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Slack at Penn

UPenn-IT is a paid Standard Slack team. It offers some benefits over free versions of Slack, including unlimited searchable message archives. ISC is offering this team as a collaboration tool for all of IT staff at Penn.

Many of us are already members of one or more Slack teams. Each team requires its own local login. It can be confusing at first to manage all of the various Slack teams, but most people find it quite simple once you get the hang of it. The easiest thing to do is to use the desktop or mobile client and configure it with all of the teams you wish to participate in. This will allow you to use a single interface to communicate on all of your various teams.

Guidelines and policies

Invite Penn IT staff only

This paid team is for Penn IT Staff only. IT contractors and consultants can be invited when appropriate, but please avoid inviting faculty, students, and non-IT staff. We only purchased licenses for IT staff.

Use your PennName as your username

Do not discuss confidential data

It is not appropriate to share passwords or other sensitive information (student data, SSNs, etc)

Whenever possible, make channels public

We are offering this single team for all of IT at Penn to help promote transparency, improve communication, and foster a sense of community.


A team is an instance of Slack. A team will contain many channels.

A channel is a chat room, usually centered on a particular topic. They can be public or private. Anyone on the team can join a public channel. You must be invited to a private channel.

How to join the UPenn-IT team

The UPenn-IT Slack Team is only for Penn IT Staff. You must be invited to participate.

Create your account

When you are invited to the team, you will receive an invitation via email. You should click the “Join Team” link or copy the link into your browser of choice.

Enter your PennName as your username. The first thing you need to do is choose your username for this UPenn-IT team. It doesn’t matter if you have other usernames for other Slack teams, please use your PennName as your username for this team. Then click Next.

Choose a strong password. Do not use your PennKey password, but follow the PennKey password guidelines to choose a strong password.

Agree to the Terms of Service and then step through the Tutorial (or skip if you are already familiar with Slack).

Configure your profile

Once you create your account, the next thing you should do is configure your profile. Click on the team name in the upper left corner to access the team menu. Then click on Profile & Account. Click on the Edit Profile button. From here, you can edit your personal details. Please complete the field for School/Center/Org.

Configuring the client

The initial account setup is done through the web. You may choose to continue using the web interface, but you might have a better experience with the desktop client:

There is also a mobile app if you choose to interact with Slack from your mobile device.

If you already have Slack installed on your desktop you can simply add this new team to your existing interface. In your Slack client, click on the team name to pull up the menu. At the bottom of the menu, click on Sign in to another team… This will not sign you out of your other team(s), but it will add the UPenn-IT team to your list of active teams.

Using @ messages

@channel should be used when making an announcement relevant to all members of the channel

@here should be used when making an urgent request of members in a channel and not to notify all members of a group

@pennkey should be used when you need to bring attention to certain person about a specific issue that they may be working on or involved with.

Default channels

A channel is a chat room, usually centered around a particular topic or team. They can be public or private. Anyone on the team can join a public channel. You must be invited to a private channel. When someone is invited to a channel, public or private, the entire history of that channel is available for the new participant to view.

#general is to be used only for team-wide announcements. Use of this channel is restricted to Slack admins.

#random is for fun, water cooler conversation

#slack-help is a good place to ask general how-to questions

How to find other channels

Click the CHANNELS header to open a new window where you can browse and join other channels.

Create a new channel

Anyone can create a public channel. To request a private channel, contact the administrators by typing a message in the #slack-help channel. Mention @admins in your message.

Click the + sign next to the CHANNEL header to create a new channel. Feel free to create new channels. Try to keep them public when possible. Remember to update the channel purpose with a description of what the channel is for.

While the use of public channels is strongly encouraged, keep in mind anything posted in a public channel can be seen by anyone on the team.

Star channel

This will mark a channel as important. This will move the channel to the top left of your sidebar so you have quicker access to it. To do this, click the star in the upper right corner while in the channel.

Mute channel

This will allow you to occasionally browse channel activity without being notified of unread messages. To do this, click into the channel you want to mute, click the cog in the upper center, and click on the drop-down menu “mute channel.”

Showing only unread/favorites

These options will allow you to show only your unread messages and favorite channels in the sidebar. To do this, go to Preferences-Advanced-Channel List and select “My unreads, along with everything I’ve starred.” You can also quickly access all of your unreads underneath your name and clicking “ALL UNREADS.”

Quick Switcher

This will allow you to quickly jump between conversations and channels. You can access this with simple keyboard shortcuts. On a Mac you can access it by hitting Command+K. ON a PC you can bring it up using Ctrl+K. On Linux, hitting Ctrl+K will also bring up this menu. To search for a channel quickly, type # before the team name to bring up channel options. In order to search for a user, you can type @ before the PennKey and it will start to populate users. You can also use Tab or Up/Down arrows to scroll through the lists.


You can adjust your notification preferences globally for each team you are a member of, or more granularly on a per-channel basis. For example, you can choose to receive notifications only for direct messages, and you can set up “do not disturb” hours if you don’t want to receive notifications off-hours. By default, notifications for this team are disabled between 10PM and 8AM.

Visit Preferences-Notifications menu for global settings. To reach the per-channel settings, click on the settings (gear icon) at the top of the channel you want to adjust, then choose notification preferences. You can select different per-channel notification settings for the desktop client and the mobile client.


Threads can be a very useful tool for responding to questions in channels that can get noisy. If you're answering someone's question or continuing a conversation in a high-traffic channel, consider using threads. When hovering over a message, click on the talk bubble icon to respond in a thread.

#Slack-Help channel

All team members should be added to the #slack-help channel by default. If you don’t see it, follow the instructions above to join the channel. This is a good place to ask for help from other ISC staff members.

Slack online documentation

Slack publishes a lot of helpful articles online:

Requesting support from Slack

If you’re having a problem you can’t solve with help from your neighbor or the Slack documentation, you can ask a Slack employee directly by typing /feedback followed by your question in any channel (the Slackbot direct message is a good place). This will open a ticket with Slack support and you will receive an answer via email.