Simple sidebar tips for reducing distraction

Useful tips for getting the most from Slack's sidebar

minimize distractions
Every Slack team starts life with only two channels. Very quickly they develop more. And more. And then you wake up one day and OMGSOMANYCHANNELS. While having a healthy number of channels is good (the more specific and focussed the conversation, the better), it can also be distracting.

Some people find the grand overview useful — others, not so much. Here are just a few simple ways of filtering the busy hum of productivity in your sidebar.

 

First things first: Good Sidebar Hygiene

  • Star channels, groups or DMs and have them instantly rise to the top of the list.
  • Archive channels that aren’t being used any more. Dead channels are the flotsam and jetsam of the sidebar.
  • Leave channels if you don’t need to be there. Helps keep things focused.
  • Group channel names together to be found easily. Here at Slack, we use prefixes like feature_, ios_ or android_ to make the channel list quickly siftable.
  • Make sure your notifications are set at the right level. There’s nothing more daunting than a sidebar with the measles. Vaccinate yourself from that problem by having the bare minimum of notification words, switching your team to using @-mentions for users if mentioning people by name is problematic, and suppressing @channel mentions on a channel by channel basis.
  • Mute channels if you need to be in a channel, but find it too noisy. You can still be summoned into them with a notification if needs be, but otherwise, shhhhhh, little channel.

 

notification settings

 

The sidebar sweep

Now for the powerful magic.

In your user menu (top left on desktop), go to Preferences > Advanced Options, and you’ll find this pulldown:

 

preferences

 

Select the option for Hiding all channels, groups and DMs with no unread activity for instant peace. Channels will just pop up when someone speaks.

If you have and use starred channels, and often want to get to those even when there’s no new activity, choosing Hiding all channels etc., with unread activity, unless they are starred will make everything feel a lot more manageable. Like this:

 

sidebar comparison

 

Side note: This is a power move, and can get disorienting fast if you’re used to navigating channels with your mouse. The “Quick Switcher” is the fastest way to get around when channels are hidden. Press ⌘+K, (Ctrl+K on windows; or ⌘+T as an alternative in the Mac desktop app) to reach new channels or conversations. Or move back and forth through your channel history with cmd+[ or cmd+] on Mac, alt+left/right arrows on Windows.

Ta-da!


Is there a collection of tips you’d like to see? Let us know on twitter (we’re @SlackHQ), or drop us a note at stories@slack.com

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.