How to use Slack: your quick start guide

Welcome to Slack — a messaging app for business. Slack transforms the way organizations communicate by bringing people together to work as one unified team. To help you get started, check out the video below for a quick tour, then read on for more details.

Tip: When you're ready for more, see our Slack 101 and video tutorials.


From the sidebar, you can access your conversations in Slack. You'll see a list of channels you've joined and your direct messages, notifications for specific conversations, and the option to compose new messages. 

List of channels, direct messages, and notifications in the left sidebar of Slack


Direct messages



In Slack, work comes together in dedicated spaces called channels. Channels bring the right people and information together for any project, topic, or team. Unlike email, discussions in channels are focused around specific topics, so you can join and leave them as needed.

Direct messages (DMs) allow for focused, one-off conversations that don't require an entire channel to weigh in. Use DMs for ad-hoc messages or tasks, like asking your manager a question, or coordinating a call with a teammate.

Notifications in Slack are different from email or other tools you may be used to — they’re designed to make it clear where you’re needed by showing you a badge if a teammate mentions you. When there's new activity, conversation names appear bold in the sidebar.

You can use the compose button to write and send a message to any conversation. Messages automatically save as drafts in the Drafts section of your sidebar until you’re ready to send them.


Channels are fundamental to working in Slack — they bring the right people and information together in one place, and make it possible to organize work around a common purpose.

A conversation in a Slack channel

Channel header

Messages & files

Emoji reactions

From the channel header, you can access details about the channel you're in. Click the channel name to see details like the channel topic and description, plus any added files. Use the other tabs to see who's in the channel and view other conversation settings.

Channels provide a dedicated space to write messages and add files. With everything related to a particular topic, project, or team in channels, you can scroll up to see the conversation history any time you open or join one.

Emoji reactions are a quick way to respond to any message in Slack. They're both fun and helpful for getting work done — a simple reaction can often replace the need for a follow-up message.

Message field

When working in Slack, you have a variety of messaging options available from the message field to help you communicate and connect with your team. 

A message written in the Slack message field





Format your messages to add a little clarity or pizzazz — bold the most important items, break out thoughts with bullet points, and more.

Use mentions to get the attention of specific people in a conversation, whether you need to ask for feedback or follow up on action items.

Add files to your messages to share important information alongside your team's discussions.

Unlike email, you can correct typos or mistakes after you send a message. You can also delete a message you’ve already sent if you need to start over.

Navigation bar

Use the navigation icons to go back and forth in your history (just like you would in a web browser) or view recent conversations, search for information, or get help with Slack. 

Top of Slack desktop app showing navigation icons and search bar




The history icons provide quick access to recently-viewed items. Use the left and right arrows to go back and forward in your history, or click the  clock icon for a list of your recent channels, DMs, search results, threads, and more.
Search your team’s conversation history in Slack to find the relevant messages, files, channels, and people you need to get work done.
Click the  question mark icon to the right of the search bar to access help and learning resources, or visit our Help Center from your browser.

Tip: Press Cmd K (Mac) or Ctrl K (Windows/Linux) and type the name of any channel or person to quickly jump to a conversation.

Learn more: For an in-depth look at using Slack, take our courses and test your knowledge to earn Slack Skills badges.