Slack’s new Canvas feature has so many features that you don’t need me to explain them to you. It’s similar to Google Docs, but within Slack. Create a canvas and add your stuff. Then share it with anyone you like. You can create and share as many canvas images as you like. That’s it!
Slack announced Canvas in 2014, and today it is rolling out to all Slack customers. Over the past few days I have been testing an earlier version, and it’s definitely going to become one of my most-used Slack tools in the future. Slack’s organizational tools are the best ever.
Slack’s problem is chaos. Slack is a messaging application, so everything happens within a chat. Slack is a messaging app that allows you to communicate with your team. It’s a fast-paced environment and resists organization. Even if you force people to organize everything, the result will be a mess of threads with phrases like “Question” or “Will thread details”. It’s a great tool, but it requires a lot of scrolling and searching in order to find what you are looking for. A Slack screen shot showing a canvas.
Canvas can be thought of as a collection of Slack items. Canvases allow you to type text, but also add photos, videos, embed Slack applications, link, run polls and do all the things you would in a message. Canvases can display links as cards, YouTube videos inline and Slack rich media. Canvases allow you to do anything that you could do in Slack. They are now stored in one document, which you can organize and find much easier.
Canvas can be thought of as a collection of Slack objects
Canvas, although it is technically a tool for collaborative document creation, doesn’t compete with Google Docs. Canvas is not an advanced editing tool. You can create lists and headers but otherwise you don’t get much control over the text. Google Docs is better at handling multiple cursors, overlapping edits and multiple people working on the same canvas.
Ali Rayl is the SVP for product at Slack. She says, “Google Docs still has a 100 percent place in our world.” Canvas has occupied a different place in her early testing. Canvas is already in Slack. This is the first thing she noticed. Canvases will be particularly useful to replace bookmarks and pins on Slack.
It’s true: I use Slack Huddles more than I expected, simply because I can access it from the app. Huddles are more like a quick phone call than a Zoom link dropped into a conversation. If I want to create a moodboard of images and links to share with my team, then a canvas would be the easiest way to do it.
Canvases are much more user-friendly than Google Docs, thanks to Slack. You can share a canvas with anyone within your organization, or with a specific channel. Everyone in that channel will be able to access it. You can’t share it publicly, however, and are limited to those who have Slack access. This is likely a good idea for most documents. All comments are stored in a Slack thread that can be searched just like any other Slack item. When you mention someone but have not shared the canvas, they will appear with a gray backdrop. Once it is shared with them, it changes to blue.
Slack is transforming its canvases into collaborative workspaces that are similar to whiteboard apps such as Miro and Google Docs. They’re an upgrade to the bookmarks and pins that Slack relied on too much in the past. These canvases will be popular for this purpose alone. Rayl states that “we have always wanted this surface to be in our products.” Rayl says that pins and bookmarks have been used as a temporary solution until the surface is built.
Slack is a messaging application that looks and behaves like one, but has never been a simple messaging app. Slack’s appearance has made it difficult to use as a place to keep information. Canvases aren’t going to take over document workflows any time soon, but it looks like they’re a good place to store stuff you can find again. Slack makes more sense. Already, I’m unpinning all I can.