• Home

  • Productivity

  • App tutorials

App tutorials

2 min read

How to customize your Slack sidebar

By Justin Pot · June 15, 2020
Logo icon for Slack.

Do you ever wonder why your coworker's Slack sidebar looks different than yours? It's probably because they customized it. You can tweak all sorts of settings in Slack, from how the sidebar behaves to how it looks. Let's outline these tweaks one at a time.

Only see unread channels in the Slack sidebar

By default, Slack shows every channel you join and person you DM in the sidebar, which means it can get cluttered quickly. That's why you should customize your Slack sidebar to only show what matters. I recommend that you first set the Channels section to only show unread channels. Hover over Channels, click the three dots to the right, then click Unread channels only.

Show only unread channels in Slack

You will now only see channels in the sidebar if there's something unread. You can repeat this process for direct messages, if you like, and things will look really clean really quickly.

Create personalized sections in the Slack sidebar

Of course, there probably are some channels you want to keep track of, so I recommend that you create sections for them. Click the three dots next to Channels again, then click Create new section.

Create a new sidebar section in Slack

You can now create a section for your sidebar, complete with an (optional) emoji.

Name your sidebar section in Slack

You can add as many sections as you like, then drag DMs and channels to the relevant sections. I opted for the clean look, free of emojis, that allows me to see different things in the sidebar depending on which team I'm working with right now.

My personal sidebar

My coworkers have customized this in all sorts of creative ways.

My co-worker

Tweak this until it looks just right for your usage.

Change the order that channels are listed in

You can also tweak what order your Slack channels show up in. Click the name of your organization, at top-left, then click Preferences.

Slack settings menu

Now head to the Sidebar section.

Slack channels order

The default option, alphabetically, is probably best for most people. If you're feeling brave, though, Slack can sort things "By priority," which means the channels you use most often end up on top. You can also decide here whether private and shared channels show up in their own lists.

Once you've grouped your channels into sections, you can also drag and drop each channel into a new order, or even a new section.

Change the Slack sidebar color scheme

Now that you've changed how Slack's sidebar works let's get to the fun stuff: how Slack's sidebar looks. Go to Preferences > Themes, scroll down, and you'll see a few default themes to choose from:

Slack themes

These are fine, but I'm sure you were hoping for more options. Good news! You can design literally whatever theme you want using the Custom Theme option.

Slack custom-themes

This is, of course, way too much work, which is why I'm thrilled to share even better news: you can quickly grab themes from SlackThemes.net. There's a bunch of good ones here.


Just find a theme you like, copy the values, then paste them in back in Slack. Or, if you want to quickly choose a color and get an attractive theme, check out Themes Are Cool, built by Zapier's own Bryan Mock.

You'll have a great looking Slack in no time.

Want to customize Slack even more? Here's how to automate your Slack status updates or even build your own Slackbot. Slack responsibly!

Related content:

  • How to delete Slack messages

  • How to survive on a Slack that's way too busy

  • How to hyperlink in Slack

Get productivity tips delivered straight to your inbox

We’ll email you 1-3 times per week—and never share your information.

mentioned apps

Related articles

Improve your productivity automatically. Use Zapier to get your apps working together.

Sign up
A Zap with the trigger 'When I get a new lead from Facebook,' and the action 'Notify my team in Slack'