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Meet Slack, a chat tool with collaboration talent to spare

Laura Blackwell | Dec. 13, 2013
Save your team from the chaotic mishmash of email, chat, and other discrete communication tools. Slack's file sharing and its ability to integrate cloud services make sharing information much easier.

Slack's search and file handling are among its finest features. For instance, it's easy to attach a file to a message and maintain control of its accessibility. If that message is to Slackbot, the file remains private. If the message goes to a co-worker, only you two can see it. If you send it to a channel, anyone invited to the channel can see it.

I like shooting off quick messages in Slack, but its spellcheck makes it appropriate for paragraphs and longer conversations as well. A co-worker filed stories to me in Slack, and we enjoyed the ease of uploading, locating, and discussing the docs and screenshots in one place.

You can't accidentally delete a Slack message, because you can't delete the messages at all. That's good for project tracking, not so good for gossiping about your co-workers (not that you should be doing that anyway). However, you can delete files or move them to an integrated service, so don't worry about clogging Slack with outdated files.

Slack integrates with a number of popular services--over two dozen at this point, with more in the works--such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Twitter. Many of them, such as Bitbucket and Github, appeal particularly to development teams. You can also build simple custom commands with the Slash Commands integration.

The bot's no Einstein, but it's no slacker, either

Slack also makes asking for help a seamless part of the experience. If you have a question about a feature, you don't have to leave a conversation. You can just ask Slackbot from a new line. For instance, to get help about search, you hit return and type "/help search". The "/help" command sends your message to Slackbot.

Tiny Speck is the first to tell you that Slackbot is no rocket scientist. If Slackbot doesn't have the answer, you can open a help page from within Slack or message "/feedback" from the text bar to reach Slack's support staff. In my experience, answers usually came back within minutes, and the responses were always friendly and on-point. As nice as the people are, I would prefer to have searchable help as well.

Conversations with Slackbot are a good place to ask the bot to remind you of something, such as "/remind me in 2 days to turn in my expense report" or "/remind me in 30 minutes to eat something." At default settings, the reminder pops up with a sound cue. If you miss the popup, you'll still get a note in your conversation thread.

Cut yourself some Slack

It's no surprise that Slack is so surprising. Tiny Speck developed Slack while running innovative, offbeat MMO Glitch, which closed a year ago this week. Glitch itself was the spiritual successor of Game Neverending, which spawned Flickr. Imagination and elegant simplicity are part of Slack's pedigree.

 

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