Day to day productivity is one thing. Having a long-term archive of institutional knowledge about your company is quite another. It means any new employee can dive into your organizational past and catch up in the future. But it’s not knowing where to look as much as it is about knowing how.
The basics of searching in Slack are pretty simple (most of us have the habit of typing in a box marked with a magnifying glass to find something by now), but there are a few deep-level shortcuts that can help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
For the more visual learners among you, we’ve already made an introductory video about searching in Slack, which contains some (but not all) of the higher-level search secrets. For the rest of you… read on.
Basic search modifiers
You can use quotation marks to hone your search for exact phrases, so while a search for: teddy bear will look for messages with teddy or bear in them, adding quotes to a search for: “teddy bear” will give you instances of only those two words next to each other in any message. Slack search does basic stemming, which is a fancy word for when you search for talk and Slack pulls up messages that contain the word talk but also ones that include talks, talking, and talked. You can use a * to denote a wildcard in a term, so a search for seren* will turn up messages that contain the words serene, serenity, serendipity, and serendipitous. If you want to exclude a word, just put a minus sign in front of it. So a search for: teddy -bear will give you a list of messages back that mention the word teddy but not the word bear.
Remember: search applies not just to messages, but any phrases mentioned in documents, tweets, or files you’ve integrated into your Slack team as well.
More advanced modifiers
If you remember which channel you saw something you’re trying to find, you can limit your searches to single channels. You can begin a search query with in:random to search only in the #random channel.
A bonus keystroke: if you’re viewing the #random channel on your desktop and you hit ⌘-f on a Mac (ctrl-f on other platforms), the search field will pre-populate with that modifier and you can add words to get the results you seek.
Adding to:@brianna in a search will locate every message directed to @brianna in Slack while from:@anca will uncover messages posted from @anca. If you’re sure it was a direct message you can also start a search with dm:@kwokmun and add more words to find exactly what you were looking for in any direct message from @kwokmun.
You can search for messages you have previously starred by adding has:star and messages with a URL in them with has:link. You can even search for a specific emoji used in a reaction by searching has::duck: and get a list of responses where people used it to react to a message.
On your desktop you can also filter search results to remove those added by bots and integrations (like imported tweets or Google docs). You can also limit searches to just channels visible in your channel list, or all channels.
You can limit the time range of your search results using a variety of modifiers — search before:, after:, on:, and during: followed by any time specifier. Time specifiers can be the specific words: today, yesterday, week, month, year, day of the week (Tue or Tuesday, Sun or Sunday, etc), month name (Feb or February, Apr or April, etc). You can also pick specific dates using the small calendar picker that appears in the Slack app.
If any of that sounds confusing, these examples should work:
on:today (searches only messages posted today)
before:June (searches everything, you guessed it, before June of the current year)
during:week (searches only since the previous Sunday)
after:2014 (search includes 2015 and beyond, ignores earlier messages)
On your desktop, you can filter your search results to just specific types of files, found in the handy drop-down in the All File Types menu.
On mobile you can perform the same searches using text modifiers. A search for type:pdf sales will search for the word sales only within uploaded PDFs. You can set the type modifier to all, file, post, email, snippet, image, zip, pdf, gdoc, google, gdraw, gpres, and gsheet. The modifier types: lets you list multiple file types (hint: no spaces), so a search for types:pdf,gdoc,post revenue report would look for the words revenue and report in any PDF, Google Document, or Slack Post.
Putting everything described above together, you can do some pretty advanced searches in Slack. Here are a handful of examples to get your ideas flowing.
“Show me every message I’ve posted recently that has an emoji reaction”
“I remember Shivani saying something about VR displays in #robotics or #gaming in the last month sometime”
from:@shivani VR in:robotics in:gaming during:month
“Before you joined our office, last year there was a discussion about Super Bowl Ads in #advertising and someone linked the best ones”
in:advertising before:2016 “super bowl” has:link
“Someone uploaded an amazing photo of Ari with his cat last summer”
to:ari cat* after:2015–06–21 before:2015–09–21 type:image
“How many tweets were sent to our company in this year?” (assuming a Twitter integration in a #tweet-mentions channel)
(use search result count as the answer)
Slack becomes a powerful tool the longer you use it within any organization, but getting information from the deepest archives is sometimes a challenge. We hope these examples and tips help you find exactly what you need, from anywhere, at any time. If you’re looking for even more information about searching, our Help Center article on searching is the best place to start.