The 12 Best Team Chat Apps for Your Company

Matthew Guay
Matthew Guay / July 27, 2018

“To err is human,” wrote Alexander Pope, but he could have as easily written, “To communicate is human.” From pictograms carved into stone to the latest chat apps, humans always find better ways to communicate. It’s no surprise AIM and MSN Messenger were some of the internet's strongest lures in the '90s, while messaging apps like WhatsApp and LINE are persuading the next billion to get online today. We like to talk.

Emails require a letter-length reply—and a title. Video calls can be as frustrating to schedule as a face-to-face meeting. Chat simplifies that away. Type a quick message, get an equally short reply or perhaps just an emoji, and get on with your work. There’s nothing complicated or time-consuming. It's how we talk to friends and family today, and increasingly, it's also how work gets done.

Today's best team chat apps help organize team conversations about multiple topics, search through your company archives to see if a question has already been answered, and speed up with bots and integrations that bring apps into your chats. Here are the best features in today's team chat apps so you can pick the perfect tool for your company.

Why Should You Use a Team Chat App?

No Email

There are so many ways to talk to your team, from email and traditional phone calls to video conferencing and social networks. Even SMS could work.

Team chat is similar, but its main benefit is that it keeps all your company’s communications in one place, making it easier for everyone to talk together with group or private chats. No more searching for a team member’s email address; everyone’s a tap away, even from your phone. And if a call is more straightforward, team chat apps often include conference calls, video chat, and screen-sharing tools.

Team chat apps keep conversations organized into groups, often called channels or rooms. There will typically be a General group for random discussions, along with groups for each team or topic your company is discussing—and maybe a few fun groups about pets and music and other fun stuff. Groups typically are public where everyone can join in. Then, there are private messages, where you can directly message a colleague or chat with a smaller group away from group discussions.

Tying it all together is universal search to find old conversations and files quickly. Instead of checking a half-dozen apps for an old message, a team chat apps gives you one place for everything, from random conversations to private messages with your boss. It’ll save time, and hopefully spark productive discussions—or silly GIF wars—that keep your company an exciting place to work.


Now, all that’s left to do is find the app with the perfect combination of features, and get your team using it.

The 12 Best Team Chat Apps

Slack (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, Web)

Best for a chat powered workplace

Slack screenshot

Slack's the 900 pound gorilla in the room, the team chat app you've most likely heard of and tried already. Launched in mid-2013 by the team that built Flickr, it quickly became one of the most popular ways to chat in groups. This year, Slack even acquired its original closest competitor, HipChat, along with HipChat's newer replacement Stride. Slack is easily the most popular team chat app today.

It's more than chat. Slack's built-in Slackbot tool can remind you of messages—or set a reminder about anything you need to remember. Then, the custom Slack Bots you can build and install are the main reason bots became a buzzword over the past few years, with tools that can start projects, crunch numbers, and approve invoices right from your team chat. There's more than just bots, too. You can make it look how you want with deeply customizable themes. Its emoji-based reactions are a super-powered version of Facebook's ubiquitous Like button. And its conversations tool let you turn any chat message into a mini-channel about that one topic.

Slack's even great beyond work—or for juggling multiple jobs at a time. You can join multiple teams in Slack to keep your reading group, side project, and work chat all together in the same app.

  • Slack Pricing: Free for unlimited users, 1-on-1 calls, and 10k message history; from $8/month per user Standard plan for unlimited history, screen sharing, and team video calls
  • Build your own chat bots with Zapier's Slack integrations.
  • Learn more in our Slack walkthrough.

Twist (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web)

Best for threaded conversation-centric chat

Doist Twist screenshot

Chat apps are great for in-the-moment conversation with their chronological list of messages. But when everything's just another comment in your team's General channel, it's easy to miss out on valuable info if you don't read through every message.

Twist, a team chat app from the Todoist team, changes that by turning all team chats into threads. It includes standard channels for group conversations—but when you want to say something, you either have to comment on an existing thread or start a new one. That keeps each conversation focused and helps you see what your team talked about while you were away.

For a more traditional chat experience, the Messages tab lets you send direct message to anyone on your team or form an ad hoc group for private discussions. And, if you need to take action on any message or thread, tap the Todoist button in the top right corner to add a new task to your Todoist to-do list that links back to the original conversation.

  • Twist Pricing: Free for unlimited users with 1 month message history and 5 integrations; $6/month per user Unlimited plan for unlimited message history, file storage, and integrations
  • Build your own chat bots with Zapier's Twist integrations.
  • Learn more in our Twist walkthrough.

Microsoft Teams (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web)

Best for detailed discussions about documents and meetings

Microsoft Teams screenshot

Microsoft designed their Microsoft Teams chats app for meetings and documents. It works well for random conversations but is at its best when you're hammering out a proposal or outlining a project together with a team.

Microsoft Teams organizes channels under teams. Invite everyone who should be in that team, and they'll automatically be able to join in every channel in that team. There, you can chat as usual, with a Reply button under every message to turn it into a thread. Need to write something longer? Tap the A button to get a rich text editor where you can write an email-style message complete with a subject and importance indicator. Or, you can write a full wiki of documents as a permanent record of what your team does, and share Office Online documents in your chat.

Then, whenever you have a meeting, Microsoft Teams makes a new chat room just for that meeting. You can jump on a video call, share your screen, and log every discussion in long-form messages. It's almost email reinvented.

Google Hangouts Chat

Best for following up on conversations

Google Hangouts Chat screenshot

One of the newest ways to chat with your team is Google Hangouts Chat, a team chat companion to their popular Hangouts video chat. Like every other G Suite app, if your company uses G Suite for your email, everyone on your team gets access automatically.

Google designed Hangouts Chat for conversations in semi-private rooms. You can invite team members to rooms you create—but they're not shared by default. Then add your ideas in new conversations, or follow up on older ideas as a reply to existing conversations. That keeps your chat more focused.

As you work on your ideas, odds are you'll share Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides files in Hangouts Chat. Those files will automatically have their sharing permissions changed to share them with your entire team in that room, and it'll be easy to find them again later with Hangouts Chat's document filters in its search tool.

Flock (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web)

Best for quickly making decisions in chat

Flock

You need to figure something out. So, in Flock, you start a new chat, add the people you need, and start talking about it. Reply to someone's message, and Flock will quote what they said right under your reply—much like in a forum.

Need to share files? Connect Google Drive to see a list of recent files in the sidebar, and share the file directly into the conversation. If you need to talk face-to-face, tap the camera icon to open an Appear.in video chat—or tap the email to send a group email when chat isn't enough.

Once you have all the options on the table, tap the poll icon to get your team to vote on what to do quickly. Then, in the shared to-do list—again, in the sidebar—add tasks for everything that needs completed and assign them to the right people. It's a quick and actionable way to talk to your team and get things done with Flock's apps that live in the sidebar of your conversations.

  • Flock Pricing: Free for unlimited users and 10k message history; from $6/month per user Pro plan for unlimited messages, history, and integrations
  • Build your own chat bots with Zapier's Flock integrations.
  • Learn more in our Flock walkthrough.

Discord (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web)

Best for always-on voice chat

Discord Screenshot

Discord is CB radio reinvented for the web, built into a team chat app. The team chat side of things works much as you'd expect, similar to the original HipChat or Slack in their early days. There are channels for every topic you want to discuss, emoji reactions to give quick feedback, and pinned messages so you don't lose track of important ideas.

Behind all that are Voice channels, always-on phone calls where you can talk to anyone on your team. You can keep your mic off, then push a key to start talking whenever you want to jump in. It's designed for gaming, with an overlay view that shows voice channels on the side of your games—but could be as handy to talk to colleagues while working remotely in a shared Google Doc. And you can quickly add someone from another team to your chats, with their DiscordTag or the Instant Invite link that lets you share a chat server with anyone.

Discord was the fastest growing team chat app on Zapier so far in 2018—and is quickly becoming the way new teams start using team chat for free.

  • Discord Pricing: Free for full features; $4.99/month Nitro plan for custom emoji, larger file uploads, and GIF avatars
  • Build your own chat bots with Zapier's Discord integrations.

Cisco Webex Teams (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web)

Best for mocking up ideas in chat

Cisco Webex Teams Screenshot

Sometimes a picture's worth a thousand words. Cisco Webex Teams is a team chat app designed for creative teams that would rather discuss things in pictures. It keeps chat simple, with straightforward messaging that lets you make a new room in one click.

Everything else is off to the side, with an app pane that lets you start a voice or video call or share files with your team. Or, tap the Whiteboard for a blank space where you can sketch your ideas on a virtual whiteboard for a quick way to show your team what you're discussing. And when you need to talk instead of chat, Webex Teams includes Cisco-powered voice and video chat that works with Cisco's VoIP devices.

Mattermost (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, Web)

Best for self-hosted team chat

Mattermost screenshot

Want a team chat app that's deeply customizable and can run on your company's servers? Mattermost is the tool to use. It's a self-hosted team chat app with the core chat tools your team expects—along with options to customize almost everything about how your team works together.

The core chat experience feels much like Slack, with a unique take on message replies that shows all of the replies together in-line with the rest of the chat conversations. You can keep things a bit more orderly by making as many teams as you want, each with their members and channels. Then, with it hosted on your servers, you can tweak everything: the languages available in the UI, the file storage server, the design of your login page, how your team logs in, and much more. You can even make custom builds of its mobile apps. If your team has strict policies on communications, it's the chat app that can work the way you need to.

ChatWork (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web)

Best for chatting across multiple teams

ChatWork Screenshot

Work with people outside your company often, perhaps juggling relationships with suppliers or contracting with multiple teams at once? ChatWork is a social network for business chat. You'll add a full profile to your account, complete with contact info and a Chatwork ID that anyone can use to add you to their chats.

You can then join in group chats at your company, message anyone else with a Chatwork ID, or start new public or private group chats. Chatwork keeps all of those together in your left sidebar so you can quickly jump between conversations and teams without missing anything. It even consolidates mentions from every team you're in—and includes a to-do list to manage every actionable item from each conversation—to help cut through the noise.

Ryver (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, Web)

Best for adding more details to important conversations

Ryver screenshot

Sometimes you post a quick idea to chat, only to add a half-dozen more ideas in subsequent messages. Ryver helps you organize those with its Posts tool. Select as many messages as you need—from you or others—then add a subject and a formatted long-form message that expands on your thoughts. Ryver will merge your message and the chat posts, adding them to the Posts tab in your chat. You can then follow up on those posts and other tasks with its built-in kanban board.

Then, if you're worried you'll forget to follow up on a message, there's a Set Reminder button on each chat and long-form post so Ryver will notify you about that message again. That combined with the Notifications page helps you keep from missing important conversations. And if you need to bring someone from outside your team into your conversation, anyone can invite a guest member—though note, they'll be able to see the entire forum history (Ryver's name for chat groups).

Zoho Cliq (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web)

Best for chatting in multiple conversations at once

Zoho Cliq Screenshot

Zoho Cliq differs from other team chat apps in its look and style. Instead of having one conversation in view at a time, Cliq lets you open up multiple chat and private messages with each in its own column. Rather than flip among your most frequently used conversations, you can keep them all open at once. Another distinguishing feature, called Prime Time, lets you use Cliq as a broadcasting service, streaming video in real time to anyone on the team who tunes in.

Cliq integrates smoothly with other Zoho apps, making it an ideal choice for those already in the Zoho ecosystem. It's also priced competitively, with the per-person-per-month cost decreasing the more team members you have.

  • Zoho Cliq Pricing: Free for unlimited users with up to 10 integrations and 100 participants per channel; from $3/month per person Unlimited, depending on total number of team members, for unlimited integrations, channel permissions, and multi-team channels
  • Connect Zoho Cliq to over a thousand apps and build your own chat bots with Zapier's Zoho Cliq integrations.
  • Learn more in our Zoho Cliq walkthrough.

RingCentral Glip (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web)

Best for call focused team chat

Glip Screenshot

Chat's handy for most discussions—but sometimes it's easier to pick up the phone. Glip, the chat app from voice over internet provider RingCentral, is designed for both. Like many team chat apps, it includes a built-in call tool for a quick video or audio call. Only this time, it's powered by RingCentral so you can call others with RingCentral-powered phones, too, even if they're not using Glip.

It also helps you keep track of the things you discuss. Chat's great since there's a written record of everything, where with phone calls you need to keep records of things to do next. You can do that quickly in Glip with its dedicated pages for tasks, calendar, and notes for one place to track everything your team does and discusses.

  • RingCentral Glip Pricing: Free for unlimited posts, storage, integrations, and guests with 500 minutes of shared video chat; from $5/month per user Standard plan for 1,000 minutes video chat per person per month, and advanced administrative and data retention controls
  • Connect RingCentral Glip to over a thousand apps and build your own chat bots with Zapier's Glip integrations.
  • Learn more in our Glip walkthrough.

Alternative Team Chat Apps

Still looking for something different? Here are some other great apps to try out, each with a unique take on team chat:

Icon:  App Description Free for: Paid from:
FleepFleepNeed a chat app that's more focused on direct messages—and one that still works with email? Fleep's the tool for you. You can make group or one-off chats, jumping into the most recent conversation easily from the sidebar. And if you want to add someone to a conversation, just enter their email address—they can sign in to chat or just read and reply via email.Unlimited users and messages€5/mo./user
YammerYammerEver wanted a Facebook-style network for your company? Yammer, now part of Microsoft Office 365, lets you update your team on what's happening, with like buttons and comments just like you'd expect in Facebook. And it includes Messenger-style chat for real-time conversations.Unlimited features, core features$6/mo./user
ConvoConvoNeed feedback on your work? Convo also is built around a social network feed of updates, but it has more than a like button. You can also add annotations to images and files your team shares for direct feedback. And, you can have your email, real social media updates, and more come into your feed for one app with all your conversations.200 post history$9/mo./user
FlowdockFlowdockFind it confusing to have team chat messages and app notifications in the same chat conversations? Flowdock simplifies things with an Inbox for notifications so you can get updates from your team and apps in separate places.5 users$3/mo./user
IRCCloudIRCCloudKeep things old-school with IRCCloud, a modern take on traditional IRC chat. You can chat with your team in a private IRC server, or join open IRC channels to talk with other teams.2 IRC connections$5/mo./user
Rocket.chatRocket.chatChat isn't just for your team—it's also a great way to talk to your customers. Rocket.chat lets you combine the two, with a live chat embed for your site that sends messages into your core team chat app. And, it can be self-hosted on your own servers.Self-hosted$50/mo. for 500 users
SymphonySymphonyNeed to keep up with lots of data in your chat rooms? Symphony can display stock prices, web updates, and other feeds inside your chat interface. You can even refine your company's own chat with signals to monitor only specific keywords across every conversation—even from other users with Symphony's public profiles.Unlimited users, core features$15/mo./user

Apps with Team Chat Included

Basecamp
Basecamp includes a Campfire chat room in each project

Another option is to use a team chat tool built into another app you use, perhaps a project management or documents app. Instead of something dedicated to chat, you could use something simpler that comes as part of another tool you need. These team chat tools often include less features but also give your team one less app they'll need to install.

From all-in-one apps that include tools for everything to more focused to-do apps that also have chat, here are some great apps with team chat tools:

Icon:  App Description Free for: Paid from:
BasecampBasecampProjects can get confusing with files here, appointments there, and bits of details scattered across chats and emails. Basecamp brings it all together with one place for every project detail—and a dedicated team chat room for that project, too.$99/mo. per company
FlowFlowManage your to-dos with your team or in your own private list, then chat about them all with dedicated chat rooms and direct messages to keep your communications going between projects.$7.99/mo./user
QuipQuipA new take on the traditional office suite, Quip combines documents, spreadsheets, and team chat in one app. You can format text in a click, add data from a spreadsheet in the middle of a document, and chat about the changes with your team in a sidebar.Personal use$30/mo. for 5 users
HiveHiveBuild a workflow for your team and talk about it in the same place with Hive's kanban boards and integrated chat. It'll help you keep your projects moving along smoothly.$12/mo./user (min 5)
SamepageSamepageSometimes the best way to make sense of what you're working on is to write down everything important in one place. Samepage helps your team get on the, well, same page with a collaborative document your team can edit together in real time while chatting about it together.Unlimited users, 10 pages$8/mo./user
Bitrix24Bitrix24This app does everything—project, events, contacts, HR, and much more. And it's also great at chat. There's an internal social network that ties everything together, with group chat that even comes with its own dedicated app for conversations.12 users$39/mo. for 24 users
PodioPodioYour team needs apps to manage projects, organize contacts, track sales—along with tools for communications. Podio, part of the Cisco family of apps, does it all. It's an app builder tool with a built-in social network to share what you're working on and simple chat to talk with colleagues.5 users$9/mo./user

Time to Start Chatting

Whether your team needs a dedicated chat app or a project tool that happens to include chat as well, there are more ways to talk to your team than ever before. The simplest tools let you organize chats into conversations and talk in real-time; the most advanced let you automate things with bots and jump on a video call when text isn't cutting it.

Beyond Team Chat

Build a Slack Bot

Now that you've found the best team chat app for your team, it's time to get the most out of it. Here are some Zapier tutorials to help:

  • One of the best ways to get more out of your team chat app is with a chat bots. These automations can lookup contact info, create new projects, and much more—right from your team chat. Here's how to get started with our guide to building Slack bots, with tips that work in many other team chat apps.
  • Team chat can get overwhelming, with new messages coming in all day long. Here are 12 tips from the Zapier team to stay productive in your team chat.
  • Need a better video call tool than the one that comes with your team chat app? Check our roundup of the 12 Best Video Conferencing Apps to see how Zoom, Appear.in, Hangouts, GoToMeeting, and more compare.

Header photo via Startup Stock Photos via Pexels.

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“If we didn't get these ongoing notifications through Zapier, we’d miss important information on how patient funding is going. It's saved us so much time.”

Grace Garey, co-founder of Watsi

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