Slack launches new audio tool, plans new sharing features

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Slack Huddles, or quick audio chats, are easy to set up within the app.
Slack Huddles, or quick audio chats, are easy to set up within the app.
Photo: Slack

Business communication platform Slack launched a new audio tool called Slack Huddles today. That and a few other enhancements available now or soon are moving the app from a text-based messaging replacement for email to a more multimedia environment.

In part, the changes are intended to address news ways of working in a “new normal,” considering the Covid-19 pandemic. Changes in the past year-plus have put pressure on companies to adapt and go digital-first, the company said in a blog post.

“Digital-first means encouraging people to work when and where is best for them,” the company said. “It doesn’t mean just taking the old ways of working—rigid 9-to-5 workdays packed with countless meetings—and re-creating them online. It requires a virtual headquarters that supports all ways of working: synchronous and asynchronous, in-person and remote, structured and informal.”

Slack Huddles

The first addition is Slack Huddles, which the company called a lightweight, audio-first way to start live conversations or jump into an ongoing one. Some observers have likened it to the app Discord.

In any channel or direct messaging thread in the Slack — even those shared outside your company’s account — one click can start a huddle. Anyone on the channel can come and go. It’s meant for conversations on the fly and as a way to meet without having to schedule formal meetings.

Huddles are audio-only, so people get a break from being on camera and typing (if they want). And it supports screen sharing and live captioning, which can enhance collaboration.

The company said Huddles is rolling out to all paid teams using Slack.

Share video, voice and screen recordings

Slack said it plans to introduce a new way to easily create and share video, voice and screen recordings in the app. The point, again, is to ease the tyranny of meetings. Instead of struggling to schedule a meeting with a large group, you distribute recordings that people can play back and respond to in their own time.

The playback is enhanced to improve the experience, the company said. Users can speed up or slow down recordings, read through a transcript or play back content on a phone. Recordings are archived and searchable. And, as with Huddles, shared recordings allow captioning for inclusive participation.

The company said shared recordings functionality is coming to paid teams in the coming months.

Scheduled messages

Another enhancement will enable users to schedule messages for a later time rather than sending them in real time. Let’s say you know your colleague just signed off. Instead of sending a message now and worrying it won’t be seen hours or days later, you schedule the message to publish when they return.

The company said scheduled messages is rolling out to all Slack users.

Slack Atlas

To help new employees navigate a large organization, the app is adding Slack Atlas. It helps a person learn everyone’s roles and and connect with them. It’s actually a revamp of the Rimeto directory, which Slack acquired last year.

Slack Atlas enhances employee profiles with information, such as your company’s org structure, employee start dates and custom fields. And it seamlessly integrates with apps like Workday, meaning profile data can automatically populate and update.

The company said Slack Atlas is available to teams on Business+ and Enterprise Grid plans.

Whatever the near-future holds for a “new normal” in the working world, Slack — acquired for $27 billion last year by Saleforce — wants to be in on it.