Understanding Discord — Channels and Categories
The main part of any Discord server is its channels. This is where members interact with each other and most likely where you will share important information with your community. However, the contents of channels are not just text or voice. You can use text channels to share your favorite music video, share cute pet photos, or upload files and documents. Through voice channels members can share their desktop for others to view, stream or watch others stream games, and even have video conferences. Channels play the most important part in any server, so in this article I will explain how to create and set up channels, the different types of channels, and how to manage them using categories.
Disclaimer: This article is aimed at the PC/Mac version of Discord.
Categories and Channels are very closely related to each other however they do very different things. Let’s take a closer look at what each one does.
- Channel — The place where users interact with each other through text or voice chat. Also often used to share information with the entire server in the form of announcements or community guidelines.
- Category — Used to organize Channels into sections that users can collapse and expand in their Discord client. Categories allow you to manage multiple channels’ permissions at the same time via the Category Settings. Permissions commonly associated with roles but setting them in a category or channel is known as a Permission Overwrite, which I will cover in a future article.
To be able to manage both Channels and Categories, a user must have the Manage Channels permission. The owner of a server and any users with a role giving them Administrator implicitly have this permission. Below is a labelled view of the Channel and Category sidebar where users will be mostly navigating through when using your server.
- The Create Channel button that creates a new channel under a category. This Channel’s Permission Overwrites will be synced to its Category’s by default.
- A Category.
Left — Arrow indicating whether the Category is collapsed or expanded in your local Discord client; Right — Category’s name.
- A Channel.
Left — Symbol indicating the type of Channel, discussed later in this article; Right — followed by the Channel’s name.
- Left — Create Invite button; Right — Edit Channel button.
With this basic knowledge we can now get to making our first channel. For this I have once again grabbed my test server to show how to make channels and categories.
Creating your first channel
When you first create a server, it will have a set of default channels and categories. There are three ways you can create a new channel from here.
The first method is by left-clicking on your server name to access the drop-down Server Menu and then clicking on the Create Channel option. All channels created by this method will be placed at the top of the channel list and not in any Category. You should get a pop-up screen after clicking to Create Channel which I’ll explain after the next method of creating a channel.
The next method uses the plus sign (+) next to a category’s name which will create the new channel in that category and sync the channel settings to that category. Clicking on this will open the same pop-up that the Server Menu’s Create Channel did.
- Channel Type —Where you select the type of channel you want to make. Text and Voice are the common choices for any standard server. There are even more channel types that I will go into further detail on later in this article.
- Channel Name —Where you will enter the name of your channel. This isn’t permanent so don’t overthink it. Keep in mind that users will use channel names to determine their purpose before anything else. Text channels cannot have capital letters and spaces are replaced by dashes.
- Private Channel —How you can lock a channel behind a set of roles. Very handy for setting up staff channels as you can use this to easily lock the channels from all but your server staff roles. You can edit the role settings at any time via the Channel Settings which I will explain later in the article.
Once you have set everything on the pop-up window, you can click Create Channel and you are all done.
Finally, the last method of creating a channel is by cloning another. Cloning a channel will create a copy with the exact same settings as the original after allowing you to change the name. This is usually handy when creating multiple voice channels that have the same purpose.
To clone a channel, simple right-click the target channel, then select Clone Channel. You will get a pop-up asking you to give the cloned channel a name. Since channel names do not have to be unique, you can leave it as is or rename it. Once you have done so, click on Create Channel.
After creating a channel, you can move it around on your server by clicking and dragging it to a new location in the list. If you move the channel into a new category, you will sometimes be prompted by a pop-up screen asking you to “sync” or keep original permissions. A channel synced to a category will always have the same permissions as that category so long as the channel’s permissions are not manually changed. The pop-up appears when the channel you are moving was synced to the previous category and the permissions of the new category are different. Because you may not want the channel to have these new permissions, Discord gives you the choice to sync it to the new category or keep the old permissions. It’s always good to check a channel’s permissions via the channel setting before and after moving it.
Creating your first category
There is only one way to create categories in a server; and unlike channels, categories cannot be cloned. Left-click on your server name to get the drop-down Server Menu then click on the Create Category option. This will open the Create Category pop-up window as seen below.
- Category Name —Where you enter the name for your category. It can be edited at any time. It can contain capital letters, spaces, and even Unicode emojis (but not custom Discord emojis).
- Private Category — Just like with channels, how you can lock channels synced with this category behind a set of roles.
All newly created categories are placed at the bottom of your channel and category sidebar but can be moved by clicking and dragging just like with channels. The biggest difference is that categories cannot be placed within other categories as they are considered a top-level item on the sidebar. This also means you cannot sync settings from one category to another like you would sync a channel to a category.
Creating channels and categories is a simple process and can be done within moments. Managing their settings and general layout in the server will affect how users react when they first join your server. A well-organized server with properly named channels will have better member retention than one that has no order to it at all. One should try to keep general chat channels separate from important channels. Placing them in separate categories will help members, new and old, find the information they need. Naming these categories and channels with names that are descriptive is another way to ensure people know where to go.
For example, a channel that contains rules and information about the server you could call “Server Info”. Furthermore, you could place it under a category named “Important Channels” with other similar channels. You would want to set up this category to deny regular members the ability to Send Messages in it and double-check that all the channels in it are synced. You would then place a channel for regular conversation like #general under a category called General Channels.
Always test a new layout idea on a test server before implementing it on your own server to make sure it suits your needs.
Remember, redesigning an entire server once you have members is not as easy as planning your general layout before inviting people.
A closer look at Channels and Categories
Now that you know how to make channels and categories, let me show you some of the things you can do with them. I’ll explain the settings pages, show-off the different types of channels, and finally share some information on managing channels using categories.
Channel and Category Settings
Both channels and categories have similar looking setting pages with only a few minor differences or extra options. We’ll look at category settings first.
To get to the category settings simply right-click on a category’s name and click on Edit Category. This will bring you to the category settings page where you will find two tabs (Overview and Permissions), and the Delete Category button. Remember, deleting anything is a permanent action in Discord. There is no “undo”, so please be careful to not click on it unless you actually intend to delete the item.
In the context of categories, the Overview tab allows you to edit the category name. The Permissions tab is where you edit all role-related permissions on the category level. We will not be diving into this tab and the concept of Permissions Overwrites here due to the complexity that calls for its own article. We cover roles and permissions in our Roles and Permissions article.
Now, let’s look at what is available on the channel settings page. To get to your channel settings, you can either right-click a channel then select Edit Channel, or you can click the cogwheel next to a channel’s name to access the channel settings page.
A channel’s type (e.g. Text, Voice, etc) will determine what settings you see here. For a Text channel, you will see four tabs; Overview, Permissions, Invites, and Integration. Whereas, a Voice channel will not have the Integration tab and its Overview tab will look a bit different from a Text channel.
- Overview —Where you configure the main settings of the channel such as the channel name. The type of channel will dictate what other settings are on this page. For Text channels, this includes Slow mode, which limits how fast users can send messages, and toggles for marking the channel NSFW or as an Announcement channel if this setting is available for your server. For Voice channels, you can set the Bit Rate (quality) of the voice chat and set a user limit on how many users can connect to the channel at once.
- Permissions — Where you control how individual users and users in roles can interact with the channel (such as denying them the ability to see the channel at all). Again, we will cover this in a later article. Depending on the type of channel the permissions will look different as Text permissions do not apply to Voice channels and vice versa.
- Invites — Where you manage the invites that are set on the specific channel. From here you will see who made the invite, see the invite code, and delete the invite. A user joining through one of these invites will have that channel open by default if they have the correct permissions to access it.
- Integration— This is exclusive to Text channels. In this tab you can setup Webhooks, which is automated message sending from other applications, or manage Followed Server Channels.
Through channel and category settings you can control how members use your server. From who can send messages in a Text channel to how many people can connect to a Voice channel, and even controlling entire groups of channels with a category. Next, I’ll go over the different types of channels.
Types of channels
There are two main types of channels that all servers have, Text and Voice. Additionally, if you have set your server to be a Community Server you get access to the Announcement channel. Furthermore, through channel settings you can mark a channel as NSFW. I’ll go over each type and how to get them.
- Text — Where members of a server can send text-based messages. These channels can also have videos and images embedded in them and users can send files.
- Voice — Where members can talk over voice or video chat, share their screen, and stream games for other users to watch.
- NSFW — This is a special Text channel that will warning the user when they click into it for the first time. NSFW stands for “Not Safe For Work” and is generally meant to mean content that someone may not want the general public to see them looking at. This channel will make the user accept that they will be viewing potentially sensitive content before showing it to them. Going to a text channel’s settings page and toggling NSFW on the Overview tab will make a channel an NSFW channel.
- Announcement — These are special channels only available to Community servers. They are a Text channel just like any other, with the added difference that users can follow this channel and server owners/admins can publish messages sent in this channel. “Following” an Announcement channel means all published messages will be forwarded to the channel in your own server you set it to publish to. A case where you might want to follow another server’s Announcement channel is having a game developer’s news forward to a channel in your gaming community so that your members stay up to date with the game. “Publishing” in an Announcement channel is what forwards that message to all other channels that are following the channel. To gain access to this type of channel head over to your Server Settings and then Enable Community. After you have completed this process you can make a channel an Announcement channel just by going to a Text channel’s settings and toggling the Announcement setting on.
- Stage — Stage channels are exactly what their name implies, a voice channel that acts similar to a stage. Users who are not moderators are automatically muted upon joining the channel and have to request to speak. You can set roles or users to be moderators of the channel when you first create them or edit it in the permissions tab of the channel settings just like any other channel. The Manage Channels permission is used to determine if someone is a Moderator or not. Moderators can set the topic of the channel and manage requests to speak. Moderators are also automatically set as a speaker upon joining a Stage channel. Stage channels are only available to servers set to Community mode and they do not have the ability for streaming video.
A channel’s type affects what content will be available in that channel and how users will be able to use that channel. The majority of the channels in most servers will be Text channels, but this is highly dependent on the type of community.
Managing channels with categories
An important part of using categories is efficiently managing the channels in your server. Before the Discord developers made categories, server owners had to set up the permissions for each channel separately, and channels were just one long list in a server This made server setup quite a painful experience. Luckily, we have categories now, so let’s take a quick look at using them to more easily manage channels.
Previously, I briefly mentioned that channels can sync to the permissions of a category and that moving channels from one category to another can allow you to change that channel’s permission settings all together. The way you can achieve this is by heading into your category settings and then over to the Permissions tab. Anything you set on this tab will be applied to channels that are synced to the category. All channels that are created via the plus sign on a category will be automatically synced.
To see if a channel is synced to a category go to the channel’s settings and then click on the Permissions tab. Right above the list of roles on this page, you should see a black box that indicates if the channel is synced or not. If it is not synced, you will have a blue button that says “Sync Now”.
By using syncing, you are able to have a whole group of channels take on the exact same permission settings which can cut down on a lot of time when setting up a server or making any new channels in the future. This does not mean that a channel will always be synced to a category. There are cases where a channel might need to have separate settings from everything else in a category but using this method will help you manage your channel settings in most cases.
Final words of wisdom
Making Channels and Categories is an easy process, but they play a big part in a server. Creating a good layout for your server along with proper management via categories will save you a lot of time. Knowing how to navigate through the different settings allows for fine-tuning your channels to fit your needs and the needs of your community. Always make sure to first test your settings and layout in a test server as that is how you will learn what works for you.
If you haven’t already, we recommend reading our Roles & Permissions article that goes over all the settings related to setting up roles and the basics needed for working with permissions. It also includes a handy permissions list with an explanation of what each permission does. Once you’re done with that head over to the Permissions Overwrites article that goes in-depth on permission settings and levels along with a simple mute role setup.
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