Slack apps can now use drop-down menus

Developers get greater interactivity in the hope they'll build deeper integrations

Apps that integrate with Slack can now include drop-down menus in the messages that they post to the service, as part of a push to improve the interactivity of third-party integrations.

Slack's message menus let apps spawn clickable lists that users can choose from in order to take actions that developers have enabled. For example, using menus would allow users to pick a from a list of customers in a CRM system that integrates with Slack, assuming the developers have built their service to work with the new feature.

Developing integrations with the broader universe of enterprise software is key to Slack’s longevity. Deeper integrations with a broad third-party ecosystem can help the service compete against Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts Chat, according to Gartner Research Vice President Mike Gotta.

“To me, it’s a matter of survival,” he said. “What makes Slack and other vendors like Slack relevant, now that Teams and other things are out, is the fact that it integrates with the rest of the world.”

Slack is responding to functionality that some developers already hacked together using the developer tools that the company previously made available. Less than a year ago, Slack added support for buttons to its developer platform, so third-party apps could generate messages with multiple clickable options.

Some developers used that capability to create menus that let users navigate through long lists of items like accounts in a CRM system. That’s a clunky way of doing the same thing that message menus set out to enable, which is part of why Slack implemented it, said Jassim Latif, the company’s head of platform partnerships.

“Now with message menus, you got one menu, and you can just scroll through that and search for a particular sales account, and it’s surfaced,” he said.

Slack plans to continue expanding its developer platform to improve its interactions with third-party apps in the future, with some limits. The chat service won’t give developers a massive HTML canvas to run a version of their app inside Slack, Latif said.

Rather than giving users the ability to edit a sales forecast from inside the chat app, Latif said that Slack is focused on facilitating the handoff and approval of that forecast using its developer platform.

Apps integrated with Slack can start using message menus on Tuesday. The company is launching the feature with a set of partners that include Lever, SurveyMonkey, and Workato.

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