How to search better, faster and more accurately in Slack with modifiers

With most of your company’s internal communications being routed through Slack, important conversations or knowledge are sure to get lost in the annals of your message history. So that’s why Slack has integrated fairly robust search functionality into their platform with some underused utilities available to Slack power users.

Many of us already use modifiers to filter results in Google searches to power-up your search results. Slack enables us to do the same thing with their own set of modifiers. Here are some of our favorites:

  • “in:[channel]” to filter for messages and files in a specific channel
  • “in:[@name]” to filter for direct messages with a particular person
  • “to:me” to filter for direct messages sent to you
  • “from:[@name]” to filter for messages sent from a particular person
  • “from:me” to filter for messages sent by you
  • “has:link” to filter for messages that include a URL
  • “has:reaction” to filter for messages that have received reactions
  • “before:[date]”; “after:[date]”; “on:[date/month/year]”; or “during:[month/year]” to filter for messages from a specific timeframe

These are incredibly powerful tools that will drastically improve results in search queries. But it doesn’t end here…

In channels that you are certain will never provide valuable search results, you can blacklist them from the central Slack preferences page. See below:

blacklist slack channels from search

Also, a really nice little hack is to avoid using Slack’s search box and create queries directly from the message box. Just start a new message that starts with /s followed by a query and you’re off to the races.

search slack from the message box

Beyond basic search

gummy worms
A much nicer looking can of worms.

Talking about search in Slack opens up a somewhat larger can of worms. While Slack’s search functionality is strong, it has a significant shortcoming: reach.

Even with the many integrations available in Slack, there are drawbacks to the reach of Slack’s basic search, especially as it relates to shared files. As we all know, sharing documents in email with many people can be problematic because of version control issues. This issue is somewhat mitigated by increasing reliance on cloud-based services such as Google Docs and Sheets, but it can be difficult to ensure that the latest version of a document is the one you’ll find in Slack. This particular issue becomes more and more relevant to growing companies and teams that have larger or distributed support teams or helpdesks.

Otherwise, great job on the search modifiers, Slack. They really do make search better, faster and more accurate.