Catching up on all things Spec

News and announcements from Slack’s first developer conference

Slack API
Slack API
May 23, 2018 · 5 min read

Spec, Slack’s first developer conference, wrapped up yesterday in San Francisco. We learned about new features that allow developers to build better, more integrated apps, we heard from industry leaders at places like Zendesk, HubSpot, and Asana about how they build products for specific roles, and had our very own engineers demonstrating ways of preparing your apps and APIs for security and scaling. If you couldn’t attend or catch our livestream, we wanted to recap all the major announcements for developers who work on Slack’s platform.

New releases

Yesterday we debuted Actions, which is a new way to create a follow-up directly from messages in Slack (read more in our comprehensive post). With Actions, you can add items to your task manager, send issues into bug trackers, and make requests to your IT team, all in a single click.

You can build apps and internal integrations using Actions today.

Last November, we announced a move towards a new OpenAPI 2.0 specification and yesterday we announced further updates to our full specs with plans for OpenAPI 3.0, which include:

  • AsyncAPI: A new kind of open API spec, similar to OpenAPI, that describes our Events API for the first time.
  • A JSON schema for the core events API event wrapper.
  • Ongoing development of an OpenAPI 3.0 spec of our Web API (we released OpenAPI 2.0 specs before, and now we’ll have both).

If you’re using a strongly typed language, you’d normally have to do a lot of work to set up your type system correctly. One of the biggest improvements is having JSON schemas describing the shape of events that flow in the Events API. If you’re a developer working on any kind of events API integration, it’s also helpful in that it lists out all the events for you, including all the scopes and token type requirements.

The future release of an OpenAPI 3.0 spec, alongside our OpenAPI 2.0 spec, means the latest and greatest tools to visualize documentation, auto-generate code, and set up mock servers will now work with our Web API open specs.

Brandon Keepers, Software Engineer at GitHub, shared the newest updates to GitHub’s app for Slack, which was the first workspace app (more on that below) in the Slack App Directory.

Some new features include:

  • New slash commands to open, close, or reopen issues and pull requests directly in Slack.
  • Previews for private links.
  • A shared open source repository of all the code used to build the GitHub app for Slack, so you can fork it for your own projects.

A preview of what’s on the horizon

Our new Slack Developer Tools app, coming soon, will bring a variety of helpful utilities to your Slack workspace to help you test and develop quickly, without having to leave Slack.

With the addition of these new tools, you’ll be able to:

  • Look up Slack API docs by keyword to get definitions and example usage instantly.
  • Test your builds by sending calls to the API and receive immediate JSON results in Slack.
  • “View source” on any message inside Slack to see how it was built, all by invoking a new Action that lets you inspect messages as a JSON payload from the API.

(Update: Thanks to your feedback, we’re bringing the benefits of workspace apps to existing bot tokens rather than require developers to upgrade to a new token type. Read more.)

Workspace apps are the new way to build apps inside Slack. And now, we’re building workspace apps designed to be deployable at both the workspace and organization level.

This means a new ease of deployment for your apps across both single workspaces as well as large organizations using multiple workspaces through our Enterprise Grid product. Slack admins can install your workspace app just once, then easily roll it out to their entire organization. This is especially powerful for internal integrations: you can build a custom app just for your company and work with your admin team to make it available for as many workspaces as you want.

You can join our Workspace Apps developer preview to help shape the future of these APIs, which are targeted for general availability this fall. See what’s coming on the road to release by visiting our public Trello board.

A preview of Block Kit’s stackable UI elements

To build great software, you need the tools and flexibility required to support your development process. That’s why we’re building Block Kit: a new UI framework for designing and building app interactions in Slack.

You can use it to display information in new, more dense ways in Slack, with full vertical control over which components go where — no UX designer required. And in the future, you’ll be able to use Block Kit to build apps using objects that span a variety of tasks knowledge workers deal with, like calendar events and files.

Block Kit will have a companion: a Block Kit Builder. It’s a live prototyping tool that lowers the barrier to understanding Block Kit and using it in your own app. This simple editor allows you to drag and drop “blocks” with a live preview to help visualize how your app works in Slack. The tool updates in real time, outputting JSON that makes it easy to grab the code you need. Interacting with a live preview means you can test out user interactions and easily understand what users will receive from the Slack API.

This first version of Block Kit Builder will sport a collection of stackable “blocks” that include basic formatting elements, like a divider that makes information easier to scan, an image block, text block, and inline images. And with interactive elements like a date picker, overflow menu, and more, you’re getting the whole kit and caboodle.

Another way to experience Spec

If you missed the livestream yesterday, don’t fret. We’ve put up a playlist of all the individual talks on YouTube, so you can watch anything that caught your eye on our full agenda of speaker presentations and panel discussions.

Join us for a live demo of Actions: We’ll introduce resources you can build on, walk you through the process of creating an app with custom actions, and answer all of your questions live.

Slack Platform Blog

Where you make work happen