How to Navigate the Slack App Directory

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Are you new to the Slack ecosystem? If so, you should visit the Slack App Directory, which lists 2,400+ apps! The next step is learning how to navigate such a vast marketplace.

Suppose you’re coming from the familiarity of the Salesforce AppExchange (like I was) – in this case, there are differences you should know about when installing and evaluating third-party apps. To help find the right app for you, this guide will focus on three steps: identifying use cases, discovering apps, and assessing them tactically.

Slack App Directory Home Page

Why Install an App in Slack?

First, let’s ask the fundamental question: why would you install an app in Slack? After all, isn’t Slack just a chat tool? 

Slack’s vision is a “collaboration hub that brings the right people, information, and tools together to get work done.” If you’re new to Slack, you’ve probably discovered most of your team is having productive conversations and making decisions on this platform – Slack claims its users are connected up to 10 hours a day

Slack enhances the experience with a range of discussion-enriching apps, which vary in purpose and feel: 

  • The fun – the peer recognition app HeyTaco! is a fan favorite.
  • The personableDonut is great for meeting colleagues.
  • The productive – I love the smoothness of Google Drive for file sharing.
Giving a Taco in HeyTaco!

Step 1: Identifying the Problem

So, how do you identify a good app? Start by identifying a problem or sticking point within your team. Look at the systems you’re using today, watch how your team is using Slack, and see if and where there are gaps. Alternatively, you could use a feedback app like Polly to ask teams exactly where they are struggling. 

Simply browsing the app directory to see what’s out there is also useful. I remember discovering Field Trip on the AppExchange – it was a revelation to find that I had an issue with unused fields! So, once you’ve got your main problem set in mind, write a checklist of solutions you’d like to see in the apps you’re evaluating. Keep it simple; 3-5 solutions to problems will usually do the trick. 

Now, it’s time to start searching!

Using Notion to keep evaluation on track

Step 2: Discovering Apps

Slack offers three ways to discover apps: 

  • Keyword search
  • Category search (Analytics, Design, Marketing etc.)
  • Spotlights (homepage)

I find the search function is pretty good, and I’ll also check out the homepage for new apps to see what’s out there. There’s one significant difference between the AppExchange and the Slack App Directory; the latter has no reviews or user feedback. Sure, reviews have their flaws, but their absence does make evaluating apps much harder. You could try finding the app on G2 or other review sites. 

However, if you follow the app description and screenshots/videos, it’s easy enough to install the app and try it out yourself.

Searching for Apps

As you peruse the Slack App Directory, you’ll notice that there are featured apps. Slack’s internal team rotates these every two weeks or so, and there’s no “pay to play” mechanism for ISVs (promoted apps for independent software vendors). 

Key takeaway: While the ability to search and discover apps is similar to AppExchange, Slack’s offering is not as sophisticated in terms of ratings, TestDrives, or Sandbox evaluations. However, it’s a nice thing that vendors cannot pay to get themselves onto the homepage. You’ll likely need to play with the app to complete your own evaluation!

Step 3: Evaluating Apps

Now onto evaluating an app. Slack is not a database like Salesforce (other than the chats and files). There are no real “native” apps; almost everything will need to be processed off-platform. There are some exceptions, but it’s rare. I understand this may change in the future, but for now, it’s a different paradigm than what you may be used to with the AppExchange. 

Some apps offer the equivalent of a TestDrive; you can log in as a user of another workspace and play with the app, but there is no Slack “Sandbox” workspace to test apps in. There are some ways around this; you can have test channels in your main workspace, or even create a test workspace (they are free, after all). 

I’ve used the export/import feature to populate data in a test workspace. None of this is automated, but it is reasonably straightforward (perhaps I’ll write a “how-to” on this later!). When you install your app, just pay attention to the workspace you’re about to install into.

Install Screen from a Listing

Note that your Admin may have restricted members from installing apps. Also bear in mind that free workspaces only allow 10 apps to be installed. App makers are required to display the scopes they are requesting. Usually, this entails a bot scope and a user scope. Read these carefully, and email the developer if you have questions. After you press “Add to Slack”, you’ll usually a screen like this: 

Authorization Challenge Screen

Slack has a robust and rigorous security review process and team (not unlike the AppExchange); someone at Slack has reviewed each app before listing it. However, unlike the AppExchange, in Slack every new scope requested by the vendor forces a new security review. The listing also lets the developer describe any additional security certifications they have undergone. This should provide a certain level of comfort. Slack also appears to perform a third-party penetration test for listed apps occasionally – more on that soon. 

Once you have installed, you’ll usually find the app settings and configuration in what’s called the “App Home” of the specific app. To get there, find the app under the Apps section of the sidebar, like so:

App Home

Follow any guidance from the App Home (or messages the developer has sent to you), and start completing your evaluation checklist. 

Follow these steps to uninstall your app:

1. Go to the “Manage Apps” section of your workspace:

2. Click the app in question, followed by the Configuration Tab. Then scroll down to “Remove App”.

Follow these simple steps to review your app:

  1. Identify the problems you’re looking to solve within your team. Make a simple checklist for evaluation.
  2. Look through the App Directory (search and browse), and identify a few candidates to evaluate.
  3. Test out the app! Give your Slack Workspace Admin a heads up. If you’re concerned about testing in your “production” workspace, set up an evaluation workspace, and import a few test channels.

Summary

The Slack App Directory, just like the Salesforce AppExchange gives organizations the ability to greatly enhance and customize their Workspace. Apps make life in Slack easier, more productive, and enjoyable. Vendors get the ability to specialize, focus, and maintain apps that solve specific problems that the Slack platform can’t or won’t solve – this allows the Slack team to focus on the core platform!

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