Slack brings Shared Channels to Enterprise Grid, intros 'bridge' to email

Slack is holding its annual Frontiers conference this week and with it comes a slew of new product features and tools within the Slack platform.

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Workplace collaboration platform Slack is holding its annual Frontiers conference this week and with it comes a slew of new product features and tools within the Slack platform. Key updates include a feature that creates a two-way bridge between email and Slack, an update on the availability Shared Channels, new tools that aim to simplify the automation of repetitive tasks within Slack, and a new interface for search and navigation.

On the email front, Slack describes the new bridge feature as a way to communicate with team members or collaborators who aren't part of the Slack platform. In the context of a new hire, for instance, the bridge feature will route messages into a Gmail or Outlook inbox when that person is mentioned by username in channels or via direct message. 

For now this is just a one-way bridge, but Slack said it's planning to expand the feature to let non-Slack users reply to Slack messages right from their inbox and have those replies post back to Slack. 

Another key feature update is an expansion of Shared Channels on Slack. First launched in 2017, Shared Channels makes it easier to connect collaborators from external groups, creating a common space for both sides to use Slack's communication platform. This summer Slack said it will make Shared Channels available in beta on Enterprise Grid, its platform for larger, complex organizations with between 500 and 500,000 employees. 

"For large orgs using Enterprise Grid, this is their opportunity to start using Shared Channels and make communication smoother," said Ellie Powers, Slack's director of product for platform. 

Slack -- which says it now has 10 million daily active users and 85,000 paying customers -- said more than 150 enterprises are using Enterprise Grid.

Slack also made a several announcements on the calendar side. Most notably is the addition of smart meeting suggestions, which picks up when a word refers to a time event and turns the word into a clickable link that pops over to the person's availability calendar. Another update focused on the team calendar makes it easier to see all team events directly in a Slack channel.

"What we're doing is taking connections with email and other business software like calendaring and bringing it together with core notions in Slack, like teams and channels, to make teams work together easier," said Powers.

Slack has also introduced a tool called Workflow Builder, which the company said will make it simpler for non-technical people to build custom workflow apps for Slack. Today custom Slack apps are built by programmers using APIs, but Workflow Builder offers a no-code graphical interface that significantly reduces the technical challenges to app building. 

Lastly, Slack is rolling out an new, unified interface for navigation and search. Right now there are multiple points of search on the Slack platform, so the aim is to bring those all together into one universal navigation hub via the upper-left search box.

"Work gets more complex the more people (and messages) you add to the mix," Slack wrote in a blog post. "So we've leveled up search in Slack to make it even easier to flit between the channels, direct messages, and documents that you need." 

In terms of availability, most of the new features are rolling out separately over the coming weeks and months.

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