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Slack adds app home screen, better app discoverability

At its Spec developer conference, Slack today unveiled new features aimed at bolstering app discoverability and reducing the need to leave Slack for a variety of tasks. The changes include a new app home screen and redesigned app launcher, the addition of modal windows, and an extension of app “actions” across the platform. 

Accessing other apps from within Slack has long been key to the collaboration tool’s appeal; there are now more than 1,800 third-party apps available in the company’s App Directory.  Options include integrations with the likes of Microsoft, Salesforce, Workday and Google and for Slack-specific bots and services Polly and Troops.

Slack said 600,000 daily active registered developers are now building on the platform. That prompted the company to find ways to make it easier for developers to create new services – and for users to access those services.

One of the new features is the app home screen, which lets developers offer new functions for individual apps. The software, for instance, can now display information related to a user’s work (like upcoming tasks or pending expenses) and the ability to interact directly from the home screen. 

The Google Calendar app, for example, can display a user’s schedule for the current or future date and let users respond to meeting requests or join video calls directly.

Developers can customize home screens using the Block Kit UI framework launched last year. 

The Google Calendar app home in Slack Slack

Google Calendar is one of the first apps to make use of Slack’s app home screen.

App home screens are accessed by clicking on the new app launcher in the Slack sidebar that gives an overview of all installed and available apps. 

“Previously, a user had to hunt around or search for apps that they interacted with in the past. Now, we provide a single entry point to easily access that,” said Andy Pflaum, Slack director of product. “You can think of this like an app on your phone, where every time you open an app you’re taken to the same starting point – so it is a consistent experience and a user knows where to navigate from there.” 

App home is now available as an open beta.

Slack app launcher Slack

Slack’s app home screen is designed to make it easier for users to see what apps they can use, and how.

Slack has also extended the capabilities of its “actions” feature so it’s accessible from other parts  of the platform. Actions, unveiled last year at the company’s first Spec conference, let users interact with apps by clicking on a context menu placed on the right-hand corner of a Slack messages. 

App action menus can now be accessed from an icon in the sidebar, and users can pin actions to a Slack channel. Users can also search for app actions with the Slack Quick Switcher.  

“Slack is adding value through integrations, and [id] not just a chat application,” said Wayne Kurtzman, a research director at IDC. “Developers believe the new Slack app toolkit will make it easier to leverage much of their existing IT stack with low-code solutions.”

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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