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Understanding Slack for New Users - Knowledgebase / Email and Collaboration / Slack / Slack Overview - OIT Service Center

Understanding Slack for New Users

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What is Slack?

Slack is a communication platform that allows groups of people to easily collaborate. Members of the Brown community who already use Slack like that it:

  • Is conversational, less formal, and can be more fun than email
  • Has excellent integrations with Zoom, Google Calendar, Gmail, and Google Drive
  • Creates a running log of conversations for new team members to catch up on older conversations, and to search older topics
  • Provides organizational tools such as channels and threads for less clutter
  • Has highly customizable and schedulable notifications to avoid alert overload
  • Offers an excellent mobile app experience
Slack Help Center: What is Slack?

Getting Started

Slack provides a number of articles which we recommend if you're new to Slack. Explore the following documentation to get started!

Slack Help Center:
How to use Slack: your quick start guide
Understand your actions in Slack
Getting Started for New Slack Users


A complete guide to terminology is available at the Slack Glossary, but here are some of the most common terms you might encounter:

Apps — In addition to referring to the Slack client software, various services can be set up to integrate with Slack, which are also called “apps”. Learn more at Set Up and Use Slack App Integrations.

Canvas — The Canvas feature of Slack is a space which can be used for collaboration, similar to a Google Doc. Each channel has a canvas, and they can be created independently as well. Not to be confused with Brown’s learning management software by the same name.

Channel — Each workspace is made up of one or more channels. For example, a channel can be created for a project, a team, or a shared interest. A channel is a place for a team to have conversations and share files. Channels can be public so they are automatically visible to everyone in the workspace, or they can be private so they are only visible and usable by specified workspace members. Our article on workspace setup has more information about different types of channels.

Huddle — While we encourage the use of Zoom for video calls, Slack also provides built-in functionality for ad hoc meetings called Huddles.

Slack at Brown (Enterprise Grid) — Slack at Brown is a Slack license managed by Brown University. By maintaining an enterprise Slack license, we can make it easier for people to collaborate across multiple workspaces, help departments save costs currently spent on individual Slack licenses, better manage user accounts, and provide integrations such as Canvas.

Slack Course Workspace — Slack at Brown workspaces created via Canvas, for a specific class. Members are managed automatically by student enrollment. Learn more: Slack Course Workspaces (via Canvas).

Thread — A conversation of replies to a message in a channel. Threads are useful for keeping things organized, or to discuss a topic with only the people who are interested in it.

Workspace — A shared hub where team members can communicate and work together. For example, you may have a workspace for your course, lab*, or department*.

*These use cases will not be supported for the start of the Fall 2023 semester, but we plan to support them soon.

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