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 > Sidebar, and you’ll find this set of options:

Select the option for Unreads only 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 Unreads and starred conversations 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.


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

About Slack

Slack has transformed business communication. It's the leading channel-based messaging platform, used by millions to align their teams, unify their systems, and drive their businesses forward. Only Slack offers a secure, enterprise-grade environment that can scale with the largest companies in the world. It is a new layer of the business technology stack where people can work together more effectively, connect all their other software tools and services, and find the information they need to do their best work. Slack is where work happens.