Since 2013, Slack has been at the forefront of professional communication. Corporations, contractors, freelancers, and even some individual users all rely on Slack to send messages and share documents with individual users and groups across a variety of operating systems and devices. iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, and Linux users can all install Slack, although the Linux version is still in beta. Slack can be used from practically any device in the browser, too.
The basis of this communication happens in workspaces, to which administrators must invite team members, reducing the risk of spoofed emails and phishing attacks. Workspaces are further broken into channels, and users can send direct messages to other people. Because of this focus on teams, using Slack for multiple jobs, teams, or projects is more organized than it would be with other tools because users such as freelancers can simply sign into another workspace. However, communication with people outside the, team, such as vendors or business partners may be more difficult.
While Slack offers many of the same features as other communication tools, including Microsoft Teams and Discord, the user interface is streamlined and will be less intimidating for most users, making the tool more lightweight in comparison. Familiar functions such as adding attachments, using Emojis, mentioning users, and reacting to individual posts are available.
Text Formatting and Code Sharing
Slack also makes formatting text and sharing code easier than many communication platforms with shortcuts on the default messaging toolbar. Huddles are a unique collaboration feature to Slack, allowing participating users to voice chat, share screens, and draw on shared screens.
Pins and Bookmarks
Slack users can save important messages by pinning them to the top of the channel or adding external links as channel bookmarks, so no information ever becomes lost.
One of Slack’s strongest features may be its universal search bar, which is available on every page and efficiently combs through files and messages. Users can filter based on channel, chat partner, message sender, date, and even reactions from recipients. Power users will enjoy being able to employ those filters with powerful modifiers, similar to how users can change Google search queries if they know the right modifiers.
Integrations with Other Tools
Before subscribing, users should consider apps and integrations to upgrade their workspaces. Slack is compatible with products from Google, Microsoft, and Atlassian, such as Google Drive and Calendar, Outlook Calendar, OneDrive, and Trello that let users access information from the tool without leaving Slack (or vice versa). Other popular communication tools are available as integrations, too, including:
Finally, users can add various bots to keep informed without leaving their workspace. Figma/Figjam, Typeform, Lucidchart, Quip, Uptime, Canva, Rocketbook, The New York Times, and Azure Pipeline are all available as Slack integrations.
Free Versus Paid
The majority of Slack’s features are available without paying, and data is encrypted by default, but the free version does have limitations. Specifically, free workspaces only show up to 10,000 messages, which may not be an issue for smaller teams but could quickly become one for larger enterprises. Only Business+ and Enterprise Gold subscribers can export messages and apply user permissions to more than the #general channel. Additionally, users can only add 10 integrations without paying, which allows for unlimited integrations.
Free teams are also limited to one-on-one huddles, voice, and video calls, while these functions are open to more than two people on all of the premium tiers. Users will not be able to share their screens or audio or video clips directly from Slack without upgrading, either. Users who want to customize sections in their sidebar or utilize Slack’s workflow builder to automate routine tasks will also have to subscribe, as well those who want to let team members specify their pronouns in their profiles. Guest accounts and Slack Connect, both of which facilitate communication between users in different workspaces are limited to premium accounts, too.
Fortunately, upgrading starts at just $8 per user per month, and users should be aware that they upgrade their entire team, not individual accounts. Some smaller companies may need more than Slack offers for free but find the pricing scheme prohibitive.
Whether organizations stick to free Slack with a few invaluable integrations or upgrade for more features and support, they can create custom workspaces that allow them to focus on work and communication without distractions. Of course, the initial setup may take some time and trial and error. On the other hand, companies or users without specific needs other than an easy and straightforward way to communicate with other people may be able to
- Available on mobile (iOS, Android), desktop (Windows, macOS, Linux), and browser.
- Streamlined interface
- Universal search with advanced filtering
- Advanced text formatting and code displaying
- Integrations with other communication and productivity tools (Google Drive, Office 365, Zoom, etc.)
- Premium subscriptions include support for HIPAA compliance, data exportation for messages, OAuth with Google, and SAML-based SSOs.
- Free workspaces limited to 10,000 messages and 10 integrations
- Must upgrade to work with partners outside the workspace
- Must upgrade the entire team, not individual users
- Cannot set user pronouns in bio without upgrading