Slack For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon
You create as many Slack channels as you like. Each Slack channel requires a unique name. That is, you can’t create two #development channels within the same Slack workspace. Also, you’ll want to give your channels descriptive names.

For example, you don’t want to christen your company’s marketing channel #payroll. Put differently, there’s a big difference between can and should. When naming channels, common sense goes a long way.

Next, understand that Slack bans certain words in channel names. The following table lists Slack’s current reserved words by language.

Reserved Slack Words as of April 1, 2020
Language Forbidden Words
Brazilian Portuguese aquí, canais, canal, eu, general, geral, grupo, mí, todos
English archive, archived, archives, all, channel, channels, create, delete, deleted-channel, edit, everyone, general, group, groups, here, me, ms, slack, slackbot, today, you
French chaîne/chaine, général/general, groupe, ici, moi, tous
Spanish aquí, canal, general, grupo, mí, todos

If you attempt to create a Slack channel using one or more of the terms in the table above, you see the following message:

That name is already taken by a channel, username, or user group.

You can create a channel Slack, carefully avoid the terms referenced in the table above, and still receive a similar message. Check out the most updated list of reserved terms. You can also view banned Japanese symbols.

How to create your first public Slack channel

Now you know more about the concept of a Slack channel and some restrictions on names. It’s time to create a simple one. The following steps walk you through creating a public channel in your Slack workspace.

You learn how to create a basic channel below. In reality, though, you’ll want to put some thought into how you and others name and describe the channels in your workspace.

  1. Click on the plus icon next to Channels in the Slack sidebar.

    Slack displays the following window.

    create Slack channel Slack prompt for creating a new channel.
  2. Enter a name for your channel.

    Keep the following rules and suggestions in mind:

    • The current character minimum is 1; the maximum is 80.
    • Underscores are often used to separate words. For example, #marketing_team is a better channel name than #marketingteam.
    • You can’t use blank spaces and capital letters.
    • Slack will gently suggest adding an existing prefix to your channel to help organize it.
    • Remember that Slack restricts certain words.

      Brass tacks: As long as you adhere to Slack’s naming conventions, you can proceed to the next step.

  3. (Optional) Add a description to your channel.

    Ideally, the description illustrates the conversations that should take place here. In addition, the clearer the channel’s purpose, the less likely people are to post inappropriate messages in it.

  4. Ignore the Make private toggle.

    After all, we’re creating a private channel in this example.

    If Slack restricts you from creating a public channel, then it’s because someone with higher privileges has restricted people in your role from doing so.

  5. Click on the Create button.
  6. (Optional) Slack will next display a screen that allows you to send channel invitations to current workspace members and user groups.
Slack displays a pane like the one you see below.

adding members to new Slack channel Slack prompt for adding members to a new channel.

  • If you want to invite others, then do so. Then click on the green Done button when you’re finished.
  • If not, then click on the white Skip for now button. You can always add new members later.
After creating the new channel, Slack assigns a hashtag (#) to precede it. What’s more, Slack automatically adds you to the channel although you can easily leave it.

It’s best to be consistent when naming your channels. For example, say that channels containing helpful information at your organization start with #tips_, such as in #tips_slack.

To create a private channel, simply follow these with the exception of step number four: You’ll want to move the “Private toggle” to the right. It will then turn green. Beyond this, private channels operate in much the same way as their public brethren. Note, however, that Slack assigns private channels special icon. The following table shows the icons associated with different types of channels.
Slack Channel Icons and Descriptions
Type of Channel Icon Position Icon Description
Public (regular) Left Hashtag or number sign
Private (regular) Left Padlock
Multi-workspace Right Overlapping rings or circles
Shared Right Overlapping diamonds

Note that, depending on your type of channel, you may see more than one icon. That is, if you create a public shared channel, then you would see two icons: a padlock icon on the left and overlapping rings on the right.

If you’re comfortable with the programming language Python, then can you write scripts that automatically create as many channels as you like. That is, you need not create a bunch of channels individually. Say that you routinely need to create the same set of channels. This method can save you a great deal of time.

Tips for building an intelligent Slack channel structure

Slack won’t prevent you from misnaming channels or entering inaccurate descriptions of the purposes that you want them to serve. As a result, you’ll want to put some thought into how you structure channels in your workspace — and coach others to do the same. To this end, here’s some advice.

Regardless of the type of Slack channel that you create, each one should serve a different purpose. That’s the whole point of channels. Trying to shoehorn every type of workplace message, question, poll, or announcement into a single channel or two just doesn’t make sense. And forget cost, if that’s what you’re thinking; Slack charges by the user, not by the channel.

Defining each Slack channel’s purpose

The way in which you structure your Slack channels hinges upon many factors. Perhaps most important is the types of communication that take place within your organization. Think about what each channel’s purpose will be.

Large organizations typically create channels for #hr, #finance, #it, #development, and #marketing — and maybe multiple channels for each function. Others have created an #ask_the_ceo channel that apes Reddit’s famous ask-me-anything (AMA) feature. An Italian restaurant won’t use this structure. Unless you work in education, you’re not likely to create many #homework channels. Again, your channels will depend on your organization’s and employees’ specific communication and collaboration needs.

A little forethought about how to structure the channels in your organization’s Slack workspace(s) will save you a good bit of time down the road. Beyond that, smart naming is less apt to confuse users — some of whom may not share your zeal for Slack. Constantly changing channel names and purposes is bound to wreak havoc throughout a firm.

Be wary of Slack channel overload, especially for new users. They may become confused, post information in incorrect channels, and/or eventually stop using Slack altogether. Here are some additional tips for making more of Slack.

Workspace Owners or Admins may want to create and promote a Slack channel dedicated to gathering all users’ request for new channels. Think of it as a meta-channel.

Adding Slack channel prefixes

If you’re thinking that adding dozens or even hundreds of channels can become hard to manage, you’re absolutely right. What’s more, if your colleagues create new channels willy-nilly, then your workspace’s channel structure will start to become confusing. It’s only a matter of time.

Fortunately, Slack channel prefixes can help in this regard. At a high level, they serve as internal guidelines for naming channels and help organize workspaces — especially large ones.

Slack provides a number of predefined prefixes, but you can create your own. By adding a set of standard prefixes such as help, team, news, tips, or class, workspace members can keep channel names descriptive and consistent throughout the organization.

The number of available prefixes hinges on your Slack plan. Workspaces on the Free plan create a maximum of six. For organizations on premium plans, that number is 99.

To add a new channel prefix, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the main menu.
  2. From the drop-down menu, select Settings & Administration and then Workspace Settings.

    Slack displays a sub-menu on the immediate right.

  3. Select Customize “workspace name.”

    Slack launches a new window or tab in your default web browser.

  4. Click on the tab on the far right labeled Channel Prefixes.

    You see Slack’s predefined prefixes along with descriptions of them. If you want to delete an existing prefix, just click on the X icon to its right.

  5. Click on the Add Prefix button at the bottom of the page.

    Slack launches a new window.

  6. Enter a prefix with a maximum of ten characters.
  7. Enter a description that informs workspace members of how to use it.
  8. Click on the green Save button.

    Slack now lists your new channel prefix with the rest of them.

How to view basic Slack channel information

To see an overview of a particular Slack channel, follow these steps:
  1. Click on the channel in the bottom half of the sidebar.
  2. Click on the circled-i icon.
After doing this, Slack displays the channels’ Detail view, which are four icons in a new pane on the right-hand side:
  • Add: Invite others to a channel.
  • Find: Search for information in the channel. (You won’t find much material in a new channel, but that will change over time.)
  • Call: Hold a call with channel members.
  • More: Provides additional options to manage the channel.
Underneath the set of icons are collapsible elements:
  • About: Provides the channel’s current topic, description, creation date, and the name of the person who created it.
  • Members: View existing members and easily invite more.
  • Shortcuts: Create a channel-specific automation through Workflow Builder.
  • Pinned Items: Pin a specific message to the top of the channel to maximize its visibility.
  • Shared Files: Displays files that channel members have uploaded for others to view. You don’t need to scroll through dozens or hundreds of messages trying to find a file.
Note that Slack displays a number to the right of each item. As a result, you can quickly begin the process of absorbing information about the channel. Put all of these items together and you get something similar to what you see below.

Slack channel icons and containers Slack channel icons and containers.

New Slack channel members should review this information get a sense of what to expect from it. You don’t want to appear foolish in front of your new channel-mates.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Phil Simon is a frequent keynote speaker, dynamic trainer, recognized technology authority, and college professor-for-hire. He is the award-winning author of ten books, most recently Slack For Dummies and Zoom For Dummies. He consults organizations on matters related to communications, strategy, data, and technology. His contributions have appeared in The Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, and many other prominent media sites. He hosts the podcast Conversations About Collaboration.

This article can be found in the category: