Slack 101


What is Slack?

Slack line

You have heard about a flat rope to practice funambilism ? Well, not exactly ! For 3 years now, Slack has been sharply replacing email within small and middle size companies. That’s a revolutionnary instant messaging software that brings a clean and structured communication, privately or in groups. Slack fosters open management which centralizes and redistributes access to information. It’s available directly in your web browser or in Windows/ OSX/ Linux/ Android/ iOS/ Windows Phone apps.

Slack offers a wide range of useful fonctions in project management, including voice and video calls, message editing and more than 600 integrated websites or apps, including your daily ones. More importantly, it supports in-chat sharing, displaying and editing of multiple file types such as Microsoft Office files, Libre Office files, PDF, pictures, DropBox, Google Drive …


The chat box is very intuitive, easy to use and customizable. When you open Slack for the first time, you can create a group and invite people in it or join an existing group.

Why use Slack?

Slack’s major asset for improving your group interactions are channels. A channel is a discussion, created in a group to which you belong. Most of the time, the channel is named after the subject of the discussion it contains. For example you can imagine the group of a start-up Open Agora with the following channels:

Slack channels

There are two types of channels:

  • Public channels : All members of the team can join.
  • Private channels : The creator of the channel decides who can join and access among the team.

Each member of the project will be able to create or to join the interesting channels, making a selection of the discussions in which he wishes to participate. Let’s take Henley as an example: she is the financial director of a start-up that is about to become international.

Slack : example

She subscribed to the #general channel just like everyone else. And to the #administrative channel that contains main discussions about her work. Henley joined the #development channel when it is out of her scope. She has always been interested in development, but she has never had time to take a closer lookt at it.  So she started talking with Mika, the technical director. The channels to which Henley hasn’t subscribed remain transparent. She is not drowned in flood she doesn’t want to see.

Imagine Simon, a newcomer to Open Agora who will take care of international relations. You just have to invite Simon on the channels. He should be interested in so that he has access to all the meaningful discussions for his work. Simon will save valuable time for his new colleagues by reading the latest news from these conversations.

And all this … for free?

If you use Slack in a small team (4 to 20 people), you are very likely to be satisfied with the free version. It is accessible to all without time limit. But only the 10,000 most recent posts on your team will be stored. You will only be able to integrate 10 applications. However, for larger structures, there are more complete offers.

Slack has 3 offers that combine different types of features according to your needs:

Slack : prices

Slack quickly broke into the market for team messaging tools. But there are a few alternatives that might draw your attention:

  • Rocket Chat is an open source application that takes over the main functions of Slack. It allows self-hosting on a docker and the chat integration in multiple services like GitHub, GitLab, JIRA or Confluence.
  • Discord is a gaming-oriented application with many similar functions, including the #salons, Slack channel equivalent. I used it personally on a project and it perfectly fulfilled our expectations.
  • Mattermost which claims to be a Slack alternative, also offers a pricing at 3 levels. It differs from Slack Plus in its version “Enterprise E20” (Premium) by very advanced security and compliance functions.
  • Microsoft Teams is the newcomer in these alternatives. In beta-testing since October 2016, its V1.0 was released in March 2017. And we can say that it starts to make some noise. It has already conquered 3% of the market of collaborative chat apps in companies, situation worth watching !

This list is far from exhaustive. You can tell us about your latest discoveries in teams instant messaging tools in the comments.

Tricks & tips

If you are a new Slack user or if you’re planning to use it after reading this article, here are some tips that may be helpful:

  • Name your channels properly after the themes and sub-themes they deal with.
  • Slack is designed to improve your coordination and your group efforts. Do not let the application overwhelm you (in the same way as the mailbox). You must communicate when necessary.
  • Be consistent in the use of channels. It takes a bit of discipline to talk about the right subjects in the right places. Otherwise your Slack will lose its communications’ partitioning benefit.
  • Be curious ! Slack offers a lot of additional features and applications that you might find useful.

This article is intended to set the scene about Slack and give you the opportunity to become a seasoned user with the articles that will follow. If you want to discover what Slack can do for you, follow us on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed to be informed about our upcoming publications. We are already working on a Top of the Slack Required Applications and How to Code my own Slack Application?

We presented Slack and its diverse uses on April 11th at La French Tech Rennes. Here is our presentation (realized by Benoit Masson).


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