Customize the Slack sidebar for a more efficient experience

I use Slack every day. I’m part of two Workspaces with larger clients that have developed very smooth content workflows. But for each client I have to keep an eye on different things. For example, on one customer I have to monitor the mentions and comments, the file browser, and all DMs. The other workspace is all about quick access to the channel browser and unread messages.

Fortunately, Slack makes it possible to modify the Sidebar so that I have instant access to those bits. By default, the only thing that gets added to your sidebar is Mentions and Comments, so you’ll probably want to add several items. I want to walk you through the process of customizing that sidebar on the Slack desktop client. Note that this won’t work on the Slack mobile app (as it doesn’t really have a sidebar). This also only applies to the items you can add to the top section of your sidebar (think of it as a favorites section).

For those who aren’t sure, the Slack Sidebar is the panel that hangs on the left side of the window (Figure 1

The Slack window that highlights a particular workspace.

The Slack sidebar is on the left.

Image: Jack Wallen

One thing to remember is that this customization is done on a Workspace-by-Workspace basis, meaning that what you set up on one Workspace will not carry over to another. That’s a good thing, because it makes it possible to customize those workspaces as needed.

Customize the sidebar

1. Select your workspace

The first thing you need to do is select the workspace you want to customize. You can do that by clicking the Workspace icon on the left edge of the sidebar.

2. Open the Workspace Preferences window

Click the workspace name at the top of the sidebar to display a pop-up menu (Figure 2

The Slack Workspace pop-up menu.

The Slack pop-up menu for a specific workspace.

Image: Jack Wallen

Click on Preferences and in the resulting popup click on Sidebar.

3. Enable/disable items for the sidebar

In the Sidebar section of the Preferences window (figure 3), click to enable one of the features that always appear in the sidebar.

The Slack Workspace Preferences pop-up window.

Customize the Slack Sidebar for a specific workspace.

Image: Jack Wallen

You can also customize how conversations are displayed under the View… section and select how items are sorted and even toggle profile pictures on/off, show private channels and organize external calls for the Connections section.

Once you’ve configured what you want to see in the Slack Sidebar, close the preferences window and enjoy your custom Sidebar.

While this won’t improve your communication and collaboration skills on Slack, it will certainly make using the desktop application a bit more efficient. And if you work in a particularly busy Slack Workspace, keeping your daily grind well organized and efficient can certainly help make your daily grind a little less of a grind.

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