Slack Etiquette and Hacks

Guidelines to help you and your team cut through the noise

AHMAD ASSAF
May 14, 2018 · 9 min read
  • Make good use of the slack status: Make sure you use the slack status which will show a custom message and an icon to indicate what you are up to. There are a bunch of default statuses that can be used (Working form home, Vacationing, Sick, Working Remotely and In a meeting). Setting up a slack status is helpful in addition to personally notifying your team and manager of your status.
  • Praise publicly, criticise privately
  • Know the difference between @here and @channel: The @here command lets you grab the attention of team members in a channel who are currently active. The @channel command, on the other hand, will send a message to all team members of the channel, whether they are currently signed in and active or not.
  • Know when to handle things in person: “Slack can be a useful leveling ground for introverts and extroverts, making it easier to feel heard without getting out of your comfort zone. But when you’re having a discussion with many people at once, sometimes things can get a little confusing, or ideas and opinions can get lost in the shuffle”. Rather than continuing to go back and forth, quite often the best thing to do is take the conversation offline and regroup with the necessary people

While having a healthy number of channels is good (the more specific and focussed the conversation, the better), it can also be distracting.

Good Sidebar Hygiene 🚻

  • Star channels, groups or DMs and have them instantly rise to the top of the list.
  • Archive channels that aren’t being used any more. Dead channels are the flotsam and jetsam of the sidebar.
  • Leave channels if you don’t need to be there. Helps keep things focused.
  • Group channel names together to be found easily. Here at Slack, we use prefixes like feature_, team_ or product_ to make the channel list quickly siftable.
  • Make sure your notifications are set at the right level. There’s nothing more daunting than a sidebar with the measles. Vaccinate yourself from that problem by having the bare minimum of notification words, switching your team to using @-mentions for users if mentioning people by name is problematic, and suppressing @channel mentions on a channel by channel basis.
  • Mute channels if you need to be in a channel, but find it too noisy. You can still be summoned into them with a notification if needs be, but otherwise, shhhhhh, little channel
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The sidebar sweep Now for the powerful magic. In your user menu (top left on desktop), go to Preferences > Advanced Options, and you’ll find this pulldown:

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Slack Sidebar Preferences

Select the option for Hiding all channels, groups and DMs with no unread activity for instant peace. Channels will just pop up when someone speaks. If you have and use starred channels, and often want to get to those even when there’s no new activity, choosing Hiding all channels etc., with unread activity, unless they are starred will make everything feel a lot more manageable.

This is a power move, and can get disorienting fast if you’re used to navigating channels with your mouse. The “Quick Switcher” is the fastest way to get around when channels are hidden. Press ⌘+K, (Ctrl+K on windows; or ⌘+T as an alternative in the Mac desktop app) to reach new channels or conversations. Or move back and forth through your channel history with cmd+[ or cmd+] on Mac, alt+left/right arrows on Windows.

Tidy up the Feed

Image and link previews are part of the appeal of Slack, but if you’ve got particularly GIF-happy colleagues or there are a lot of links to wade through then your screen can get very busy very quickly. Type /collapse to hide all image previews in the current channel and /expand to bring them back.

There are a host of helpful commands that begin with the slash symbol — just type / in the message field to see them all pop up. Some of them may have been added by the people who set up your Slack channel, and any third-party plug-ins and add-ons will have similar commands of their own

Slack Hacks

If it’s not on Slack, did it really even happen? Use this automation to communicate your status with your team. After you set it up, whenever an event starts in Google Calendar, Zapier will update your status in Slack. That way, your team will know you’re AFK with no extra effort on your part. You can add this hack and read more about it here

Did You Know That You Can … 🤔

Choose Specific Words to Get Notifications for

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Slack will automatically notify you if someone tags you or mentions your name, but if you are working on a project that spans multiple Slack channels, you can set the service to notify you whenever certain keywords are mentioned.

To do this, click [Preferences] and then select [Notifications]. You can enter as many keywords as you like, and will receive a notification as well as a badge on the channel name when they are mentioned.

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One of the best built-in Slack commands is /remind You can set it to give you a personal reminder, or you can have it remind someone else on your Slack team about something they need to do.

For example, if they were borrowing your headphones for the day, you could tell Slack /remind @person to return my headphones at 4:00 And once 4 p.m. rolled around, they will receive a polite reminder from Slackbot

Missed that last question? Opening Recent Mentions in the Flexpane menu will give you one tidy list of every time someone has mentioned your name or one of your highlight words. Click recent ones to jump straight to the right point in the right conversation.

Every message, file and comment can be starred. While catching up, add stars to anything you need to reply to or take action on. You can then use the Flexpane menu to view a list of everything you’ve starred, ordered by time. PAF! Instant organization

Pressing the Up arrow key will let you edit your most recent message in whatever channel you’re in

Right-click on a time stamp, click on the options menu to the right, or (on mobile) long press to find the specific link for a specific message — you can bookmark this or drop it back into the channel, for example, enabling you to quickly remind your co-workers exactly what they’ve said in the past

Sometimes we find ourselves with questions that warrant the attention of everyone in a specific channel. You know, important things such as, “Does anyone have a stapler?” or “Who is free for lunch?”

Format Messages

Legibility matters, especially when you’re sharing a message that’s long than a sentence or two. If you want to emphasize a certain point, you can *bold it by using asterisks on each side of the word or phrase. You can italicize by using _underscores_ on each side of the word or phrase. You can also make lists within a message. Use the Shift + Enter you create a line break, then number the items or create bullet points with dashes. One of the most unknown formatting tips is that you can create block quotes by using the > symbol and a space before tying your sentence

Reference the following syntax:

  • 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 ~ 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).
  • Blockquotes: To add angle brackets at the start of your message for indents and quotes, type > to indent a single lines or >>> to indent multiple paragraphs.
  • Code blocks: To display a section as inline fixed-width text, use single backticks around the selected area. To create a block of pre-formatted, fixed-width text, use triple backticks.

Useful Shortcuts ! ⌨️

  • Command + , to open preferences
  • Command + . to expand/collapse the “Flexpane” (right sidebar)
  • Command + f to search
  • @ + tab to autocomplete a name
  • Command + u to upload a file
  • Shift + Enter to type on a new line
  • Shift + Command + M to view all of your mentions
  • Shift + Command + S to view all starred messages
  • Command + / for all of the keyboard shortcuts

Searching Slack “for Dummies” 🤦‍

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.

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  • in:channelname - Searches only the messages and/or files in a specific channel.
  • in:name - Searches your direct messages with a specific user.
  • 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.
  • has:link - Narrows your search to messages that contain a specific URL.
  • has:star - Pulls messages you’ve starred.
  • has::emojiname: - Searches messages that contain a specific emoji.
  • before: Use words like “yesterday” or “today.”
  • after: Use words like “week,” “month,” or “year.”
  • on: or during: Use specific dates and range keywords, such as “Monday,” “February,” or “2016.”

Pro tip: To use very specific dates, use the MM/DD/YYYY (United States) or YYYY/MM/DD (International) format.)

For more on searching in Slack, check out this resource.

Terminologies

  • Backscroll: The chat history of a channel. Reading through the history is referred to as “backscrolling”
  • Channel: A public place to chat.
  • Group: A private channel between 2 or more people. People can be invited and can leave groups.
  • DM: A private chat between two people, short for “direct message”. You can start group DMs, but those are discouraged see Use Private Groups Not Group DMs

Naming Guidelines

Start with the basics and add new channels around major topics:

  • departments (e.g. #design, #marketing, #sales, #finance, etc.)
  • office locations (e.g. #loc_london, #loc_sf, etc.)

Individual channels for regional offices or project teams are a great way to share relevant information and start conversations with the right people.

Next, consider using a set of standard prefixes to keep channel names organized and descriptive. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • dev_Ask questions or find information about engineering topics. Example: #dev_general, #dev_status
  • sales_Ask questions or find information about sales topics. Example: #sales_general, #sales_ideas
  • cs_Ask questions or find information about customer success topics. Example: #cs_general, #cs_ideas
  • marketing_Ask questions or find information about marketing topics. Example: #marketing_general, #marketing_ideas
  • team_A place for groups to coordinate team-related topics and activities. Example: #team_DISCO, #team_enigma
  • wg_A place foe workgroups to coordinate around certain specific issues Example: #wg_facebook, #wg_teamwiki
  • feature_ or project_For cross-functional teams working together. Example: #feature_integrations #project_bathtub

The main difference between a feature and project channels is that usually feature are long term product features while projects can be temporary exploration or a short-term feature

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