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How to use Slack's new Canvas feature (to be more organized and share better)

Slack now offers a handy collaboration feature that allows you to keep information (either for yourself or a team) in a centralized location. Here's how to use this new tool.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
NurPhoto/Getty Images

Slack is the de facto standard in collaboration. With this platform you can easily communicate with team members, share files, send direct messages, bookmark threads, and more. 

Recently, the company unleashed a new feature called Canvas and this looks to be the missing piece of Slack's collaboration puzzle.

Also: How to add a to-do list to Slack

Canvases are a convenient way to take notes on a project and share those notes with other team (or family) members. This way, instead of having to share a document from a third-party source, you can easily create a new Canvas and share it with those who need the information. With Canvases, you can share shopping lists, instructions, plans, project information, class schedules, chore duties, and just about anything you can imagine.

Canvases can hold video and audio clips, emojis, comments, images, and files -- and can also use basic formatting (such as bold, italics, and strikethrough) as well as code samples and links.

Let me show you how to use the new Canvas feature on Slack.

How to create your first Canvas

What you'll need: To use the Canvas feature, you'll need a paid Slack account (as this isn't available to the free accounts). Canvases can be used on both the desktop and mobile app. I'll demonstrate the feature on the desktop app but the process for creating and using Canvases is the same on both platforms.

1. Open Slack

The first thing to do is open the Slack app. Next, make sure you're logged into your paid account. Once you're logged in, you should see Canvases listed in the top left corner (under the name of the Workspace you wish to use).

The Slack left sidebar.

The Canvas feature is accessed from the top section of the left sidebar.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

2. Open a new Canvas

After clicking Canvases, you'll see the Canvas page in Slack. To create your first Canvas, click Try It near the bottom of the Canvas description.

The Canvas welcome page.

You'll only see this page if you've not created your first Canvas.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Create your first Canvas

A new window will open, where you can start creating your first Canvas. The first thing you should do is type a title for the Canvas. One thing to know about creating a Canvas is if you copy/paste text into the Canvas it will retain all supported formatting and links. One thing I did quickly discover is that Canvases do not support alignment. No matter if your text is right-aligned or justified when you paste it, it will always be left-aligned.

A blank Canvas.

A new blank Canvas is ready for you to create.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

4. Add images and other items

If you want to add an image or audio/video clip, click + on the floating island at the bottom of your click and, from the popup menu, select the item type you want to add. 

The Canvas item add menu.

Add new items to your Canvas from this menu.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

I've found video clips to be quite a helpful addition, especially if you're adding information to a Canvas that could use further explanation or just a personal touch. Once you've added a video clip, they can be played within the Canvas, without requiring a third-party viewer.

A video appearing in a Slack Canvas.

I've added a short video to a Canvas.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

5. Interact with items

If you hover your cursor over an added item, you'll see a small square of dots in the upper left corner. Click that square to reveal a menu that includes different ways to interact with different types of items. For example, a video clip allows you to copy the link to the item, add a comment, display it as URL, copy the link to the video, and much more.

The Canvas item context menu.

Different item types will have different entries in the context menu.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

6. Sharing a Canvas

Once you've completed creating the canvas and are ready to collaborate, click the Share button at the top right corner of the Canvas, which will open a popup where you can select team members to be included in the share. Once you've added the necessary participants, click Save and you're done.

The Canvas share popup.

Sharing a Canvas with team members.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

And that's pretty much the gist of using Slack's new Canvas feature. If you've felt as though the platform had been missing an important piece of the collaboration puzzle, chances are good this will fill that void.

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