Slack takes on Microsoft's Skype, Google Hangouts with new call features

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Slack has added voice calls in beta with video and screen sharing on the way soon.

The communications darling looks to continue building on its impressive momentum and become the go-to choice for the more casually inclined enterprises.

Slack already has integrations with Google Hangouts, Microsoft's Skype and others to open up an option for voice or video chats, though they aren't particularly elegant. For example, the Skype function does not open within Slack and requires users to jump to Skype. These new Slack processes will work without moving to a separate app.

For voice calls, the one-to-one option is open to all Slack teams while group calls are available for those on the Standard plan and above. The feature requires that a team owner or admin turn it on, which is as simple as opening the app's settings page and flipping a switch.

Once set up, a phone button appears in group channels, direct messages and one-to-one conversations. When a user selects to call a single person, a pop-up notification will appear on the other party's screen. The call will ring for 30 seconds if the person is away and will not go through if they're set to Do Not Disturb mode.

For group calls, the call will appear for its duration in the group's channel. Anyone in the channel can join, though there is a 15-person limit.

The calls have a fairly simple set of built-in controls, with volume, mute, add a team member and exiting the call all as standard options. The only flair available is sending an emoji reaction during the call.

Considering the voice call and video call features are housed on the same help center page, it's likely the process will be pretty much the same.

Slack has been working during its meteoric rise to build out its platform as an ecosystem, including the introduction of its App Directory a few months ago. You can draw a direct line from the acquisition of Screenhero in January 2015 to these new capabilities.

For more:
- read the voice call beta Web page

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