A computer with the Slack logo.
Image: monticellllo/Adobe Stock

Slack is a cloud-based collaboration tool that aims to be the central platform through which teams communicate. Slack was originally designed as a type of email replacement that helped eliminate the confusion caused by long email chains often used by collaborating team members.

In recent years, it has expanded into far more than just an email replacement and now offers a full suite of collaboration tools. Slack offers various private and public channel options, so access can be customized for various members within an organization or project.

Team-wide messages can be posted on Slack public channels for all to see while private channels can be used to maintain the day-to-day communications needed for smaller sub-groups or individuals.

SEE: Here’s where you can find more of TechRepublic’s cheat sheets and smart person’s guides.

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Why Does Slack Matter?

Remote work and distributed teams have increased the complexity of communications, as small details usually communicated face-to-face must now be transformed into efficient digital interactions. Slack as a tool is designed for this exact purpose. It helps remote teams manage communications from the smallest detail to large company-wide announcements more easily and with far less clutter and confusion than competing methods.

Slack also puts an extreme focus on streamlining typical communications users may not even know can be streamlined.

For example, the common task of sending a link to an article via email has been streamlined in Slack to save time and reduce wasted bandwidth. When sending a link through email, the greeting and closing and the automatically added signature are extraneous (though polite) components when considering the purpose of this email, which is to send a link for the recipient to view.

Overall, the type of streamlined communications workflow offered by Slack is central to why it matters for modern teams with distributed work environments.

Slack pricing

Slack has one free plan and three paid tiers. Alongside a free trial for the Pro and Business+ plans, Slack offers a 30% discount for the first three months. It also offers steep discounts and deals for educational institutions and nonprofit organizations.

For qualifying educational institutions, Slack offers discounts of 85% from the annual price of the Plus and Business+ plans.

For nonprofit organizations, Slack offers free access to the Pro plan for teams with total users being 250 or fewer. Teams above that level receive an 85% discount. Nonprofit Business+ users receive an 85% discount compared to normal pricing regardless of users.


Slack’s Free plan is relatively limited compared to its paid tiers. For instance, message and file history is limited to 90 days, and users can add up to 10 integrations, whereas these features are unlimited for the paid plans. In addition, collaboration features like huddles and working with external users are limited to one-on-one only.


The Pro Plan is $7.25 per user per month when billed annually. For month-to-month, the rate is $8.75 per user. The Pro Plan offers unlimited messages and can use an unlimited number of integrations.

The Pro Plan also includes custom retention policies, user groups, Google Authentication and Apps for Domains sign-in, guest access, and a configurable email ingestion service.


For most midsize organizations, the Business+ plan should be adequate. Business+ costs $12.50 per user per month, billed annually, or $15 per user when billed monthly. The plan includes SAML-based single sign-on, compliance exports of message history, and real-time Active Directory sync.

Enterprise Grid

Slack’s Enterprise Grid plan, targeted toward organizations with between 500 and 500,000 employees, allows for unlimited workspaces and shared channels, enabling organizations to set up Slack in a way that better mirrors their organizational structure. Teams interested in the Enterprise Grid plan will need to contact Slack’s sales team for a custom quote.

Key features of Slack

Ease of use

Slack’s most important feature is its simplicity. That simplicity has contributed to Slack’s fast growth over the years and the company has been successful in not letting feature-creep complicate the overall usefulness of the app.

Team communication

Slack is a centralized hub for teams to communicate with each other via channels. These channels allow for group or private messaging, broadcasting availability of team members and reminders.

Video capabilities

While primarily a text-based communication tool, Slack has a video-chat feature. But keeping with its foundation of simplicity, this lightweight video service lacks the extended features of a service like Zoom, but that’s intentional.

Slack’s Huddles feature makes face-to-face communication quick and easy.
Image: Slack. Slack’s Huddles feature makes face-to-face communication quick and easy.

Slack’s video service allows for basic face-to-face communication when needed while also allowing screen-sharing and whiteboard capabilities. This includes the Huddles feature, which allows for audio-only communication right from Slack with only one click. Huddles are recorded and can be made available later to any users who are given access, which makes them useful for disseminating the information from meetings or training sessions.

Workflow automation

Slacks’s custom app feature allows for no-code ways to automate workflows. This feature known as Slack Workflows is available to Slack Pro, Business + and Enterprise paid plans. It allows users to create action-reaction workflows to automate a near limitless number of tasks. Other apps can even be brought into the workflow that is created for further customization.

Slack feature updates added in 2023

Slack is continually updating its platform to offer new features requested by users, and the Slack desktop clients receive regular updates and improvements to improve stability, function and security. Below are some of the recent additional features added or updated in the past year.

  • In Huddles, users can tap an icon at the top of the sidebar in mobile to view all active Huddles.
  • All clips shared in Slack now include a transcript preview
  • Paid plan users can now filter their unread messages based on sidebar selections.
  • Joining 30 channels automatically switches your sidebar to Unreads Only
  • DLP or Data Loss Prevention implemented for Slack Connect.
  • Copy and paste all contacts in a DM all at once.
  • Share Huddles screen on mobile now available.
  • Convert private channels to public.
  • Desktop app configurations can now be used to deploy Slack in your environment.

The Slack desktop app does not have a feature for automatic updates. This means users and teams will manually need to check for updates and install them to take advantage of any new features or changes. Since updates are needed for security reasons, it’s important that teams are aware of this and are instructed to regularly check for updates.

How to use Slack

Slack can run in practically any modern browser. Desktop applications are available for Windows, macOS and Linux. Mobile apps are available on Android and iOS. To use Slack means navigating its intuitive interface — broken into two main sections. These are the sidebar on the left and the main window. All of the channels you’ve been invited to are located in the sidebar along with your notifications and direct message threads.

SEE: Learn more about how to create and join a Slack workspace.

How to access the search bar

There is a simple search bar at the top of the Slack interface (Figure A). Next to the search bar are forward and back buttons that work just like a web browser’s back and forward buttons. You can navigate to previous sections using these buttons instead of clicking on them in the left sidebar.

SEE: Learn how to set up keyword alerts in Slack.

Figure A

Use the search bar to find messages, files, channels and people.
Image: Slack. Use the search bar to find messages, files, channels and people.

How to access and manage Slack channels

A main component of Slack is the use of channels. These are organizational groupings that include team members. For example, there can be a channel for marketing and a separate channel for accounting. Each one would include the team members relevant to the channel.

SEE: Learn more about how to edit your Slack channel’s name.

These are kept separate, although users can be invited to and be members of any channel. All channels are located in the left sidebar and listed under Channels (Figure B). By clicking on the down arrow next to the Channel text, you can add, manage or browse channels.

Figure B

Creating and joining Slack channels keeps communication organized.
Image: Slack. Creating and joining Slack channels keeps communication organized.

How to make and save Slack messages

Creating messages is easy in Slack. You can choose to either message individuals privately by DM or post the message to the channel.

Messaging within channels

In the left-hand sidebar, select a channel. The current public messages for that channel will show in the main window. Below this, there will be a text area for you to create your own message along with the standard tools for links, emojis and other messaging tools (Figure C).

Figure C

Sending a message in a channel streamlines communication and collaboration between team members.
Image: Slack. Sending a message in a channel streamlines communication and collaboration between team members.

You can also reply to any existing message. Hover over the message you want to reply to and select Reply In Thread.

When composing your message, pressing Enter will send the message. So if you need to start a new line in a message, press Shift + Enter.

All messages posted in channels are public and can be seen by everyone in that channel.

Sending private messages

Below the list of channels in the sidebar will be your current contacts or private conversations. Click on any of them to continue the conversation or create a new one.

SEE: Learn more about how to send private messages in Slack.

Alternatively, any person in any channel message can be messaged privately. Simply hover over their name and you will receive an option to message them. Click Message and a text area will appear with their name already in the “To” field. Sending them a message will make that conversation appear in your sidebar for fast access later.

Conversations with new and unread messages will have a dot appear next to the person or channel name.

Saving messages

Individual messages can be starred, similar to Gmail, in order to save them for easy future access. To do so, hover over the message you want to save and click the bookmark symbol between the share and more options icons on the menu (Figure D). This will save the conversation to the Saved Items section of Slack for later reference.

SEE: Learn how to follow messages in Slack.

Figure D: 

Saving messages helps to make sure you don’t lose track of important details or reminders.
Image: Slack. Saving messages helps to make sure you don’t lose track of important details or reminders.

How to integrate tools with Slack

Installing apps from within the Slack application is easy. From the app directory inside of Slack, search for the app by name, then click the Add to Slack button. Some apps may already be installed in your workplace, in which case Slack will ask you to connect your accounts at the install page.

For more how-tos on getting started with Slack, check out the links below.

Slack integrations


The Jira Cloud app for Slack allows users to subscribe to notifications on key issues and then easily dive deeper if they need to. This integration is popular for Agile product teams and allows users to easily track issues.

Google Calendar

Slack users can install the Google Calendar app right from within the Slack mobile or desktop versions. Once installed, a user’s Slack status updates immediately based on calendar entries. There are also tools to customize or limit notifications for privacy.


Slack offers deep integration with Slack; however, this app needs to be installed and configured by a Salesforce System administrator first. There is an included Slack setup assistant that walks admins through the process if needed to ensure all users have access.

The integration is compatible with Salesforce Lightning and Classic Experiences and supports Sales Cloud and Service Cloud.

Other popular slack integrations

As of 2023, Slack has built-in integrations with 2,400 of the world’s top productivity apps and tools. Among these are:

  • Developer tools such as Bitbucket, GitHub and IFTTT.
  • File storage services such as Google Drive, Box and Dropbox.
  • Project management tools such as Zendesk.
  • Social media platforms such as Twitter and Foursquare.
  • Human resources tools such as Workday.

Who is Slack Best for?

Practically any organization can use Slack. The free tier has no limitations on the number of users that can be added to a group. It retains and indexes the last 10,000 messages for search, file sharing is limited to a 5GB storage total, and it can utilize 10 third-party or custom apps. Because of this, Slack is a popular choice for small teams and businesses looking for a simple communication platform.

Remote teams and distributed or hybrid teams can also greatly benefit from adopting Slack into their workflows. This is especially true if those teams are already using one of the many productivity tools that Slack integrates with.

The main competitors to Slack

Microsoft Teams

The Microsoft Teams logo.
Image: Microsoft

The Microsoft Teams platform is the primary competitor against Slack. Teams goes beyond chat and video communication to include file sharing, automation tools and a centralized workspace. This enables project teams to access and collaborate on tasks within one platform. And with the addition of guest accounts and a free tier in 2018, Microsoft Teams is well-equipped to compete head-to-head with Slack’s freemium model.

For more information, check out our Microsoft Teams cheat sheet.


The Zoom logo.
Image: Zoom

The popular video conferencing software Zoom has added Zoom Chat to their software, which directly competes with some of Slack’s core features. This makes Zoom an alternative for those already on the platform who only need light chat features. Zoom Chat works similarly to Slack with search functions, granular admin controls and secure file-sharing.

For more information, check out our Zoom cheat sheet.


The Twist logo.
Image: Twist

Slack’s independent competitor Twist bills itself as a “communication tool for teams who believe there’s more to work than keeping up with group chat apps.” It has an intentionally minimalist approach, as it lacks an online status indicator. A free tier exists, with message retention limited to one month. The unlimited tier is available for $5 per user, per month.

See how Twist compares to our list of the best digital collaboration tools.