In last few years, it seems like everyone has ditched AIM, Trillian, and the like for Facebook Messenger, iMessage, and plain-old text messages. And while person-to-person instant messaging is something we all do on our phones now, desktop clients are far from dead. In fact, they’re currently enjoying something of a renaissance.
While apps like Trillian and AIM have fallen to the wayside, companies like Slack have seized an opportunity. By reaching back into the mists of time and resurrecting the ancient traditions of mIRC, Slack has ignited an arms race between Silicon Valley’s biggest players. Between Microsoft, Facebook, and dozens of smaller companies, it’s safe to say that pretty much everyone is trying their hand at a chat app. Microsoft’s recently-introduced Teams is simply one of the more recent apps to join the fray.
Chat is the “next big thing,” at least for the moment. If you Google “chat apps,” for instance, you’ll be presented with a buffet of choices. And like a real buffet, once you have a look around, you’ll quickly realize that most of your options are just slight variations of the same thing. With so many choices, which chat app or apps should you be using? Well, there are really only two viable choices worth considering.
Short answer? Slack. Long answer? Slack and Discord. Here, we have some additional details, just in case you’re curious about why you should use either offering.
Slack is the de facto king for now, and for good reason. The software is slick, feature-rich, and pretty much ubiquitous. These days, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a business using Slack. It’s everywhere, not because it’s the default chat application for Windows or MacOS, but because it’s the best.
Why? The interface is clean, stylish, and straightforward. You have your channels on the left, your direct messages directly below. You also have Slackbot, which essentially amounts to Siri and Alexa’s less-helpful cousin. You can have Slackbot set reminders, and you can even customize it to respond to certain commands.
With dozens of integrations — including support for a host of other productivity suites — Slack works well with just about every service out there, and businesses can further customize it to fit their needs. Plus, it’s a bit of a hot property right now. The Slack team is constantly updating the app to roll out new features, squash bugs, and make your chat experience as pleasant as possible.
Plus, it’s free. There are also no ads, or limits on how many users you can have. There are paid plans, and they provide a more robust experience and added storage space, but most users can get by with the free version.
Need another reason why Slack is the best chat app on the market today? It runs on Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and directly in your web browser, without any major variations between platforms.
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If Slack is the best choice for the workplace, then Discord is the best for basically everything else. Designed as a text and voice chat client with gamers in mind, Discord provides a feature set that should be familiar to Slack users, or anyone who’s been a member of a guild in World of Warcraft. Don’t deny it — we’ve all been there.
Discord is less formal than other chat apps, which is refreshing since the current market is very business-oriented. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful. Featuring robust chat support and a built-in Streamer-mode, this is a finely-crafted application that puts apps like Skype to shame.
Unlike other popular chat apps, you only need to create one username from which you can join multiple different “servers” at a time. No need to create a work login, or a personal login — it’s the same one used across the entire platform.
Once you create or join a server, you can set up individual channels for specific topics, and even join each one like a no-fuss conference call. It’s reliable, attractive, and well-designed. Best of all, it just works.
That infamous Apple line is important here because nobody wants to fiddle with preferences or settings simply to talk to their friends. In our experience, Discord provides clear, reliable voice quality, without the choppy performance issues you sometimes run into with in-game chat options.
With Discord, you can also turn off your mic if you’re not in the mood to talk, or just jump right into a real “chat room”-style conversation with just the touch of a button. Simple, easy, and reliable. It’s also worth noting that Discord also features apps on every major platform, including Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and even Linux.
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Here’s the thing, both of these apps are free, as are most chat apps. So if you’re curious, just grab one and check it out. As industry-leading chat applications, Slack and Discord represent two sides of the same coin. They’re well-designed, and their user experiences are second to none.
Both provide similar functionality on rock-solid platforms, with evolving feature sets that are tailored to their unique audiences. Moreover, they complement each other beautifully. Head to work in the morning and hop on Slack, head home and hop on Discord. There’s a nice night-day dynamic here that’s even reflected in their respective interfaces. So, go download both of them while you’re uninstalling AIM, Trillian, Skype, ICQ, mIRC, Windows Messenger.
But, if you’re looking for a traditional — albeit, outdated — experience, you might want to try Pidgin. It’s a hub of sorts, an app which you can use to connect with anyone still using AIM, Yahoo Messenger, or really any other messenger service that has been supplanted by slicker, better apps like those mentioned above. Similarly, Franz provides that sort of hub functionality for modern chat apps, including Slack and Discord, so you don’t have to have multiple clients cluttering up your desktop.