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How to organize your Slack channels

How to organize your Slack channels


Conversations in Slack can quickly get out of hand — so it’s a good idea to try to organize them to help keep track

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Phone with Slack logo against an illustrated background
Illustration by Samar Haddad / The Verge

If your workplace (or organization, or friends group, or whatever) is anything like mine, and you’ve used Slack for more than, say, a month, you have no doubt amassed a lot of channels (also known as conversations). This can result in a lot of scrolling — I mean, a lot of scrolling — to find the channel you want to use. You can also spend a lot of time trying to figure out which channels you need to pay attention to now and which ones you can save until later.

Luckily, there are several ways you can organize that long list of channels on the left side of your Slack app to make it at least somewhat easier to deal with. Unluckily, this is only available in paid versions of Slack. Normally, we try to only describe free features; but perhaps there are enough of our readers out there who are using Slack through their companies and organizations who might find these organizational features useful. And perhaps Slack might someday offer these features to the free accounts as well.

Star your favorites

Actually, there are two organizational tools available for free accounts. The first is the ability to star a channel you want to pay special attention to. Starred channels appear on top of your list of channels in a category called (of course) Starred.

On a computer, right-click on any of your channels and select Move To > Starred. In the mobile app, long-press on the channel and select Move to... > Starred. Once that’s done, you’ll see a new category above Channels called Starred, which — with all the conversations you’ve assigned to it — will now head all the others.

Lack side panel with drop down menu with “Star channel” highlighted
You can place important channels in a category called Starred.
Slack side panel with #current-chat moved to the Starred category.
Any starred channels will appear above the rest.

Mute unnecessary channels

You may have channels that you only use occasionally — one that handles IT questions, for example, or that is only active during a holiday season. In that case, you can mute the channel. This will gray out the names of the channels (but you’ll still see it bolded or numbered if there are notifications).

In the desktop app, right-click the channel name; in the mobile app, long-press the channel name. Then, in either case, select Mute channel.

All the rest of the features mentioned here are currently available for paid accounts only.

Create sections

You can create a variety of categories — known as sections — in order to organize all your channels. Any channels that you don’t categorize will stay in the existing section called Channels.

For example, I created a section called Priority for the channels I always have to pay attention to, one called Interesting for the channels I want to monitor but that aren’t vital to my work, and LowPri for the ones that I simply need to be aware of. Everything else stayed in the basic Channels section.

To create a new section (which you can only do using the desktop version):

  • Right-click on the channel you want to recategorize and click on or hover over Move channel.
  • Select Move to new section.
Popup windows called Create a sidebar section with a place to type in a name.
You can choose a name and an icon for your new section.
  • In the Create a sidebar section pop-up, type in a name for your new section; you can also select an emoji. Then tap Create.
  • Your new section will appear at the top of your list of channels. (Don’t worry, you can move it. Just click and hold the name of the section and move it where you want to in the list of sections.)

Move channels between sections

Once you’ve created your sections, you can move any of your channels to one of your new sections. For example, I moved my Priority section above the Interesting section and pushed LowPri to the bottom.

  • On the desktop, the easiest way is to just click and hold the channel name and then move it to the section you want it in. You can also right-click on the name, select Move channel, and then select the desired section.
  • On a mobile app, tap and hold the name of the channel. On the resulting pop-up menu, tap Move to... and then the name of the desired section.
Slack menu that with different section names.
You can move your channel to a different section or remove it so it goes back into the Channels section.

In either case, if you choose to simply remove it from its current section, the channel will simply go back to the main Channels section. It will not be deleted.

If you really want to keep things neat, you can hide all the channels in a specific section by clicking on the arrow symbol to the left of the channel name. So, if you’ve created a section for all the channels you use to socialize at work, you can hide them during working hours to keep yourself from getting sidetracked. If you have any new messages in any of those channels, the section name will be bolded.

Sort your channels

One advantage of using sections is that you can sort the channels within each section, which can also help you more easily track all those conversations. And it’s easy to do.

Slack menu showing three ways to sort channels within each section.
You can sort your channels by recent activity, alphabetically, or by how often you use them.

To sort the channels within any section, either right-click on the channel name or left-click on the right of the channel name. Select Sort from the drop-down menu and choose Recent activity, Alphabetically, or Priority (which will sort according to the channels you use most).