How to get the best out of Slack!

Get the best out of Slack
Slack has transformed the way how the workforce is/has been collaborating… It has been one of the top case studies for how AWS (Amazon Web Services) could be utilized and implemented to its full potential, be it Amazon EC2 instance or Amazon S3 instance along with implementing enterprise level security using Amazon VPC and IAM.
Thanks to the visionaries of Ex-Yahoo, for creating this world-class platform! And what exactly meant by Slack? Read through and see end of the article! ;)

While this all has been great, it was also criticized for it’s data storage being under their control (not a topic for us here though), what matters for us as an end-user?

How can we get the best out of Slack and run a day productive…?

The assumption to read through next set of items is we must be aware of basic UI interaction with Slack on how it functions, be it DM (direct message), or Channel (group of standard set of people for a purpose), or group message (ad-hoc group message), or few collaboration features. Familiar yourself as a first step from here if it’s not the case and then read-on…

Let’s see one by one…

1. Turn Slack into a personal secretary — Many of us use OneNote, Any.Do, Evernote and even the popular Todoist as standard apps to serve and remind us about the tasks and do a check about the progress. Turn your slack into a ‘reminder service’ just by hovering on the message, click horizontal ellipsis (which reads as More actions), choose “Remind me about this”… default options here are — 20 minutes, 1 hour, 3 hours, tomorrow and next week. If we need to see list of all reminders, type ‘/remind list’ and it will show pending and completed list as well. It also suggests deleting past reminders.

2. Mirror talk and self-notes — While dealing with important communication especially via email clients like outlook, general practice is to CC ourselves so that we don’t miss any action item and flag it. Can I do the same on Slack? What if slack allows to message myself? It would be wonderful isn’t it? Yes of course, it does — just type your name and you can talk to yourself with important notes and list of things that cannot be ignored. And club it with #1 discussed above to keep some reminders which are scheduled for a given day or even if you forget something… Ta-Da…

3. Search and do anything with shortcut keys — In case 2 above, what if the scenario is there are so many people on my DM list and it’s tough to navigate across my name and sometimes it doesn’t even appear (Slack automatically manages list of DM/channel groups based on preferences settings — we will cover it later). Here comes the savior for us — CTRL + K — use this shortcut to search any direct conversations, channel conversations etc. So powerful, isn’t it? And want to more shortcut keys — Just type /keys or /shortcuts or use the CTRL + / combination, the right pane will open every available shortcut under different type of categories — navigation, messaging, making calls, dealing with channels, DM’s, files and snippets… a lot more…

4. Integration with plethora of communication medium — True to the name of becoming a collaboration medium, Slack provides plugins for various other project management tools, file storage enterprise software, social platforms such as — JIRA, Asana, Dropbox, Google drive, Twitter, Trello… All of this makes the life simpler. Just imagine the simplicity of converting — one conversation on a technical solution over cross geographic participants can be turned into a JIRA story or you could easily upload a google drive document and notify it to the respective channel/group and get automatically notified about any edits/suggestions.

5. Available anywhere — The world of your slack instance is accessible across any device — be it as a desktop app on your Windows PC or Web interface using any browser or as a MS Store app on Tablet/Surface Notebook, as an Android app on smartphone or Mac store app on iPhone/iMac etc… It’s a single login available to access your information across any device. Just grab a device that’s comfortable based on the situation and start conversing/doing/finishing on an activity… Omnipresent just like prime video! :)

6. Bother (not) me even when I’m not mentioned — The default notification for Slack is, anyone if directly mentions my name, I get notified. But, what if I wanted to get notified for any Channel related conversations that I’m part of along with few other members? You can keep the default setting so it’s not bothering you for other messages. But it can be changed whenever you get a notification being part of any other channels or any other group DM’s. Go to preferences > Notifications > Use “All New Messages”. There is another tweak that can be applied here. See end of the article.

7. Tell Slack we’re (not) 24x7 — It would be annoying to get notifications on Slack if we install it on smart phone all the time, so turning the ‘Do not disturb’ mode is important and we can set automatic timings for this under Preferences > Do not disturb > Choose the timings from ‘Automatically disable notifications from: and to:’ timings. Use a simple command to turn do not disturb based on the need as well — type ‘/dnd until tomorrow’ — sets the DND mode until 9 AM tomorrow irrespective of the time now be it 2 pm or 3pm today. or use ‘/dnd until 4:30’ if we need a break for 2 hours from 2:30pm today.

Note that the latest setting always overrides prior setting.

8. Turn Slack into Presentation Mode — What if we want to show a decent technical conversation which has lot of architectural diagrams, use case explanation as part of the channel or a DM. We don’t need to re-work the same to turn into PPT or document. Just turn your Slack into full screen which almost serves as a presentation, just use CTRL + SHIFT + F. To bring back to normal screen just use the key combo once more.

9. Conduct polls and surveys — Slack provides myriad of choices to conduct either single question polls or multi question surveys using the integrated apps like Polly, Abot, Simple poll, Vibe Catch. Make use of these apps and invite the app to your channel and start imbibing, building bottom-up culture so teams feel they are considered valuable when it comes to decision making.

10. Jump to a specific date, Call and Screenshare — These features are particularly useful to jump on a given channel or DM to search specific date related contextual information [Use the settings rig and select Jump to date option]. To enable screenshare, we need to call a specific user or the whole channel, so it will place a call and then you can use audio/video/screen share settings once call has been placed.

11. Pin and don’t forget — It’s not uncommon that we tend to forget some daily important task related links or wiki or internal documentation or confluence related pages or even simple commands to apply on our terminal/Git. To alleviate the pain of such issue, use the ‘Pin to this conversation’ on the more actions (horizontal ellipsis) for any message. This will be like a long-term retention and use the ‘View pinned items’ on that conversation any time and we could just jump on that item. Voila! such a great feature, right?

12. Additional Tweaks for #3, #4 and #6

For #3, Suppose, we don’t want to search some channels, we can mention that in Preferences, “Search”, type the channel names under ‘Don’t search these channels’

For #4, If the app of GitHub has been installed on your slack working space, it’s directly possible for you to mention the GitHub ID/PR and then comment on it directly from Slack!

For #6, Suppose, we want — notify me only when a keyword that I’m interested is mentioned — Be notified only when specific keywords are used. Under the same section of Notifications, scroll down and see the ‘My Keywords’ section and set the notification option to ‘direct messages, mentions and keywords’. This way, you will be saved of so many conversations but if they contain a keyword that’s important, you will be notified.

Happy slacking (Slack — Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge — truly fulfilling its name and purpose) and have productive time ahead !!… :)