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Slack Search Sucks: Here’s Why (And 5 Tips to Help You Find What You Need)

Noam Limor
By Noam Limor
Joel Taylor
Reviewed by Joel Taylor

Published March 30, 2022.

Slack Search Sucks: Here’s Why (And 5 Tips to Help You Find What You Need)

How much time do you spend looking for files? In particular, how much time do you spend tracking down files in Slack? Slack can be a wonderful application for communication and collaboration, but finding files or specific messages located within the app will test your patience.

Slack users can lean on a few best practices to make searching the platform easier, but there’s only so much you can do from within the app. Ultimately, users should stop using Slack search and turn to Unleash instead – it’s simpler and easier to use. Unleash searches every folder and application at once, reducing frustration and improving productivity.

*Use one tool to find anything on Slack, your cloud, your computer, and anywhere else.

Slack Search Is Complicated and Clunky

While Slack is a wonderful tool for communication, the search functionality leaves a lot to be desired. It’s overly complicated to use, lacks intuitive design, and tends to have a steep learning curve. On top of all of that, restricting search to one app can slow down the process of tracking down important information.

Slack search often floods you with barely related results, forcing you to slog through dozens of posts to find what you’re looking for. To help you narrow your results, Slack touts its search modifiers. It’s a nice idea, but in reality, that means users have to memorize their modifiers or look them up each time they want to use them.

Slack search screenshot


Slack is also only one of many applications you use, so its search can only help you when what you’re looking for is located in the app. If you’re searching for a document or message that was sent via email or through another app, no Slack modifier is going to help you find what you’re looking for.

In fact, searching every app your organization uses one by one is increasingly impractical. As of 2021, enterprises were each using anywhere from 100 to 288 SaaS apps. Even if your employees only use a dozen apps, they are likely spending a lot of time tracking down files and messages.

When you use a communication app like Slack alongside project management apps, email, and document management tools, it’s inevitable that employees will sometimes forget exactly which app contains the piece of information they’re seeking. And if you’re searching Slack but what you’re looking for actually happened in a conversation over email, Slack can’t help you track it down.

*Learn about: Federated Search and its benefits

Spend Less Time Searching Slack With These 5 Tips

While Slack’s search functionality is frustrating to use, there are a few things you can do to make the process a bit easier. Aside from memorizing its modifiers for quicker advanced search or using another search tool altogether, the best way to improve your experience is to avoid using Slack’s general search in the first place. Instead, use its other features to organize important threads, messages, and channels.

*Difficult to find items on Slack? Find Everything with Unleash

1. Save Messages or Threads You Want to Revisit

Save important messages or threads for future reference and avoid digging through Slack search later on. To do this, hover over the message or thread you want to save on the desktop app and click the ribbon icon. You can find what you saved again on the desktop app in the left sidebar. or If it’s not there, you’ll find it by clicking on “More.”

To save a message or thread on mobile, long press the message and tap “Add to saved items.” To find saved messages on mobile, go to “You” at the bottom right of the screen and then “Saved items.”

Slack productivity example 1

2. Set Reminders on Threads or Messages

Ask Slack to remind you about important threads or messages when it’s convenient. On the desktop app, hover over the message or thread you want to be reminded of. Once a bar pops up, click on the three dots on the right. A dropdown menu will appear, and this is where you click the second option: “Remind me about this.” Then just pick a time. Slackbot will alert you in a message when it’s time for your reminder. To set up a reminder in the mobile app, long press on the message you want to be reminded of and choose “Remind me.”

Slack productivity example 2

3. Use Bookmarks and Pin Important Messages

Bookmarks let you put important links at the top of the channel, so anyone using that channel can quickly access it. To add a bookmark to a channel in the desktop app, go to the channel and then at the top of the page, click on “+ Add a bookmark.” Unfortunately, you can’t add bookmarks from the mobile app.

You can also pin important messages to the top of the page, so they’ll always be the first thing you see when you go to the channel. In the desktop app, go to the three dots in the upper-left corner of the message you want to pin. Click on “Pin to channel.” To pin a message to the top of a channel on mobile, long press the post and select “Pin to conversation.”

*Still can't find past messages on Slack? There is an easier way...

Slack productivity example 3

4. Create Custom Sections

This feature is only available for paid Slack users but is worth the cost. You can completely personalize how your Slack channels are organized with custom sections. This allows you to group channels in a way that works best for you. For example, you might group the non-work-related social channels at work in one area and create another section for the channels you actually need to do your job every day. To create custom sections, go to the desktop app and hover over “Channels” in the left sidebar. Three dots will appear to the right. Click on the dots and then click on “Create sidebar section.”

Slack productivity example 4

5. Leave Channels You Don’t Use

Since Slack can be overwhelming and difficult to sort through, one way of dealing with it is to trim down how many channels you’re in. This doesn’t help much when it comes to actually searching since leaving a channel doesn’t remove it from your searches. But it can help reduce the number of channels you have to manually skim when you’re looking for something and Slack search isn’t cooperating.

To leave a channel on the desktop app, go to the left sidebar, right-click the channel you want to leave, and click on “Leave channel.” To leave a channel in the mobile app, open the channel, tap on the ⓘ symbol, and scroll down to the last option, “Leave.”

Slack productivity example 5

Use a Multi-Platform Search Tool to Reduce Slack Frustration

Unleash eliminates Slack search issues with a one-stop search tool that can search not only Slack but cloud storage drives, email, code depositories, folders, tickets, and meeting invites as well.

Employees need a single tool that can sort through all of the applications and folders they use. With Unleash, you can search Slack for a file while also searching your email and any other applications. No more going from one app or site to another trying to figure out which SaaS app has what you’re looking for. Filter using different criteria, such as application or type of application, such as email applications, drives, etc. This is particularly helpful if you can remember a file you’re trying to find was attached in an email but not which email account.

The favorites feature allows you to keep any file or message you want to quickly access in the left sidebar. Unleash also includes web search and calculators to further cut down on the need for application switching. On top of all that, Unleash can also help you stay on top of your busy schedule with a quick view of your calendar and the ability to join your remote meetings with a single click.

After you search with Unleash, it launches the site or application where your file or message is located without leaving the app. Not only can you search from Unleash, but you can launch applications, too, so when you track down a file, you can immediately open it in the application with a single click.

*Slack Search sucks: Try Unleash's enterprise search software

Let Unleash Show You What the Future of Productivity Looks Like

If there’s a file on your computer or in one of your many different cloud apps, Unleash will find it. While many applications (like Slack) build search tools in their apps, using each application’s search feature to find files isn’t practical anymore. Today’s employees need to be able to search everything at once.

*Learn about how Unleash can eliminate frustrations and improve productivity

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