The Magic of the Stars

June 28, 2018

One of the tricks I have recently learned for Slack, the chat program, is that they have a star system for messages. The star is a feature I have seen but I did not understand how to use it that well. After reading a page in the Slack documentation I learned stars are a todo list. It is not to be thought of as a bookmark but as a way to keep track of posts that you have to take action on. Suddenly the stream of overwhelming stuff is tamable.

Once I learned that trick, the stars in Gmail suddenly made a lot more sense to me as well. Now I use Gmail stars as an indicator of things I need to take action on or am waiting for others to take action on. No longer do those messages sit in my inbox. Stars no longer indicate random emails I thought were important. Instead they are this special place where I go to get things done.

The lesson of this is that sometimes the purpose of a feature in software is not obvious. While many software developers have done a great job of designing their software to be usable without a manual, sometimes reading good documentation can make a big difference in making the most of my tools. The best part is when different developers follow the same patterns or trends, learning something in one software program like Slack then easily transfers to Gmail. Everyone wins.

(Also if you need keyboard shortcuts for a web application try hitting “Shift+?” on a website. You will often get a reference card with keyboard shortcuts.)

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.