If you're on a Galaxy Fold, consider unfolding your phone or viewing it in full screen to best optimize your experience.
Slack is a leader in the business communications market, and for good reason. The solution went largely unrivaled for years, and it has therefore been able to secure itself as a powerful messaging app that delights any type of user.
“I’ve just Slacked you the draft for the final project, let me know when you’ve had a chance to look it over!”
That’s the most recent message I sent on Slack today. When I started writing this review, I took a step back to think about how much Slack has permeated my everyday life.
Not only do I regularly verbify the product, but I rely on it for multiple daily tasks. And integrating it into my workflow was so easy that I didn’t really notice how much I have come to depend on it.
I currently use several Slack workspaces. It’s my go-to for communicating with almost all my clients, both via messaging and remote meetings; arranging a friend’s surprise birthday party; keeping in touch with old colleagues; and chatting with my best friend during the day.
Herein lies the beauty of Slack: It’s rare to come across a piece of software designed so intuitively that it fulfills many different and unique user needs. Large corporations, individual users, and everyone in between can benefit from what Slack has to offer.
But what features, exactly, does Slack offer, and how much is all this seamless, intuitive communication going to cost? Below, I’ll go through Slack’s features, pricing, benefits, and more. Only you can decide whether it’s the right communications software choice for your business.
Slack has no typical user. It can be used by anyone: freelancers, large enterprises, nonprofits, and even the guys over at NASA.
Slack is essentially a massive chat room with other innovative collaboration features. It helps reduce the email burden by allowing users to connect in real time via private and group messages. For that reason, it really is an all-rounder in terms of the types of users it can serve well.
Whether you’re looking for a tool to help with project planning, a way to improve team communication, or a platform that can act as a remote tool to connect colleagues, Slack’s versatility has you covered.
Let’s take a closer look at some of Slack’s main features.
Slack’s messaging functionality is the main attraction. Users can send direct messages to one another, create group chats, or create a “channel” for a specific purpose.
One-on-one and group chats are straightforward enough, even for those with little experience of messaging apps. Slack’s channels, however, are much more than just expanded group chats.
Channels are created with a specific discussion point or purpose in mind, have their own access rules, and can be public (available for anyone to join) or private (invite-only).
Channel names are always designated with a hashtag, and can be utilized for discussing anything from specific projects, clients, or workstreams to #vacationtips and #pets.
Slack also has shared channel functionality, which enables separate organizations to collaborate via a common Slack channel.
This is a useful feature for businesses that regularly work with outside entities; it offers collaborators a shared space for communication, instead of forcing team members to reconcile siloed conversations from emails, phone calls, and meetings.
Threads are lists of messages that sit underneath an initial, or “parent,” message. In essence, they allow users to reply directly to a specific message in a chat, and are kept organized in a separate “sub conversation” on a right-hand sidebar. This has the benefit of not cluttering the view or distracting users from the main discussion.
Slack voice and video calls are a core part of its offering.
Voice and video calls in Slack are easy to start -- users simply search for the person they want to call, and within that conversation, they’ll find a telephone symbol at the top left-hand side of the window.
The person receiving a call will see a small black box appear on their screen that tells them who’s calling; green and red buttons allow the receiver to accept or decline the call.
However, Slack’s video and voice call feature isn’t the most robust: I’ve had plenty of Slack calls that were patchy and slow to connect. Plus, you can call only other users within your Slack workspace.
The commands feature helps you quickly enable other Slack features. Commands work by typing the forward slash key in the message field, typing a command, and hitting Enter.
For example, in the following image, typing “/mute random” mutes the #random channel.
Typing “/” in the message field automatically brings up a list of Slack commands for you to choose from.
If you need to search for a specific message or file but don’t know where to begin, Slack’s advanced search function can filter your searches to find the most relevant information. You can search for the person who sent the message or file, focus on a specific date range, or confine your search to specific channels.
You can also use assisted search modifiers to narrow the field further. Below are a few examples of common Slack search modifiers. Simply enter one of these into the search bar at the top of the client:
to:[channel or username]
in:[channel or username]
Similar to commands, Slack shortcuts can be real time-savers. It lets you tend to peripheral tasks while still working directly in the app.
Clicking the lightning bolt to the left of the message field will bring up a list of the Slack shortcuts available. The more apps you integrate with Slack, the more shortcuts you’ll have at hand.
I’m a longtime user of Slack, but I’m still finding new ways the software can be customized to suit my needs. Though it would be impossible to list all the ways the platform can be personalized, here are a few of the most useful:
One of Slack’s main draws is its simplicity. The desktop interface is divided into three main components:
Everything you need to access is neatly organized and accessible in streams within the sidebar. Plus, there’s no need to dig around for anything: The toolbar at the very top of the client allows you to search for keywords and lets you choose whether you search in a channel, a direct message, or “From anyone on Slack.”
Users can add up to 10 app integrations using the free version of Slack, while the paid versions allow as many app integrations as you’d like. Slack integrates with more than 2000 different apps, meaning users can access many of their everyday apps within the platform.
Slack is available for desktops (including a Slack app for Mac) and tablets, iOS and Android. It’s incredibly easy for nontechnical users to set up and comes with almost no learning curve.
There are three different Slack pricing tiers, plus a free version.
Though Slack can get expensive and is priced higher than most of its competitors, its tiered prices align well with the features on offer.
This is where Slack falls somewhat short. Despite its massive user base, Slack doesn’t offer customer support via telephone. This is disappointing, especially when users are paying a premium rate for the solution.
I reached out to Slack via their Live Chat tool. First I asked them whether they offered telephone support; later I asked via a new Live Chat what level of customer support Slack offers with each plan.
I received a quick response both times, and was told that on all plans, ticketed (e-mail based) support, via the command “/feedback” within Slack and via email to [email protected], is available. Paid plans come with Live Chat support service from 2 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Time, as well as 24-hour response to email inquiries, with a four-hour first response time.
Beyond this, Slack’s Help Center provides a host of troubleshooting articles. These are all very detailed, while simple enough to guide users through solving issues or answering queries.
Slack’s main selling point is that it massively reduces communication and software system silos, allowing users to conduct a large majority of their daily tasks within one platform.
Slack allows you to hold continuous private and group conversations and share documents from any device at any time. Channels help users stay organized, and the platform is highly customizable and fun to use. It also has the advantage of being able to serve and support a variety of business needs.
For example, far from being just a chat room where colleagues can catch up, Slack’s channels can be utilized both as project planning tools and project communication management tools.
Slack had few real competitors when it launched in 2014. It used that huge head start to establish itself as the first choice for companies looking to enhance their communication strategies.
This also gave Slack the opportunity to build on an already solid product offering -- an intuitive user interface with both one-to-one and group messaging capabilities.
Slack has been built to make business communication feel effortless and to encourage workplace collaboration.
The fact that it integrates with so many different apps gives users the opportunity to work almost exclusively within one app to complete most tasks. In short, Slack is far more than just an instant messaging tool.
However, while Slack is a powerful and feature-rich tool, users must understand that its primary function is messaging.
It can support discussion and function as a place to review project communication plans, but the platform is not designed to replace a robust project management tool that offers workflows, shared calendars, and task scheduling and assignment.
Slack offers a free plan, but this plan lets you access only the 10,000 most recent messages, add only 10 app integrations, and restricts you to 5GB of file storage for uploads.
Yes. Slack offers a range of pricing plans that accommodate all types of businesses.
We're firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team. The Motley Fool has a Disclosure Policy. The Author and/or The Motley Fool may have an interest in companies mentioned.
The Ascent is a Motley Fool service that rates and reviews essential products for your everyday money matters.
Copyright © 2018 - 2022 The Ascent. All rights reserved.