Before we start with our list of Slack alternatives, let's take a look at Slack itself. First launched in 2013 as a messaging platform, Slack has since grown into a mature communication and collaboration platform for teams. Its most useful features now include direct messaging, group and private chat, notifications and alerts, search capabilities, document sharing and integration with apps like Dropbox and Google Drive. And in 2020, its use has skyrocketed in response to the push for remote working around the world.
So why would you want to look for Slack alternatives? Well, maybe the free version doesn’t offer enough for your team, and you can’t afford to pay for the full plan. Perhaps you’re looking for functionality that isn’t yet there in Slack. Or possibly you just want to try out a few options before settling on the right tool for you and your team. Whatever the reason, we’ve brought together the very best alternatives to Slack in this article. Read to find out what each has to offer...
For more software ideas, see our best project management software roundup.
Google’s chat platform was released in 2018, but has since evolved into a somewhat baffling array of tools. So Google Chat should not be confused with Google Hangouts, a video call and instant messaging platform that’s free with any Gmail account, or Google Meet, which is basically Google’s answer to Zoom.
Instead, Google Chat (previously known as Google Hangouts Chat) is a team chat platform that's provided as part of the paid-for business platform (previously known as G Suite). Annoyingly, many of Google’s sites refer to the old names for these services, which is why we’ve listed them here to save you becoming thoroughly bewildered.
Like Slack, Google Chat includes both direct messaging and threaded team channels. You can customise the kind of notifications you receive to cut down on noise, although you have more fine control over this in Slack. Also note that Google Chat doesn’t really have an equivalent to Slack’s public channels: the emphasis here is very much on communications in private.
Scheduling meetings with each other is a cinch in Google Chat, as there’s a clever AI bot that helps with that by talking to your Google Calendar. And being tied in with Google Workspace also makes it easy to share documents; you get 30GB of storage on the basic plan.
Note, though, that you can’t search documents within Google Chat on the basic plan; you need to upgrade to the next level up for that. Also, unlike Slack, you can’t hold video meetings within the app, although you can do so via one click to Google Meet, which is close enough to make little real difference.
The biggest downside compared with Slack is that there’s no free version of Google Chat. But if you’re already paying for Google Workspace, it’s a no-brainer to try it out. And even if you’re not yet, it’s still a good option if you love doing everything within Google's ecosystem, and doesn’t want to mess about learning how other software interfaces.
Just as Google Chat comes free with G Suite, so Microsoft Teams comes free with Office 365. But if you’re not an Office 365 subscriber, there’s some good news: Microsoft has also made a free version of Teams to tempt people in to its ecosystem.
That free version compares well with Slack's, with some small but perhaps significant advantages. For instance, there’s no cap on the number of messages you’re able to search, whereas in Slack, you’re limited to 10,000. You get 10GB storage to Slack’s 5GB. And you can use screen sharing and make video conferencing calls to more than one person, both of which are only available in Slack on the paid plan.
It’s easy to share documents in Microsoft Teams via the Microsoft 365 tools, and you can edit them directly in Teams too, which is a nice touch. And in the paid version of Teams, you get a whopping 1TB of storage per user, which compares very favourably with the 20GB per user in the paid-for version of Slack.
We’ll be honest, though, Slack is a lot easier to set up and use in practice, with a simpler and more streamlined interface. Teams, like much of Microsoft’s software, is so busy trying to provide lots of features and integrations with other Microsoft products, that it can all feel a bit bogged down when you just want to do something quite straightforward.
On the whole, then, the more complex and feature-rich you want your team communications tool to be, the more likely you’re be attracted to Microsoft Teams. Which means as a broad rule of thumb, Slack is normally better for small teams while Teams is normally better for large enterprises.
You might be surprised to see Discord on this list, as it’s primarily known as a tool for connecting gaming communities. But just as Twitch was once only for gamers, but is fast-becoming a mainstream alternative to YouTube, Discord is quickly becoming seen as a mainstream alternative to Slack.
Like Slack, Discord offers you a private workplace for creating multiple channels to organise your group conversations, as well as allowing video chat and screen sharing. Within video calls you’re allowed up to 50 participants, which compares favourably to the 15 in the free version of Slack. You can also include voice channels that can include up to 99 users. Handily, these can be set to “push to talk”; so everyone’s microphone is turned off unless they press the talk button, helping to cut down on background noise.
Note, though, that Discord doesn’t offer threaded conversations. If you tend to chat a lot online via text, with a lot of people, then this might be an issue, as conversations can quickly become overwhelming to follow. Also, while Slack offers thousands of integrations with third-party apps, Discord only offers a small number.
On the plus side, Discord not only has a free plan, but most people won’t need to upgrade to the paid plan unless you really need higher quality voice and video chat, or higher file upload limits. Even then, at $99.99/year for one server, it’s pretty affordable. Which makes Discord a good options for open source teams and other organisations that want a professional alternative to the paid version of Slack, but for a lower (or zero) cost.
Workplace by Facebook is kind of like a special version of Facebook that’s just for organisations. With a very similar interface to "normal" Facebook, it allows you to make HD video calls, create groups, share posts and announcements, conduct polls and surveys, and even share GIFs.
The free version provides you with 5GB of storage per person, up to 50 groups, and auto-translation from one language into another. There are also integrations with more than 50 enterprise tools, which is nowhere near what Slack offers, but does include a lot of the main players, such as G Suite, Dropbox and Office 365.
The paid-for versions of Workplace by Facebook are $4 (Advanced) and $8 (Enterprise) per month per person, with discounts for frontline and charitable organisations. Both plans allow for unlimited groups, while you get 1TB storage with the Advanced plan and unlimited storage at the Enterprise level.
To our mind, the main advantage of using Workplace by Facebook is that it’s a lot friendlier than other tools, especially amongst older people who may be more used to using Facebook than any other app. So if your main challenge when it comes to workplace communication is convincing people to actually do it, not to mention limiting the amount of training needed, this may be the tool you’ve been looking for.
Cisco is best known for its voice and video conferencing solutions, and it’s done a lot of work over the past 12 months to integrate those with its Slack alternative, Webex Teams (previously known as Spark).
This platform provides a very professional and polished approach to common communication and collaboration tasks. Messaging tasks such as group and private IMs, file sharing, and directory searches are all slick and well organised. Meetings are easy to carry out via HD video or high-fidelity audio, with good document sharing and annotation options. And there’s an excellent whiteboarding system to help develop ideas during team chats.
Webex Teams even provides robust APIs, so your company’s development team can integrate the platform into your own custom software, should you so wish. It also offers and-to-end data encryption, and integration with enterprising software such as Salesforce.
All this doesn’t come cheap, of course. So while there is a free plan, it’s seriously limited. Mid-sized businesses will be better of paying £14.85 per host per month for Webex Plus, while large firms should be looking at £22.50 per host per month for Webex Business (aimed at larger companies). In short then, Webex Teams should be considered the Rolls Royce option, aimed at those with deep corporate pockets who see cheaper services as a false economy.