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Slack users will soon be able to customize how channels, apps, and direct messages appear as part of a user interface upgrade launched today. Slack’s look is also changing, with a search bar at the top of the desktop client, a compose button for drafting and sending messages, and a button for finding workflows inside of a channel. History View, a feature that lets users see recent search queries and jump back to them in real time, was also introduced today.

“With this change, we wanted to pull search up into a space where it looks really clearly like it’s something you can use to navigate, to make it really easy to switch in and out of channels,” Slack director of product development Jaime DeLanghe told VentureBeat in an interview, adding that new search and compose buttons should make things easier for new users.

Above: Slack custom sidebar

Changes will begin to roll out today and continue over the course of the next several weeks, according to a statement provided by Slack. Remote work apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have seen surges in user growth since the COVID-19 pandemic began forcing more people to work from home. In prepared remarks shared after quarterly earnings this week, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield declined to share specific metrics, but he said Slack has also seen rapid growth in recent weeks and months.

DeLanghe said upgrades announced today were in the works months before the COVID-19 crisis, but a simpler, cleaner experience has become more important as a remote workforce increasingly relies on chat clients like Slack to get things done. She said the app needed a redesign to makes things simpler for users and added that the update improves access to essential tools in order to “create a new foundation, not only for the features that we have today, but also new features that we want to add in the future.”

Now Slack channels, files, and people are listed as part of a new menu, and individual users can choose how to batch and name groups of channels or users, instead of seeing recent apps or infrequently used channels or individual contacts.

“We’ve moved really quickly, and as part of that the interface has maybe gotten a little bit cluttered. The tool can be really powerful but also a little bit difficult to understand, especially if you’ve never used something like it before,” DeLanghe said.

Above: Slack’s new compose button

The new menu and sidebar enable quick access to things like apps and files, but Slack may also add custom sidebar width and a way to quickly find shared links in the future, DeLanghe told VentureBeat.

With this update, you won’t find all of the shared links, but you will be able to find all the shared files, and some of those links become files — depending on the link type. “Links as … a piece of content, that’s something that we’re thinking about — or we’ve heard from other people that they don’t think of them as different anymore. So it’s definitely something that we’re having conversations about, but not something that’s in this update,” she said.

The changes to Slack design and functionality announced today are some of the biggest updates since a faster, lighter desktop client was introduced last summer, Block Kit became available for Slack app developers, and App Home was launched in general availability last month.

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