Skip to content
Thoughtful, detailed coverage of everything Apple for 33 years
and the TidBITS Content Network for Apple professionals

How to Restore the Slack Workspace Sidebar

It started innocently three weeks ago when friend-of-TidBITS Chris Pepper (who proofreads our articles) asked me why our SlackBITS team—one of nine he uses—was showing a different sidebar on two of his three Macs.

Message from Chris Pepper about Slack user interface

It wasn’t anything I had done, and I had no idea what was going on either, so after we verified that I wasn’t seeing the same thing, Chris contacted Slack support. The initial response was essentially, “We’ve made Slack better for you, whether or not you understand it.”

Initial email from Slack support

When Chris explained why losing the workspace sidebar was problematic for people who jump back and forth between multiple teams and asked if it was possible to revert to the previous interface, a subsequent support rep acknowledged his point and promised to pass on the feedback.

Followup email from Slack support

Several days later, SlackBITS updated for me too, and I experienced firsthand what Chris was talking about. The workspace sidebar on the left has been collapsed into a stack at the top, making it significantly harder to see when there are updates in other workspaces and switch to them. Plus, the new Activity and DMs views collect recent activity but take it out of the necessary conversational context—they’re awful. You can already choose which channels and DMs appear in the channel sidebar and call out the most important ones with a star, so this new sidebar seems unnecessary.

New Slack user interface for SlackBITS with the DMs showing

For comparison, here’s what the TidBITS workspace looked like before and after the change.

Old Slack user interface for the TidBITS workspace

New Slack user interface for the TidBITS workspace

I’m not too perturbed by the cosmetic changes—I prefer the new gradients and dark text on a light background—but losing the workspace sidebar is problematic. For the last week, every time I’ve gone into SlackBITS, it has taken me an extra few seconds to remember how to get out.

Luckily, Slack has quietly acknowledged the cries of irritation from around the community, bringing back the workspace sidebar. Chris pinged me in SlackBITS with a link to a Mastodon post with the initial solution. Thanks to Jessamyn and snarkout for turning us on to the Command-Shift-S shortcut! (Command-Shift-R may no longer be necessary.)

Mastodon post with Slack interface fix

After using the magic Command-Shift-S shortcut (which is now listed in the massive keyboard shortcuts sheet accessible with Command-/), a slightly revised workspace sidebar reappears. That means you can now end up with a dizzying array of columns—up to five between sidebars and content. If you decide you can live without the workspace sidebar, pressing Command-Shift-S again turns it off. But at least you can see icons for each of your teams with badges indicating new content.

Slack interface with the new workspace sidebar

It turns out that Slack has added a somewhat discoverable way to show the workspace sidebar, which it calls the “workspace switcher.” If you click the stack of workspace icons at the top of the sidebar, the final item in the popover is Show Workspace Switcher. No one I was discussing this article with noticed that addition before I stumbled on it while moving screenshots to WordPress.

Slack workspace switcher

I strongly suspect that most paying Slack users have only a single workspace, and for such users, wasting horizontal space on a sidebar containing a single icon makes little sense. (The other changes seem essentially arbitrary.) Slack presumably knows how many of us live in multiple workspaces and decided we were a less important audience. That seems like it was a mistake, given that those who spend their days jumping between Slack workspaces are also likely among the most committed—and vocal—users.

Here’s hoping Slack’s designers put more thought into how different types of users interact with their app in the future.

Subscribe today so you don’t miss any TidBITS articles!

Every week you’ll get tech tips, in-depth reviews, and insightful news analysis for discerning Apple users. For over 33 years, we’ve published professional, member-supported tech journalism that makes you smarter.

Registration confirmation will be emailed to you.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA. The Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Comments About How to Restore the Slack Workspace Sidebar

Notable Replies

  1. Who gets to be the “Stacker” space?

    My question is why the second of my workspaces became a king-of-the-mountain stack, as you explain, while the other 3 workspaces have the old “let’s all be equals” mentality. So when I click into 1, 3, or 4 (their Cmd-numbers), my Slack Desktop looks like before the change. When I click on #2 Slack, I get the new ignore-everyone-else left strip. (Fortunately for me, I do most of my work in #1, so I get to see my other workspaces.)
    It would be nice if we could change in Settings which workspaces become king of the mountain, and which are fine being “equals.”

  2. The Slack redesign is rolling out slowly, so not all workspaces have gotten it yet. I have it in three of six workspaces so far.

    You can drag icons in the workspace sidebar to change their order.

  3. Apparently there’s a way to disable the new design altogether (I don’t use the Slack app so haven’t tried this):

    If you're on Mac/native client, you can enable Developer Tools and do this too (thanks to /u/guitwo on the /r/Slack Reddit):
    1. Close the Slack app
    2. Open the terminal and run these two commands separately:
    export SLACK DEVELOPER MENU=true
    open /Applications/Slack. app
    3. Slack will open with the new theme but now we have access to its console
    4. Open Slack's console by pressing command + option + I
    5. Run this in Slack's console:
    6. Restart Slack with command + R

Join the discussion in the TidBITS Discourse forum


Avatar for ace Avatar for jzw Avatar for tidbits43