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How to send private messages and make calls in Slack

Chat one-to-one via text, audio or video

Illustration by Alex Castro / Th

Slack is a popular workplace instant-messaging tool. But that doesn’t mean it only has to be for work. You can use Slack for whatever you’d like — keeping up with friends, sharing recipes, organizing activities, and so on. Although Slack is largely intended for group collaboration, it also has tools if you just want to chat one-on-one with people.

There are a couple of different ways you can do that:

  • If you’ve recently sent a personal message to someone, you’ll find their name in the sidebar to the left under “Direct messages.” Type your message in the box at the bottom and press enter / return to send.
  • If the name is not in the sidebar, click the + next to “Direct messages.” Type in the name of the person you want to send a message to. As you type, the person’s name will come up in the results and you can click on it. Then select “Go.” Type your message in the box at the bottom and press enter / return to send.
  • If you’re on the redesigned version of Slack, you can start a message by clicking the pencil icon in the top left corner of the screen next to your workspace and username. Enter in the name of the person you want to send a message to in the bar at the top. Write the message in the box at the bottom of the screen and press enter or return to send.

Slack also has a built-in calling feature. On the free version, you can do voice and video calls, but only with one other person. If you have a subscription to one of Slack’s paid plans, you can also do group calls with up to 15 people and share your screen on a video call.

To start a call on Slack:

  • Open up a direct message or a channel
  • In the top-right corner, click on the phone icon
  • Click the camera icon to start video. If you’re on a paid plan, you can use the desktop icon to share your screen.
  • To add people to the call (if you’ve got a paid subscription, you can add more than one), click the icon with a person and a + in the top left corner of the screen. You can either type in their name, select the person you want to add and click “Invite,” or you can click “Copy link” at the bottom of the window to get a link to join the call.
  • By default, when you share your screen, others on the call can draw on your screen. To switch this feature off, click on the button with three pencils at the bottom of the screen. To draw on your own screen, click on the pencil icon.

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