Favorite Slack Features

Slack is a useful tool for communication, but there are a number of features that are easy to overlook.

In this post I am going to go over a number of features that I use in Slack each day at work. I bring these up because a number of my coworkers have indicated they do not currently use many of them.

Table of Contents


When I first log into Slack in the morning, I often get so many messages that it is easy to lose track of them. One way to make sure that I am not losing track of messages, is to set a reminder for the messages that I cannot reply to immediately.

I usually try to gauge how important the message is and leverage the current 20 minute, 1 hour, 3 hour, and Tomorrow defaults. This has greatly increased the number of accurate follow-ups that I have with people in the company. It also reduces stress around remembering to follow-up with people.

Since all reminders are put in the Slackbot or Later, you can review them all in one area and even mark them as complete or snooze them for later follow-up. This all seems like a minor thing, but can really help with organization of Slack follow-ups.

Schedule Messages

Sometimes you may be catching up on Slack messages after regular work hours. In these cases, you may not always want to send a reply immediately (as you may not want to risk disturbing your recipient). When I am in this situation, I tend to choose to schedule my message to be sent off later.

This also has a secondary advantage; if you schedule the message to send shortly after that person is generally in, then you have a higher chance of getting a response. As we all know, it can be difficult to remember to respond to the many messages that tend to greet us when we first log into Slack in the morning. See the above Reminders section for how to better deal with all those morning messages.

Pinned Messages

If you find yourself answering the same questions multiple times in a given channel, you can always pin a response to that question.

This basically allows you to create a simple FAQ or the channel. If you receive the question again, you can point folks to the pinned reply in the channel.

Utilize Your Personal Direct Message

Your personal Direct Message (DM) can be a versatile tool. I tend to use it for the following:

  1. Drafting detailed messages (such as announcements) that I plan to send out in other channels. That way I can draft detailed messages ahead of time without mistakenly sending them out too early.
  2. Creating a quick note to myself and then combining with a reminder to make sure I don't forget about a task (which I don't have time to log in a ticket or my TODO list). For example, if I have to leave for a personal appointment but have some important tasks I don't want to forget about, I can type a quick note to myself with a reminder.
  3. Sharing links or notes quickly between devices without spamming others.
  4. Double-checking how your current status appears to others.

Voice Communications

Though one usually communicates via text when using Slack, there are some options to communicate verbally within Slack. This is useful for conversations that will clearly be quicker when done verbally or in cases where you simply don't have time to type out the message.

The huddle feature of Slack is great for having a quick verbal conversation (video is also available) and getting into a huddle can be done very quickly and easily.

Also, sometimes if you are in a situation where you don't have time to type out a reply; Slack has an option where you can record an audio clip and send the clip for the other person to hear. Though I don't recommend using the audio clip feature too often, as these conversations aren’t easy to search for in the future, it can still be a useful tool when you are not in a position to reply via text.

Custom Sidebar Sections

When using Slack at an organization, you often end up being in a large number of Slack channels. In many cases, your organization's Slack workspace has evolved slowly and with few rules on the channel names. This can sometimes make locating channels difficult and also results in a messy Slack sidebar in general.

This is where custom sidebar sections come in handy. You can create custom sidebar sections (which conceptually are basically folders) that you then use to organize and group your channels. Custom sidebar sections are great for the following reasons:

  1. They can be folded up to reduce sidebar clutter. You can still get a notification in a folded sidebar section for any channels in the section, so folding them doesn't have a negative impact in that regard.
  2. You can put an icon next to the custom sidebar section text to further help quickly identify the specific section.
  3. Sections can be moved around on the sidebar to further help organize your sidebar.

NOTE: As of the time of writing, custom sidebar sections are currently only available for paid plans.

Update Your Status

This one may seem straight-forward, but it does take discipline to remember to keep your Slack status updated and accurate. It lets your coworkers know if you are currently available and if you are active or offline.

I personally feel you get the best results from setting your status when you do the following:

  1. Set an emoji which implies what activity you are currently engaged in. For instance, if you are away at a doctor's appointment, probably put up an emoji that reflects that. This will help coworkers quickly understand where you are without them even reading the related status text.
  2. When your status message is clear as to where you are and, if you are out of the office, when you will be back.
  3. Utilize the active/away functionality as it will indicate to your coworkers if you are even available to reply.

At the company where I work, your Slack status is generally considered the best place to look to see if someone is available or not.

Channel Guidelines/Naming Conventions

The company I work for adopted Slack early and with few rules. Because of this, there was no consistency in channel names. When there was a limited number of channels, this was not a big issue. However, once the number of channels grew, it became clear that not having any guidelines around channel names was a detriment.

When you don't have guidelines/naming conventions for your channels, you run into the following issues:

  1. The channel names do not provide consistent meaning to the user just by looking at the channel name. Instead, you need to open the channel to understand its purpose.
  2. By default, channels are ordered alphabetically, so if you do not have meaningful prefixes, then related channels will not be naturally grouped together (this goes for channels inside custom sidebar sections as well).
  3. The readability of channel names suffer. If you have a mix of channel names that use different word separators (or none at all), it actually seems to make it harder to find channels (because your brain is naturally looking for patterns).

In order to make this situation better at our company, a group of us came up with channel name recommendations which have some of the following features:

  1. A set of useful prefixes that help group related channels together.
  2. A set of useful suffixes which, in combination with the prefixes, give channel names additional meaning.
  3. A common word separator to use for channel names (e.g. only uses dashes as a word separator and not underscores). This may seem minor, but goes a long way for channel readability when you have a lot of them to scroll through.
  4. Channel names should always leverage the agreed-upon separator to separate words in a channel name, otherwise you end up with hard-to-read channel names (e.g. help-noc-support vs helpnocsupport).
  5. A pattern for organization, group, and team names within the channel names.

When you combine these all together, you get a much better experience when using Slack, because you can more quickly find the channel you need from your channel list as well as having a channel list that is more logically grouped.

The Slack article on this topic is a useful starting place for this discussion. In our case, we didn't use all the recommendations from that article, but it was a good starting point.

Slack Etiquette

The more you use Slack, the more you realize that there is an etiquette around its use. The Slack blog has a good article on this topic that I would invite all users of Slack to review. Even if you don't agree with everything in the article, you may still find some useful tips.

Disable Animations

For me personally, I find animated emoji and animated GIFs to be annoying when using Slack. Sometimes I find it to be really distracting if I am trying to read a detailed/important message that happens to have animated emoji nearby. Luckily, there is a fix for this, you can disable animations.

The downside to disabling animations is that you can miss the immediate impact/humor of some of the animated GIFs and emoji, but for me I am fine with that tradeoff.


As you can see, there are a number of Slack features that I put to use every day to help me be more efficient and reduce my stress level. If you are not currently using these features of Slack, I encourage you to do so as you might find many of the same benefits as I have found.