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New Slack Menus include task assignments, polls and surveys. (Slack Photo)

Slack has added a new feature that lets people insert dropdown menus in the middle of conversations.

These menus are designed to enable users do more of their work within Slack and its third party applications. Menus can be used to quickly conduct a poll, assign a task to a team member or evaluate job interview candidates. Users can also create their own Menus.

Buster Benson, platform product lead at Slack. (Slack Photo)

“It’s a way to make quick choices in Slack without having to leave the context of conversation.” Buster Benson, platform product lead at Slack, told GeekWire.

Slack is known for collaborating with third party apps to get the most function out of its features, and this time is no different. Slack is rolling out the new menu options with 16 partners, including Seattle-based Polly.ai, which makes polls for Slack and other collaboration tools. By working with these partners, like recruiting software company Lever and the sales-team-oriented Troops, Benson said Slack is able to build new features that solve a variety of work problems.

Functions like dropdown menus are not revolutionary, Benson said. They are simple features, but taken together they make it easier to get things done without having to jump back and forth between a variety of applications or browser windows.

“All these things are really lightweight contextual actions and decisions that all of our days are made out of,” Benson said. “To the extent we can make them easier, it seems like a great way to make our product better and everyone else’s products better too.”

A survey on Slack through SurveyMonkey. (Slack Photo)

Editor’s note: This post has been changed to accurately reflect Slack’s launch date and headquarters location.

Slack has grown to become a major force since it launched in San Francisco in 2014. Today Slack has 800 employees across seven offices around the world. It boasts 5 million daily active users, half of which are outside of North America. Throughout most of its history, Slack has been focused on small, creative organizations, but in January it launched a service catering to large companies, Enterprise Grid.

Slack is competing against some of the biggest tech companies in the world to become the top provider of productivity, collaboration and communications tools. Microsoft already had Skype and Skype for Business, and in March it introduced Teams, which it bills as a chat-based workspace. Microsoft is looking to leverage its global enterprise customer base and widely used software applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint and Power BI to gain an edge on the competition.

Teams’ launch came less than a week after Google unveiled its new Hangouts Chat communication app for teams with threaded conversations and dedicated virtual rooms. Amazon is moving into enterprise communication with its recently announced Chime service that includes video-conferencing and chat features. Facebook also jumped deeper into the market last fall with the launch of its Workplace By Facebook tool.

Benson said there is no one solution for every workplace. The crowded market is good for consumers and developers because it pushes the industry to do more. Slack, which took out a full page ad last year giving some “friendly advice” to Microsoft on Teams, welcomes the competition because it will keep the company on its toes, said Benson.

“Trying to solve workflows within the context of a conversation is an unsolved problem, so I look forward to seeing how other companies attempt to solve it and learn from each other,” Benson said. “We are all working together trying to solve the same problem, and I think everyone will benefit in the long run.”

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