What just happened? Slack is receiving a major update with new features to make it easier to organize messages and channels. With more people relying on team collaboration tools than ever, Slack is trying to take steps to keep up with fierce competition from Microsoft and Google.

The popular communication service is rolling out a big update that includes additions such as a new navigation bar, improved shortcuts, and folder-type drop down sections. The update will become available today for desktop users with updated iOS and Android apps coming soon.

One of the major changes is with the Slack UI. The navigation bar is simpler and should make it easier to search within Slack and switch between conversations and channels without needing keystrokes. That said, it does support keyboard shortcuts or mouse shortcuts that browsers would normally use.

Slack apps, channels, and messages can be grouped into collapsible sections within the sidebar. This could be handy for keeping all conversations and channels for a single project under one section. Users can also drag and drop elements to order things exactly where they want. The updated sidebar features are only accessible for paid Slack users though.

Slack is adding a new universal compose button. This allows creating messages anywhere on Slack, useful to start drafting a message before deciding who to send it to. Once you decide, Slack will load the previous message history in the draft view. The draft is also saved if you go somewhere else within the application.

Interestingly, the Slack team used its own service to test these changes. The company created a shared channel that included product managers and engineers along with 100 other "Slack champions" from around 30 different businesses. Slack would roll out prototypes, so companies could give feedback in real time. This helped them understand the immediate impact of how their changes affected real businesses.

“This is the largest redesign in Slack’s history,” explains Ethan Eismann, vice president of design at Slack, in an interview with The Verge. “We’ve taken a lot of the historical features and reorganized them in a way that makes them much more apparent in the right way and simple to use. That was very much the goal of this process.”

The coronavirus is forcing more people to use team collaboration apps like Slack to work from home. Online services are already under increased strain due to the extra load. Slack is hoping this streamlined update to their app will help it compete against Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts.