Team communication: give it some slack
Slack has grown a real fan base. Users of the cloud-based messaging app will swear by it and confidently declare “it’s the best.” It certainly does have a lot going for it. By using real-time messaging as its central means of communication, they have a huge advantage over systems still relying on email. It has a huge amount of features and functionality. You can customize and theme the application across your account(s) and devices (mobile, web and desktop). Make audio and video calls and set keyword notifications (very useful), among other things.
Slack is not without competition, nor potential sticking-points. Many of its ‘extra features’ are perceived as negative. Emojis, reacjis, GIF's and embedded images can create conversational clutter, for example. It can also be quite daunting when you first join. Slack is generally more expensive than its competition but for the right company, it’s worth every cent!
One of the most popular messaging apps
The team messaging tool with a dedicated following
Slack is a real time, cloud-based messaging tool which can be used on mobile, desktop, and web. You will therefore need an internet connection to use it. While Slack can be daunting when you first join, its core service is very simple. When you log in, you will see “channels” on the left-hand panel. If you click into one of the channels, you will see they operate as a relatively typical messaging system. Some channels require an invitation in order to join them. You will be able to see the entire message history, search the conversation and “@” people.
Slack has numerous features and customizable options. This can be really useful if you have multiple Slack accounts and devices. It helps you to quickly orientate yourself. You wouldn’t want to accidentally send your boss a GIF intended for a friend. GIFs are another big feature of Slack, along with emojis, reacjis (reaction emojis) and embedded images. Some people love this feature, some hate it. It depends on your company at the end of the day.
Slack is a practical alternative to the old internal email systems which can slow you down. You can receive message notifications to your phone and you’ll be able to quickly decipher whether it’s something you need to login and reply to. Gone are the days of reading an entire email just to realize you had been unnecessarily “CC’d”. You can also save time (and annoyance) by enabling and disabling notifications or selecting the “Do Not Disturb” option which silences all your notifications. You can schedule this to happen on certain days too (perhaps when you’re not working).
One of Slack’s best features is its keyword notifications. Say you make the word “meeting” one of your keywords, you will receive a notification anytime someone writes “meeting” in your channels. Slack releases regular updates. As of July 2019, the desktop app is now loading much quicker and calls can connect up to ten times faster. In August 2019, they introduced the ability to disconnect shared channels from external organizations. You can also now search for the people you work with and more.
Slack can be used for free but it will be limited in various ways. You are only able to make video and audio calls between two people. There is a restriction of 5GB of storage for the entire team. You are limited to only 10 integrations with 3rd party apps (of which there are over 1500 to choose from). You will also not be able to search through more than the last 10,000 messages. This may sound like a lot but if your team are regularly using emojis and GIFs, you’ll soon fill up your search quota.
Where can you run this program?
You can use Slack on either your mobile, desktop or the web. It is compatible with iOS and Android for mobile applications and Mac, Windows, and Linux as a desktop application. You can also use Slack using an Apple Watch. The Apple Watch allows you to send direct messages, reply (with basic functions) and see your mentions. Slack has even been made to work on a Super Nintendo but this was more for show than any practical purpose. Put simply, Slack is widely available and can work not only across different operating systems but a choice of devices as well.
Is there a better alternative?
In spite of Slack’s popularity, there are a few major deterrents for users. Its price is one of them. While you can use a free version, there are enough limitations to need an upgrade after too long. Upgrading means getting either the “standard”, “plus” or “enterprise grid.” Standard
is the cheapest but still much more expensive than many of its competitors. Compare this to Google Hangouts, Twist or Microsoft Teams and it can become harder to justify its shortcomings.
Slack has two big issues which it could easily resolve but chooses not to. By having emojis, reacjis, GIFs and embedded images, the messages quickly add up. This means the 10,000 searchable limit through conversations gets used up surprisingly fast. Besides which, does a work conversation require everyone’s emotional reaction? If your company has the time and energy to learn how to use Slack then it’s a great option. Otherwise, paying less and getting less can give you more.
Slack is highly optimizable and is packed full of features but you pay a premium for it. That would be completely fair enough, but efficient work requires quick and simple communication. Slack can become a bit too much like a playground for adults, without lots of internal rules and monitoring. If you don’t plan on using it for work, it could be the perfect platform. If you wish to use it for something between friends and work, it could be a great solution. The more practical features it has added the more fun it has become. This runs the danger of using company time trying to discourage what the application promotes!
Should you download it?
If you want a hassle-free and uncomplicated team messaging platform then don’t use Slack. The bottom line is it is too distracting, there is too much to learn for new members and its too expensive. Stick with something tried, tested and just a bit more grown-up like Microsoft Teams.
- Highly customizable
- Lots of features
- Well designed
- Compatible with multiple platforms
- Hard to learn