Introducing a dramatically upgraded Slack app toolkit

New platform features to simplify everyday work in a world of proliferating software

A person parts the curtains to enter the spotlight.
Image Credit: Josh Holinaty

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Our customers tell us every day that moving work from email to channels transforms how they work. Their conversations are organized, decisions are transparent, and working with dozens to hundreds of other apps is suddenly a lot simpler. There’s a distinct reason for the latter: Context switching between specialized tools means losing valuable time. But once those tools are integrated with Slack, team members can stay focused and productive because all the information they need is in one central place.

Twelve million people actively use Slack each day, and our developer community is a big reason for this high level of engagement. Consider this:

  • There are more than 1,800 apps in Slack’s App Directory, including tools from Atlassian, Google, Microsoft, SAP, Workday and Zoom, as well as Slack-first services like Guru, Lattice, Polly and Troops
  • Slack is a critical part of our customers’ internal workflows—more than 500,000 custom apps were used in a typical week during September 2019
  • Nearly 600,000 daily active registered developers are building on the Slack platform
  • Developers build on our open platform because it makes their products better—95% of Slack app users say apps in Slack make the parent software more valuable

At Spec, our conference dedicated to developers, we are debuting a host of improvements to increase what’s possible for building on top of Slack. Those include easier ways for users to discover apps, new features that unlock richer app experiences, and granular permissions for building more enterprise-friendly apps. Read on to see how the improvements will help your organization, or check out the developer-centric explanation on our Platform blog.

Apps in Slack get deeper and more interactive

Block Kit, our UI framework for building apps in Slack, has two new components that will bring more interactive, user-friendly experiences to life.

1. A new home tab for apps  

Soon apps will have the option of including new features in the app home. Developers can customize this view, enabling detailed displays and allowing users to interact with their apps through actions and buttons. For example, Google Calendar uses app home to display a user’s full schedule for the current day or any selected date in the future, and lets you accept/change meeting responses as well as join video calls directly.

2. Multistep modals: an improved way to display and collect information

Modals are windows that appear on top of the Slack interface. They’re a go-to tool for gathering data in forms or for displaying results and interactive choices to users. Developers can now display as many additional screens as needed for custom information and more complexity—a pleasant replacement for lengthy bot exchanges.

These multistep modal windows can string together previously complex workflows, like these examples from our partners:

  • Streak, a customer relationship management app, allows users to update, view and edit sales opportunities and pipeline status using drop-down and date-picking menus
  • Bridge, a learning management system, now offers users an easy way to search for and register for courses, all in Slack
  • Qualtrics, an experience management app, lets you customize, distribute and monitor advanced employee questionnaires in Slack

What these Block Kit updates mean for users: You can do more in Slack without having to switch windows or open additional apps. Plus, apps will be more intuitive to use.

What these Block Kit updates mean for developers: You can display more in-app content—delivering more structure to your workflows and more clarity for users.

Curious to learn more?

Dive deeper and get answers to your burning questions by joining our upcoming Slack Platform webinar series.

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Easier app discovery and installation

Developers put in the hard work of building valuable apps for Slack, but those apps need to be easy for anyone to discover, install and use for that value to be fully realized. To that effect, we’ll be launching two new avenues for app discovery soon.

1. Easily find and use apps installed on your workspace

We’re refreshing the way apps are displayed in Slack. The current list of apps you normally open from the sidebar will be transformed into a more visible and easy to find place listing all the apps installed on your workspace along with ways to discover more.

2. New ways to launch apps in Slack

We’re exposing app functionality in more places and contexts. While slash commands are an option for experienced users, we’re making it easy to launch an app action—simple shortcuts you can take with an app—from multiple places in Slack:

  1. Create a task, comment or follow up from any Slack message with a message action. This launched in 2018.
  2. A persistent actions menu, prominently displayed in the sidebar, will showcase popular actions, like Create a new task.
  3. Just like Workflow Builder today, you’ll soon be able to pin useful actions to channels.
  4. Actions will be searchable from the Quick Switcher. This way, if you want to “submit an IT request,” for example, you can quickly find the action without needing to know the name of the app.

What these discovery tools mean for users: It’ll be easier than ever to find apps that your organization has approved. Once an app is installed, you’ll be able to complete tasks with it in more ways than ever before.

What these discovery tools mean for developers: An increased audience for your apps and the ability to integrate your apps actions within the context of what a user is doing in Slack.

An improved permissions model for enterprise-grade apps

We’re creating a new permissions model—one that allows developers to ask for only what they need, while making it clear to enterprise admins and IT teams precisely why an app needs those specific rights.

Our new granular permissions have just entered into open beta, and they make clear what an app can see and do in your workspace.

Polly app requesting detailed permissions in Slack

We know it’s not always easy to understand what an app is requesting, or why. Apps that use new granular permissions will be able to ask for less information—just the minimal amount required—rather than a blanket set of scopes that might be more permissive than customers want or developers need.

What this means for users (especially Slack admins): It’ll soon be easier to get apps approved for use in a workspace, thanks to more rigorous and descriptive controls on precisely what data apps need to access.

What this means for developers: Increased transparency and control on what information your app requires to function and more enterprise-wide adoption.

More announcements of note

We’ve got a few more updates rolling out to help bring more of your work and tools into Slack.

  • For developers and admins: A new certification program is coming to the Slack developer community. Companies with specific needs for custom apps can feel confident in hiring and trusting developers who have completed the training necessary to get certified by Slack.
  • Our Workflow Builder, a no-code tool for automating tasks in Slack, has rolled out to all our paid customers.
  • A slew of apps are now available in shared channels, which means you can continue to streamline work when collaborating with outside organizations in Slack.
  • In March, we launched the Slack Platform Community (SPC), a global, volunteer-run organization for developers who are passionate about building the future of work on Slack. There are already chapters in more than 50 cities worldwide, from Kampala to Barcelona, Islamabad to Sydney, Vancouver to Sao Paulo.

For those of you who couldn’t make it to this year’s Spec conference, we’ll bring the content and workshops to various global locales on Nov. 12 at a distributed event called “Tiny Spec.” Check the SPC site to find an event near you. If there isn’t one, consider applying to lead a new chapter.

At Slack, we’re on a journey to transform the way people work, and we can’t wait to see what these new tools unlock for your team. To start building your own apps for Slack, and help your teams do more while cutting down on context switching, check out our planning and design guides on the Slack API site.

Curious about the tools you can start integrating with Slack today? Search for them in our ever-expanding App Directory.

 

 

Slack is the collaboration hub, where the right people are always in the loop and key information is always at their fingertips. Teamwork in Slack happens in channels — searchable conversations that keep work organized and teams better connected.