Slack to Meet Your Needs

Slack can be a time saver or a time sucker if not managed well, but there are ways to use Slack beyond simple instant messaging! We want you to understand the basics of Slack functionality, tips for saving time using Slack, and customizing the tool to meet your needs and keep distractions manageable. 


What is a Channel? 

Channels are focused areas of conversation: public or private.

  • Public: conversations that are open to all colleagues within your workspace. Messages posted to public channels are searchable for everyone.
  • Private: conversations best used for sensitive or confidential topics. Private channels can be joined by invite only and the contents are visible and searchable only to the members in the channel. 

You can join public channels by selecting +Add Channels under the Channels section in the sidebar. Then select Browse Channels.

Messaging in Channels

You can send messages to the main channel feed OR within a channel. If you go to the upper right-hand corner of a person’s message, a menu bar will appear.

  • Reply in a thread to create a “mini sidebar” conversation within a channel
    • Tip: Threads are NOT private!
  • Add an emoji reaction to someone else’s message

Direct & Group Messages

Direct messages and group messages (DMs and group DMs) are useful for quick, private conversations between two or more team members. These conversations are visible and searchable only to you and the team members you DM. 

To start a direct message: click on the plus sign next to “Direct Messages” in your sidebar and type in the user’s name. You can send a DM to anyone that is on Slack!

Basic Notifications

  • Sidebar Notifications
    • Bolded channel names indicate unread activity
    • Red dots/numbers indicate mentions or mentions of set keywords
    • The pencil icon means you have an unsent draft message
    • You can find all mentions of you or reactions to your messages, responses to threads, keywords, and all DMs in one place at the top of the sidebar
  • @ Mentions
    • When you send a message with an @ mention, that person will be directly notified.

Time Savers

Search in Slack

Utilize the search bar at the top of your screen as an easy way to search inside an active channel. After you press enter on your search, you can add additional modifiers to narrow down your search. Options for narrowing down your search include adding the sender, which channels you want to search in, dates, files attached, and more. 

Keyboard Shortcuts

Click on the question mark located at the top of the screen and then the keyboard icon to gain access to the full list of keyboard shortcuts that are available in Slack. Common formatting shortcuts are available within Slack, but also many other functions to speed up your Slack navigation!

Make Slack Your Own!

Sidebar Subsections

  • Add subsections to your sidebar to organize channels by different groupings. Click on the Channels section, Create, and then Create New Section
  • Customize how your sections are listed by priority, alphabetically, or by recent activity

Customize Notifications

Tip: General notifications can be managed in your Preferences in Slack

  • Set notifications for specific channels or mute channels that are not as relevant to you
    • Click on the down arrow at the top of a channel page to customize notifications for individual channels
  • Use the keywords feature to create notifications for important phrases or words that matter to you. If any of your keywords or phrases are mentioned in a channel or a DM group that you’re a part of, Slack will send you a notification badge. 
    • Click on your profile, select Preferences and then scroll down to My Keywords to add in your words or phrases

Create a Custom Status

Set a custom status to indicate to others your availability. People will know if they can expect a response from you or not depending on if your status indicates if you're busy or out of office.

  • Use the recommended statuses from Slack or create your own- including an emoji of your choice!
  • Click on your profile and then Update Your Status 

Connect Google Calendar to Slack by going into the Apps section of your sidebar and linking your Google Calendar account. By connecting these accounts, Slack will automatically update your status to indicate that you are in a meeting or out of the office. 

Tip: You can receive calendar reminders through Slack to notify you of any upcoming events- get notifications as close as one minute before a meeting!

Saved Items

Save messages within channels or direct messages. These will then be routed to a Saved Item list at the top of your sidebar to revisit important conversations or messages without scrolling back through your feeds. 

  • Hover over a message and a menu to the right of the message will appear. Click the bookmark icon to add a message to your saved items.

Keeping Organized

Set Channel Topics

Keep channels relevant by setting a topic. At the top of any channel, next to the channel title, you can add a description for the purpose of the channel. This sets expectations for people to know what to use that channel for. 

Tip: Notice a recurring topic within an unrelated channel? Start your own channel to keep conversations focused and organized!

Pin Important Information

Pinning allows for easy access to important information in a channel. Pinned items are the same for everyone in the channel, unlike saved items that are only for you. 

  • Pin a message by hovering over the message. A menu to the right of the message will appear and you can then select the More Actions icon to pin the message.

Build Community

Slack is a great way to interact with many members of the College inside and outside of your team. Keeping in mind that Slack is still a professional platform, Slack has many non-work related channels to connect with colleagues on shared interests, hobbies, and more! Check out channels such as #emersonpets, #cliftonstrengths, #sports, or #whats-cookin.


  • One on One HR Support: Book a 30-minute one-on-one session to get individualized support for Slack. Come with any questions you may have and be ready to learn something new!
  • In-App Help: Click on the question mark icon in the upper right-hand corner to access quick in-app tips and user support. This section will also provide information on the latest features added to Slack. 
  • Online Help Center: Go to Slack’s online help center to access Slack’s full resources base or to be able to contact customer support. 
  • Emerson IT: Visit IT’s website for more information on Slack usage at Emerson. Feel free to submit a ticket to the Help Desk if you can’t find answers to your questions.
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