Be A Slacker: 16 Pro Slack / Slack Pro Tips

April 5, 2016 | Matt Diehl

In addition to having multiple offices in Baltimore, TBG has employees in California and Utah, and teams travel to meet clients regularly across the country and sometimes internationally as well. Because of our size and the fact that we are spread out over a few geographic locations, we need ways to keep communication fluid and natural. Otherwise, our remote employees feel separated from the rest of the team, communication becomes challenging, and never-ending email chains become the norm. We looked at a few options for real-time chat programs and ultimately selected Slack, given its impressive reputation and constantly growing user base. Adoption is simple and straight-forward. We highly recommend checking out Slack; it has had a transformative effect on the way we work together and communicate as a company. We also use Slack with some of our client teams as well to streamline communications. What follows is my list of pro-Slack (or Slack Pro) tips, to make communication easy, safe, natural, more productive and fun.

Download the Apps

If you’re using Slack every day, you should download the desktop app and set it up to automatically open when you start your computer.

To open the app automatically:

  • On a Windows machine, select the Team Menu by clicking the down arrow next to your team’s name (TBG), select Preferences, click the Windows App tab, and check Launch app on login.
  • If you're on the Mac app, you'll have to change that via System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Items.

Update Notification Settings

Most people, myself included, prefer to only get desktop notifications when they receive direct messages or their name is mentioned. However, you might prefer to be notified for everything (maybe you really do want to instantly know what is going on in the cat channel) or not at all (the cats can wait).

To edit your notification settings, go to Preferences > Notifications > Notification Settings.

Snooze Notifications When You’re Sharing Your Screen

Your client contacts probably don’t want to know about your lunch plans or how you need to address some bugs ASAP for another client. When you’re sharing your screen on a WebEx, snooze your notifications by hitting the bell icon in the top left of the app. You can set the snooze for a certain duration of time from 20 minutes to 24 hours.

Come Up with a Convention for Channel Naming

Channel names can start to get hairy if you don’t have a convention for naming them. Think about the topics your team will be discussing and create a logical naming convention. Maybe it makes sense to create a channel for each client. However, if each client has multiple projects going on simultaneously, with different teams on each one, it probably makes more sense to create a channel for each project.

Embrace Custom Emojis

If your company is any fun at all, custom emojis will boost morale by 10 times. We’ve accumulated quite a collection that we use to punctuate our conversations or announce big news like a site launch…party parrot, blue steel, cat jam, need coffee... We also use emojis to take office polls on crucial topics like where we’re going for happy hour on a Friday or who wants to get in on the pizza order for lunch.

To add your own custom emoji that your whole team can use, hit the smiley face in the text input field, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the emoji menu, and click “add custom emoji here.” Keep in mind that the emoji image can’t be larger than 128 x 128 pixels.

Utilize the Huge Library of Integrations

If there’s an app your company uses frequently, there’s a good chance there’s a Slack integration for it. Browse the full library of integrations.

I highly recommend adding at least one video chat integration, such as Google Hangouts. This allows you to super quickly set up a video chat and share the link with a channel just by typing “/hangout” in the channel (or individual chat) you want to share it with.

Learn the Keyboard Shortcuts

Pro Slack users are super-fast because they know all the keyboard shortcuts and never have to use their mouse. Learn the shortcuts by opening up the cheat sheet: when you have the app open, just hit ctrl/cmd + /.

My favorite is ctrl/cmd + k, which opens a prompt for quickly searching for and switching to a channel.

Learn the Text Formatting Options

While emojis are a great way to add a little more feeling to a message, sometimes you just need some classic text formatting, like bold and italics. Every time you type more than a few characters, look below the input field, and you should see a quick cheat sheet of the formatting options.

Mute Channels You Are Less Involved In

Sometimes there are some real noisy channels (seriously, enough with the cats, they can wait, at least for now). It can be a lot to keep on top of every message, especially if you are rarely needed in any of those conversations. If you want to stay in the channel, but only see changes when you are directly mentioned, update your channel preferences to mute the channel.

To mute the channel, go to Channel Settings (the gear icon) > Mute #channel-name.

“Respond” to Messages by Referencing the Timestamp

Slack doesn’t provide threads of conversations like you might see on a comments section on a website. Because everything is linear, if you want to respond to an older message in a thread, hover over the message, and select “copy link” from the menu that appears on hover. You can then paste that into the message field, and it will show as a quoted version of the earlier message when you submit it.

Set Reminders for Yourself, Others, or a Whole Channel

One of the less frequently used, but useful, features of Slack, is the ability to set a reminder for yourself, another person, or a whole channel. Just open up a direct message with slackbot and type “/remind” followed by the task that should happen and the time the reminder should occur.

Here are some examples of reminders:

  • /remind me to enter my hours at 5pm
  • /remind @tim to meet me in the north conference room in 30 minutes
  • /remind @channel that we have a release to production tomorrow at 11am

Quickly Share Code Snippets

If you work with code all day, you’ll inevitably need to share some code snippets occasionally to get some help from a coworker. Slack provides a way to upload code snippets that are formatted and colored based on the language, which makes reading code significantly easier.

In the message field, hit the “+” at the start of the field, choose “create a snippet,” and select the language the code is written in.

Notify the Right People

If you want to make sure someone knows that a message is for them, type “@” followed by their username—it will autocomplete for you once you start typing—and the message directed to them. Depending on their settings, they’ll likely get a desktop notification.

But what if you want to address a group of people? Slack provides a few other methods for doing just that. If you want to address everyone in a particular channel, open up that channel and type “@channel” followed by the message. If you want to notify everyone that belongs to your organization’s Slack board, you can use “@everyone.” To only notify the people that are online (and on a desktop), use “@here.”

Pin Files & Messages

When something is shared in a channel that’s really important, you don’t want it to get buried by a million other messages. Fortunately, Slack lets you “pin” important messages by hovering over the message and choosing “Pin to #channel-name.” Messages that are pinned can be accessed by going to the channel/conversation details (they’ll be right at the top).

Make Slack Friendly

Greet your coworkers every time they open up Slack with a nice friendly message by adding custom loading message. Go to yourteamname.slack.com/customize/loading to add one (or five).

Shun Everyone Who Doesn’t Use It

Slack is great, but it’s not the same if only part of your team is on it. Make sure everyone at your company gets set up to use Slack and understands your Slack etiquette. And if they don’t, make them wear a funny hat around the office or buy you a beer at Friday’s happy hour until they do.

About the Author

Matt
Matt Diehl

When I'm not making websites at TBG as a Senior Front-end Developer, I'm often making sites at home, learning more about building them, or playing guitar in a dingy basement in Paul Newman and the Ride Home.

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