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Slack's new integrations signal the end to war on email

Users can now access collaboration features inside Gmail and Outlook

Slack HQ

Slack has added some new features to its collaboration platform which aim to embrace the power of email, the very tool it aimed to kill off over five years ago.

Instead of having the two services operate alongside one another, now those in your organisation who aren't on Slack, or have just started and haven't yet received credentials, can still benefit from its collaboration features.

Directly addressing an individual in Slack via it's '@-mention' feature can now be utilised within email, with notifications appearing in the employee's inbox if they are not on the platform or logged in.

Replies sent from an employee's inbox will beam straight back to the relevant channel just as if the interaction was taking place on just the one platform.

Admins will need to tweak their company's account to allow outside users to communicate with those inside the organisation in this way, but it's a step closer to being a more unified collaboration tool.

This supports Slack's existing Outlook and Gmail functionality, which allows users to forward emails into a channel where members can view and discuss the content and plan responses from inside Slack.

Another interesting announcement, made at the company's Frontiers conference in San Franciso, relates to its 'Workflow Builder' tool which will enable any user within Slack to build apps for routine functions without coding knowledge.

The tool, which is launching later this year, will be capable of automating functions, such as completing and filing a benefits request form to HR or sending messages to help new starters find the right channels to join, saving other workers from sacrificing time to give a platform tutorial.

If this sounds familiar then you'd be right. Slack announced back in February two new toolkits that would also allow non-coders to build apps within Slack, however Workflow Builder appears to be geared towards routine automation rather than the more technical backend functions of the platform.

Slack's integration with Outlook and Google Calendar is also becoming stronger as any status you set within Calendar will be automatically synced to Slack, such as being away from the office for an event or when you have a meeting booked in.

As many business meetings tend to be virtual nowadays, integration with calendars will allow other users to see who your meeting is with and provide joining options directly within Slack thanks to partnerships with Hangouts, Zooma and Webex.

There is also a change coming to Slack's search function which, although fast and expansive, isn't always the most intuitive or organised. Slack aims to address this by adding new features to make it easier to view unread messages quicker, allow faster navigation between channels to find the relevant person, and better functionality when sifting through channel archives. These features will be available in the coming weeks.

Slack's five-year slog of a battle with email has proved fruitless; email still exists and seems like it's here to stay. Google has invested into it to a greater extent recently despite the wide adoption of the platform which depends on the virality of its freemium model.

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