Slack changed workplace communication. It can be a helpful tool or an amusing diversion — and this makes Slack tips essential to cut through the noise.
Slack is capable of so much that it’s hard to uncover what features you really should be using. To help, we put together some of the best Slack tips and tricks below.
From creating to-do lists to customizing your theme, these pro tips are worth showing off to your team. Scan the full list of Slack tricks or jump to the section you’re looking for:
Why You Need Tips for Using Slack
Any tool can make your workday more effective and productive. That’s the goal. But it doesn’t always work out that way.
In 2020, offices around the world went through a series of seismic changes. Many teams went remote for the first time. And workplace leaders found themselves looking for digital solutions that could help workers:
- Build and keep social bonds
- Answer quick questions
- Check in on each other
- Hold social workplace events
- Send quick thank yous
- Share updates
Slack was an answer to these questions and more.
This platform organizes chat conversations into channels. It makes it easy to have informal conversations or organized group conversations. This helps in-office and remote teams trade ideas and make decisions together. It can also give teams at-a-glance knowledge of office status, connect docs from different tools, and offer helpful reminders.
Slack is a great way to connect and collaborate. But it can take time to learn the most helpful features. A beginner’s guide to Slack is the best place to start.
Once you have the basics down, the tips below can help you advance your Slack game for more productivity, fun, and connection.
Handy Slack Tips and Tricks
- Sort Slack channels for easy scanning.
- Pause notifications for focused work time.
- Pin messages and links for easy recall.
- Adjust your sidebar to show unread channels only.
- Connect your tools to Slack.
- Use the /remind commands to create a to-do list.
- Quickly send a private message using the /msg command.
- Jump to recent conversations in seconds.
- Create a to-do list using stars.
- Conduct advanced searches.
- Add notifications for keywords and phrases.
- Create naming conventions for channels.
- Toggle between statuses using /away or /active commands.
- React with a GIF.
- Create quick polls with emoji reactions.
- Add text and link formatting to your Slack messages.
- Edit messages you’ve already sent.
- Customize your Slack theme.
- Create your own emoji.
- Pull swatches using HTML color codes.
- Shake it off with a shruggie.
- Update your profile to show when you’re OOO.
- Use the /collapse and /expand commands to open and close files.
- Try /mute to limit distractions.
- Play games on Slack for remote team building.
Best Slack Tips for Productivity
1. Sort Slack channels for easy scanning.
The larger your organization is, the more channels your team will have. This seems fine at first, and it lets teams create distinct conversations for work and play. But as channel notifications grow, so will the possibility of Slack overwhelm.
Businesses using Pro, Business+, or Enterprise Grid plans on Slack can add channels, direct messages, and apps to custom sections in the sidebar. Custom sections are just for you, and won’t impact anyone else on your team, so you can organize them in a way that works best for you.
To create a custom section, click the + at the top right of your top channel in the left navigation menu. Then select “Create a new channel” or “Create a new section.” You can select from the current options or add a unique emoji and name for a custom section.
Note: You can only create custom sections on a desktop computer. But once you’ve added them you’ll be able to use them on both desktop and mobile.
2. Pause notifications for focused work time.
Different work cultures have different expectations for availability on Slack. But there are times when employees need some uninterrupted work time. So, instead of closing a door or hanging a “Do Not Disturb” sign, pause your notifications.
This gives a simple signal to your team so you can get the focused time you need. To pause your notifications, click on your profile. Then, scroll to “Pause notifications” and choose the amount of time that’s best for you.
You can also set a notification schedule. This is extra helpful for teams that work across different time zones. It helps everyone understand when you’re available to respond quickly, and when getting a response may take more time.
3. Pin messages and links for easy recall.
Slack can also be the digital bulletin board at the center of your office. When you “pin” a message, you’re saving it for the full team in that conversation or channel. This makes it easy for everyone to revisit important learning, documents, and comments.
To pin a message, hover over the message, then click on the three dots in the top right-hand corner. Then, scroll down to “Pin to channel.” The selected message background will change color, and display a message at the top that says “Pinned by [your name].” You can also use the top bar to search for pinned posts.
4. Adjust your sidebar to show unread channels only.
As the number of channels you subscribe to grows, you may be looking for strategies to cut down on overwhelm. Some choose to mute channels, but that can mean missing important communication. Others make an update to the “Channels” section to highlight what they haven’t read yet.
To make this update, head to the “Channels” section in your left-hand sidebar. Hover over Channels, click the three dots to the right, then scroll to “Show” > “Unread channels only.”
5. Connect your tools to Slack.
Another feature of Slack that helps you ramp up productivity is its connectivity. Whether you’re sharing sensitive documents or running a fun icebreaker with your team, there are over 2000 Slack integrations you can use.
For example, many teams are already using Google Drive to create and store files online, so why not get the best of both worlds? When you connect your Google Drive with Slack, you have the ability to read and index imported files, and quickly search for them whenever you need them.
There are two ways to connect your Google Drive to Slack:
If you have a Google Drive link you want to share, simply paste it into a message box. This will prompt Slackbot to deliver the following message:
Click “Yes” to grant Google Drive permission to read the file.
If you don’t have a file you’re ready to share, but want to connect Google Drive for future use, visit the Google Drive app page. From here, click “Configure” next to your team name, then click “Authenticate your Google Drive Account” > “Allow.”
HubSpot customers: If you want to integrate Slack even deeper into your office processes, check out this article that shows you how to make the most of your Slack integration.
6. Use the /remind commands to create a to-do list.
Set a Slackbot reminder to help you keep track of what you need to get done. To get started, simply enter /remind into the text box, followed by your task. (Note: Only you will be able to see the command and the reminder.)
You can schedule a reminder for a specific time or set a date using the MM/DD/YYYY format. Slack recommends this structure for a reminder: /remind [@someone or #channel] “[what]” [when].
If you want to review your list of reminders, simply use the command /remind list. From there, you can mark certain tasks as complete or delete the ones you no longer need.
7. Quickly send a private message using the /msg command.
Sometimes we find ourselves with questions that call for the attention of everyone in a specific channel. You know, important things such as, “Does anyone have a stapler?” or “Who’s free for lunch?”
After you ask a question, avoid any further disruption by following up with people with a private message. For example, once you know Steve is free to grab a bite to eat, use the following command to quickly open up a private message to hash out the details: /msg @user [your message].
8. Jump to recent conversations in seconds.
If you’ve got a really big team, it’s likely that you’re involved with quite a few Slack channels. To quickly and easily switch from a channel to a private message back to a different channel, hit ⌘ + K (Mac) or Ctrl + K (Windows and Linux).
A pop-up will appear where you can begin typing a person or channel and select the correct option to open the conversation.
9. Create a to-do list using Saved Items.
Saved items on Slack are a way to mark a task as important, like pinned messages. But only you can see your saved items, so they can be useful for personal reminders.
To save an item, simply move your mouse to a message or file and select the flag outline to make it turn red. Then, to view your saved items, click Saved items at the top of the left navigation menu.
Saving requests and files that you need to work on makes it easy for you to create a to-do list on the fly.
10. Conduct advanced searches.
One of the great things about Slack is that messages and files are easily searchable. Because channels move so fast, you can use these advanced search commands to pull up exactly what you’re looking for without wasting any time.
Channels and Direct Messages
- in:channelname – Searches only the messages and/or files in a specific channel.
- in:name – Searches your direct messages with a specific user.
Messages or Files From a Specific Person
- from:username – Limits your search to messages from a specific person in any channel or direct message.
- from:me – Searches only messages you’ve sent, anywhere in Slack.
Links, Saved Items, and Emoji Reactions
You can narrow your search to messages that contain a URL, messages you’ve saved, or messages that contain a specific emoji using search results filters.
Dates and Times
- before: Use the pop-up to search for messages sent at a specific time.
- after: Use words like “week,” “month,” or “year.”
- on: or during: Use specific dates and range keywords, such as “Monday,” “February,” or “2023.”
Pro tip: To use specific dates, use the MM/DD/YYYY (United States) or YYYY/MM/DD (International) format.
11. Add notifications for keywords and phrases.
Managing a specific project? Trying to keep tabs on a department or activity? Adjusting your settings to enable custom notifications can be a huge time saver.
To get notified when a specific word or phrase is mentioned, start by selecting your name from the top left corner. Then, click “Preferences” from the drop-down menu. From there, select “Notifications” and scroll down to “My keywords.” In the text box, add words or phrases that you’d like to be notified about (making sure to separate them by commas).
12. Create naming conventions for channels.
Naming your channels in a way that’s simple and consistent helps you engage more users. No more sending an email, texts, AND Slack for every message. Instead, you’ll be able to trust that people on your team are seeing the content you need them to see.
To make this happen, make sure channel names are consistent with what your team already knows. Clever names and inside jokes can seem fun at first, but over time they can create confusion.
Instead, name channels for major departments and topics. Then, use Slack’s default prefixes as a guide when it’s time to add channels for new and more specific channels and sections.
For more productivity tips, check out this guide to being more productive.
More Slack Tips and Tricks
13. Toggle between statuses using /away or /active commands.
If you have to step away from your computer or head to a meeting, make it clear by adjusting your status. To quickly toggle between “away” and “active,” use the /away command.
For more quick commands, type /shortcuts to open the keyboard shortcuts panel.
14. React with a GIF.
Let’s face it: We all love GIFs. And thanks to the Giphy integration, you can share hilarious GIFs with your coworkers using the /giphy [emotion, word, or phrase] command.
To set up the Giphy app, visit this page. From here, all you’ll have to do is click “Install” next to your team name, then click “Add Giphy Integration.”
Note: Giphy can be a hit or miss. Sometimes the GIFs are NSFW or not quite right for the situation. But, if you don’t mind gambling with the results, this hack is easy to set up.
15. Create quick polls with emoji reactions.
Words are hard. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to let our coworkers know how we feel by reacting with an emoji. And on Slack, it’s easy. Simply hover over a message and select the smiley face icon with the plus sign to select an emoji.
Want to take things a step further? Reaction emojis make it really easy to quickly poll your team. Here’s a fun example:
16. Add text and link formatting to your Slack messages.
Want to call out text, make edits, display a link, or share code? Reference the following syntax:
- Slack link formatting: To share a link with a preview image, just send a URL in a message. Slack will automatically create a preview unless a user has their preview settings turned off.
- Emphasis: To create bold text, surround your word or phrase with *asterisks.* To italicize text, place _underscores_ around a section.
- Strikethrough: To strike out certain words, use ~tilde~ to surround the text.
- Lists: To create lists, select “Shift” + “Enter” to add a new line. To add bullet points, select Opt+8 (Mac) or Alt+0149 (PC).
- Insert a paragraph break: If you want to break up words without using a list, use a soft return. Instead of hitting enter at the end of a sentence, which will send the message, hold shift and tap the enter key to start a new line.
- Blockquotes: To add angle brackets at the start of your message for indents and quotes, type “>” to indent a single line.
17. Edit messages you’ve already sent.
We’ve all said things we wish we could take back. And with Slack, you can — kinda. To quickly edit a message you’ve sent in a conversation, press the ↑ arrow key, edit your message, then press “Enter.”
This feature is especially useful when you do something terribly embarrassing, like use the wrong form of “their”:
18. Customize your Slack theme.
Whether you use Slack for different groups and want to stay organized, or you just want to personalize the look and feel of your account, you can adjust your theme by selecting your name in the top left corner.
From the drop-down menu next to your name, select “Preferences” > “Themes.” From here, you can explore and select themes or scroll down to “Custom Theme” to put in your own HTML color values.
19. Create your own emoji.
To get started, click the emoji icon in any Slack chat window. Then, click the “Add Emoji” button on the bottom left-hand side.
Fill out the form to create your custom emoji. First, you’ll need to upload an emoji image. Then, provide a name for the icon — this is what you will enter to display the emoji.
Slack asks that you use a square image no larger than 128px in width or height, with a file size smaller than 64K. To remove the background from the image (as seen in the Ryan Gosling example below), check out this tutorial.
20. Pull swatches using HTML color codes.
Collaborating with another team member on a design project? Make quick color suggestions using HTML color codes. When you type out a code — #F7761F, for example — you’ll see a tiny swatch appear, like this:
21. Shake it off with a shruggie.
Don’t know the answer? Made a little mistake? Need to signal to your coworker that you actually have no idea what’s going on at this meeting? Send ’em a shruggie.
Serving as the “default Internet feeling,” a shruggie will say everything you need to say without saying anything at all. To pull it up, enter the /shrug command.
22. Update your profile to show when you’re OOO.
Whether you’re OOO on vacation or out on parental leave, you can signal this to your coworkers by adjusting your status on Slack.
To edit your status, click your profile in the top right corner. Then, click the “Set a Status” button to choose a status option or create a unique status with the “What’s your status?” box at the top. Select your status, then click “Save.” This will open a second pop-up window where you can set the timing for your status. Click “Save” again, and you’re all set.
23. Use the /collapse and /expand commands to open and close files.
Weeding your way through a sea of GIFs to get to the comment you’re looking for? You can collapse all inline images and video by using the /collapse command.
When you need to reference the visuals again, simply enter /expand to make them reappear.
24. Try /mute to limit distractions.
Maybe you’re new and want to learn about a department, but don’t need to participate. Maybe you’re curious about a new channel, but aren’t sure how much time you’ll have to join the conversation. To update your channels so you have easy access but don’t get distracted by constant notifications, mute the channel.
To mute, click on the channel name. Then, click on the “Get Notifications” button in the center at the top of the pop-up. Scroll down and select “Mute channel.” You can also type /mute to silence a channel or DM, or type /unmute to activate it again.
25. Play games on Slack for remote team building.
Games and icebreakers are a way to bring members of a team together. They can help people loosen up, preparing them for creativity and collaboration. You can use apps like Polly to create trivia games or other apps to play chess, rock-paper-scissors, and more.
Want to learn more about Slack?
When the HubSpot team first made the switch to Slack, it was hard to get used to. But once we got more comfortable with the platform, we started to realize just how powerful it really is.
The more we used Slack, the better our discoveries got — GIFs, reminders, files — they were all just a click or two away.
We hope the 25 handy Slack tips above help you make your conversations more productive, efficient, and fun too.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.