, or some of the key words, you can zero in on the message using Slack’s search modifiers.
Search parameters include:
- to:[channel or username]
- in:[channel or username]
The Search bar is at the very top of the Slack desktop app window. Click in the search field, and type any parameters or descriptive words. Slack will apply the filters, and show you any messages that match.
Click on More filters, or select from any of the presented dropdown menus, to narrow or broaden your search.
In the unlikely, unfortunate event that someone gains unauthorized access to your Slack account, there is a way to scope out where it was accessed from.
Only Owners or Workspace Admins can view these, but it’s good to know there’s a record kept that can be investigated if need be.
Through Slack in the browser, you would look under Your Account/Apps/Manage/Logs. (The URL is: https://YourWorkspaceName.slack.com/apps/manage/logs.) This would have a comprehensive list of when and how your account has been accessed, including the IP address of any users.
Although Slack should reduce the amount of email your staff are sending internally, chances are you’ll still collectively be dealing with a fair amount of email.
Slack can help you keep all of your work communication—including emails—in one place. There are a number of ways to send email to Slack, depending on your plan and how you’d like to use emails that have been sent to your workspace.
There are four different approaches:
- Create an Email Address ― Set up a dedicated email address to send emails to channels or DMs.
- Slack’s Email App ― Install the Email App to your workspace, then set up configurations to send emails to channels or DMs.
- Email Addon ― Install an email addon to send individual emails from Gmail or Outlook to channels or DMs.
- Forward Email with Slackbot ― Create a forwarding address to send individual emails to your DM with Slackbot.
Options #1 & #2 are for paid plans only; options #3 & #4 are available for all plans. Here’s a great jumping off point if you want to look into setting up any of these email options.
Funneling emails to a channel, that are pertinent to the interests or scope of a particular team, is a great way to provide conversation starters or brainstorming.
File this under “probably more fun than practical”…. although adding a splash of color is always a plus in my book.
Typing in any hexadecimal (hex) code in Slack will create a little color swatch next to it. Designers are more likely to use a more sophisticated method for color sharing, but hey, it works, so why not mention it?
Bear in mind that all six characters, preceded by a # (hashtag), must be used for it to work. (Ex: #FFADE1) Also, you won’t actually see the color swatch until you hit enter/send.
Signing out of Slack is quick and easy—as is signing back in at any time.
If you’ve ever lost a mobile device, you know first-hand what a nightmare this can be. At least your Slack account can be one less worry on your mind, as you can quickly sign out of all sessions from the desktop app.
To sign out from your desktop, click your profile picture in the top right. Select Profile; your profile will open in the right side panel. Below your name, click More, then Account settings. This opens your account page in the website. (The URL is: https://YourWorkspaceName.slack.com/account/settings.) From the Account page, click Sign out of all other sessions.
Of course you can also sign out of single instances of your Slack account. See this article for how to sign-out out from only your Desktop, iPhone, or Android phone.
Snippets are a quick and easy way to share bits of code, configuration files, or log files in your Slack workspace. Slack’s Files system enables you to create different code snippets in a variety of programming languages. I couldn’t find a listing of these anywhere, so did a manual count from the dropdown―and got 143! (Not including “Auto Detect”.) That’s a lot of coding flexibility.
To Create a snippet: click the plus + icon next to the message field from the desktop Slack window. Search for/select Create a text snippet from the menu. Enter a title, then choose a file type from the dropdown menu. Type or paste your snippet in the Content field. To immediately share this snippet, check the box next to Share this file, select a channel or DM (adding a message if desired), then click Create Snippet.
To View snippets in your workspace: click File browser in the left sidebar. (If not visible, click on More, next to the three vertical dots icon.) Select Filter from the top-right of the screen, then click All file types to pen the dropdown menu. Select Snippets.
To Edit a snippet: hover over the snippet to be edited, then click the pencil icon. (This will open the snippet in your browser.) Edit the snippet, then click Save Changes. Note: Only the person who created a snippet can edit it.
To Share a snippet; hover over the snippet to be shared, then click Share file. Below Share with, choose a channel or DM from the dropdown menu, then click Share.
Sharing snippets in Slack lets others download it, view a raw version, or leave comments. You can do this when you create the snippet, or any time after.
Cool shortcut: If you’ve already started typing in the message field, you can press
Enter [Mac] or
Enter [Win/Linux] to open a popup window and convert your existing text to a snippet.
Sharing the code you’ve been working on (for corrections or feedback) within the Slack environment helps with organization. That said, you can keep snippets private in your own little sandbox for as long as you like.
Slack provides a number of ways to clarify who’s attention you’ll be getting when you send messages, using Mentions.
Being able to make these distinctions is vital. You don’t want to needlessly disturb a bunch of coworkers with a casual message, especially during non-working hours. Likewise, you don’t want to omit anyone who should be aware of critical messages that have could have timely repercussions.
Here are the most used group mentions, along with an explanation of who they notify:
- @everyone — this will notify everyone in the #general channel, whether their availability is set to active or away. (Use sparingly.)
- @channel — this will trigger a desktop or mobile notification for all members in a channel, whether their availability is set to active or away.
- @here — this will notify only the active (online) members of a channel.
- @JohnDoe or @HRdept — This will notify only the particular individual or group members mentioned.
Of note, the last two mentions will not notify people who have their notifications paused, or when used in threads.
Be courteous when using mentions, and use the etiquette suggested by your company. When in doubt, it’s a good idea to check with your human resources team.
Foreseeing the ability to potentially distract team members from their work with mentions, Slack does allow for customizable restrictions on who can use such features.
By default, all members can notify a channel or workspace by using @channel, @here, and @everyone mentions.
If your company is experiencing issues with misuse or abuse of Slack mentions, Owners and Admins can adjust these settings in their workspace or Enterprise Grid organization.
When someone no longer needs to be a part of a channel, or for any reason you need to rescind their access, they can be removed.
Anyone can be removed from a channel by those with permission. The default actions and actors are:
- Workspace Owners and Org Owners can restrict who has permission to remove people from channels.
- Workspace Owners/Admins can remove people from public channels.
- Members can remove people from private channels.
All members and guests need to be added back to a private channel to rejoin it, and guests also need to be added back to a public channel to rejoin it.
To Remove someone, open the channel you’ll be removing them from. Click on the cluster of profile pictures in the top right. Find the person you’ll be removing. Click Remove next to their name; click Remove again to confirm.
When you remove someone from a channel, Slackbot will notify that person.
If you’ve got a particularly important file–say a proposal document on a particular job, or a meeting agenda–you can Pin it in Slack, so it will appear in the Channel Info, making it easily accessible even if it gets buried in the chat scroll with the passage of time. You call also pin any message.
To do this, hover over the particular file or message, choose More Actions, then click on Pin to channel.
To view Pinned files, scroll to the top of any channel or DM, and hover over the conversation header. If there are any pinned items, a bar will popup (if it’s not already showing) below the conversation header , and you can click on the pushpin icon, [number] Pinned header, then select the desired file or message from the resultant dropdown window.
Over time, the quantity of channels can become burdensome, as some that were once important become dormant. (For example, employees that are no longer active, or projects that have been phased out or completed.)
When a channel is no longer needed, it can be archived or deleted. Archived channels are closed to new activity, but the message history is retained, searchable, and viewable. Deleted channels are permanently removed from a workspace, message history included, so be certain before taking this action.
There are permissions regarding these actions. Members (not guests) can archive and unarchive channels by default, but Owners and Admins can restrict this if desired. Deleting a channel can only be done by Workspace Owners and Admins. The #general channel cannot be archived or deleted.
To Archive a channel, open the channel, then click on the channel name in the conversation header. Click Settings, then Archive channel for everyone. Click Archive channel to confirm.
If you change your mind, you can unarchive a channel. In the case of private channels, the channel members will be retained. For public channels, the former members will not be restored.
To Unarchive a channel, click Channel browser at the top of your left sidebar menu. (If this isn’t visible, click More next to the three vertical dots.) Search for/select the desired channel, or click Filter and select Archived channels the the Channel type dropdown menu. Select the channel to unarchive, then click the channel name in the conversation header. Click Settings, then click Unarchive this channel.
It’s wise to archive or delete channels that will no longer be used, as it gives a cleaner more organized look to your Workspace. While there may be sound reasons to delete a channel, careful consideration should be given before doing so. Archiving is generally the better option, as it allows you to retain all the info associated with it, and permits easy reactivation should it become relevant again (example: a former employee is rehired, or an old project is renewed).
By default, Slack will only allow new users into your Team once you’ve sent them an invitation. If you’ve got a large team, chances are you’ve already gone to the trouble of giving them their own email addresses. Luckily, Slack enables you to permit any signups from a specific domain or domains.
This will save you time when adding your internal team, as you can still send out invitations to anyone else who might not have their own company email address.
Slack has an incredible support team. If you ever have questions or problems, don’t hesitate to seek them out. They are responsive and friendly.
There are also resources aplenty, from a Help section directly in the App, to their online Help Center, which contains documentation, tutorials, and a well-tuned search engine.
For assistance from within the desktop app, click on the question mark-in-a-circle icon in the header bar of the Slack control panel, next to your avatar. Or, press F1 at any time while in the Slack app.
The right side panel will open/load with the following Help sections: a text field search box, Discover tutorials, a list of common Help Topics, a Contact Us button (which will load the website so you can open a Help Ticket), and Help Requests (which will take you to any Help Tickets you have previously submitted).
Slack’s workplace chat app has skyrocketed in popularity since it was created in 2009. By the way, Slack is actually an acronym, created by its CEO, Stewart Butterfield. It stands for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge.”
Slack is incredibly useful for business. Aside from being extremely popular, it’s also highly rated in customer satisfaction, and continues to improve and innovate.
With four plans, all of which are feature-rich and reasonably priced, it’s a tried & true communication and collaboration tool that could benefit almost any company.
As mentioned in several sections of this post, some settings in Slack are controlled by Workspace Owners/Admins. Notably, which App Integrations are permitted, what user roles have the ability to delete messages, and the time limit on being able to edit a message you’ve sent. Knowing this, if you can’t make something work in Slack, check with your powers-that-be, as it may be a setting over which they have purview and can make changes.
One final, fun tidbit… maybe sometime when your work day is light… try sending Slackbot a Thank You. ;)
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for accuracy and relevancy.
[Originally Published: August 2015 / Revised: March 2022]