“To err is human,” wrote Alexander Pope, but he could have just as easily written, “To communicate is human.” From pictograms carved into stone to the latest chat apps, humans are always finding better ways to communicate. It’s no surprise AIM and MSN Messenger were some of the internet’s strongest lures in the ’90s, while messaging apps like WhatsApp and LINE are persuading the next billion to get online today. We like to talk.
Emails require a letter-length reply—and a title. Video calls can be as frustrating to schedule as a face-to-face meeting. Chat simplifies all that away. Type a tiny message, get an equally short reply or perhaps just an emoji, and get on with your work. There’s nothing complicated, confusing, or time consuming.
Chat is the primary way we talk to friends and family today. And increasingly, it’s how work gets done. Today’s best team chat apps help organize team conversations about multiple topics, search through your company archives to see if a question’s already been answered, and speed up with with bots and integrations that bring apps into your chats. They’ve become the default way many teams talk.
And there are more team chat apps than ever. Here are the best features in today’s team chat apps, to help you pick the perfect tool for your company communications.
A Team Chat Primer
Before you get a new chat app for your team, though, it’s worth thinking through what you’ll get out of it. After all, email does work, as well as iMessage, Skype, and even Twitter direct messages or Facebook Messenger conversations. Each have their place, and you can get business done with them just as much as with a professional chat app.
What a team chat app offers is the chance to keep all of your company’s communications in one place, making it easier for everyone to talk together with group or private chats. No more searching for a team member’s email address; everyone’s a tap away, even from your phone. And if a call would be easier, team chat apps often include conference calls, video chat, and screen-sharing.
Team chat apps keep conversations organized into groups, often called channels or rooms. There will often be a General group for random discussions, along with groups for each team or topic being discussed in your company—and maybe a few fun groups about pets and music and other fun stuff. Groups typically are public where everyone can join in. Then, there are private messages, where you can directly message a colleague or chat with a smaller group away from group discussions.
Tying it all together is a universal search that lets you quickly find old conversations and files. Instead of checking a half-dozen apps to find out an old message, a team chat apps gives you one place for everything, from random conversations to private messages with your boss. It’ll save time, and hopefully spark productive discussions—or silly GIF wars—that’ll keep your company an exciting place to work.
Instant messaging, from anywhere with anyone, that keeps your team informed and interacting, and make it simple to rediscover any bit of information that’s ever been shared. That’s quite a promise, and it’s what the best chat apps offer your team. Now, all that’s left to do is find the app with the perfect combination of features, and get your team using it.
The 12 Best Team Chat Apps
|Slack||A chat powered workplace||Free; $6.67/mo./user||Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, Web|
|HipChat||Fast, focused team chat||Free; $2/mo./user||Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, Web|
|Twist||Exclusively threaded conversations||Free; $6/mo./user||Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web|
|Microsoft Teams||Detailed discussions about documents and meetings||$6/mo./user||Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web|
|Flock||Quickly making decisions in chat||Free; $3/mo./user||Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web|
|Discord||Always-on voice chat||Free; $4.99/mo./user||Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web|
|Cisco Spark||Mocking up ideas in chat||Free; $12/mo./user||Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web|
|Mattermost||Self-hosted team chat||Free; $20/yr./user||Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, Web|
|ChatWork||Chatting across teams||Free; $5/mo./user||Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web|
|Ryver||Adding more details to important chats||Free||Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, Web|
|Zoho Chat||Chatting in multiple conversations at once||Free; $2.mo/user||Android, iOS, Web|
|Google Hangouts Chat||An automated chat assistant||Coming Soon|
Slack (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, Web)
Best for a chat powered workplace
Slack‘s the 900 pound gorilla in the room, the team chat app you’ve most likely heard of and tried already. Launched in mid 2013 by the team that built Flickr, it’s become one of the most popular ways to chat in groups.
It’s more than just chat. Slack’s built-in Slackbot tool can remind you of messages—or set a reminder about anything you need to remember. You can make it look how you want with deeply customizable themes. Its emoji-based reactions are a super-powered version of Facebook’s ubiquitous Like button. Slack Bots the main reason bots have been so popular over the past few years, with tools that can start projects, crunch numbers, and approve invoices right from your team chat. And its new conversations let you turn any chat message into a mini channel about that one topic.
Slack’s even great beyond work—or for juggling multiple jobs at a time. You can join multiple teams in Slack to keep your reading group, side project, and work chat all together in the same app.
- Slack Pricing: Free for unlimited users, 1-on-1 calls, and 10k message history; from $6.67/month per user Standard plan for unlimited history, screen sharing, and team video calls
- Connect Slack with 750+ apps and build your own chat bots with Zapier’s Slack integrations.
- For a deeper look at Slack’s features and pricing, check out our Slack review.
HipChat (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, Web)
Best for fast, focused team chat
One of the original team chat apps, HipChat today is the team chat app most focused on team chat. It a simple, fast way to stay in touch with your team without having to do everything inside your chat app.
HipChat’s built around Rooms for group chats, along with a list of People to directly message anyone on your team. Rooms can be public or private with a stream of messages that work just like you’d expect in any other chat app like Messenger. You can even grab a link to invite someone from outside your company into any Room if you’d like, and they’ll only see any messages posted to that room after you’ve invited them to chat. There’s little clutter—just your team and your messages in a fast-loading app.
Then, add the features you need with HipChat’s integrations. With its Trello and JIRA integrations—part of the Atlassian family of apps along with HipChat—you can share updates on JIRA projects into conversations or turn a message into a new Trello card. Or, you can just use HipChat for chat. It’s a quick place to message your team without having to learn your way around a new tool.
- HipChat Pricing: Free HipChat Basic for unlimited users with core chat features and 25k message history; $2/month per user HipChat Plus for video chat, screen sharing, and unlimited file sharing and message history
- Connect HipChat with 750+ apps and build your own chat bots with Zapier’s HipChat integrations.
- For a deeper look at HipChat’s features and pricing, check out our HipChat review.
Twist (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web)
Best for exclusively threaded conversations
Chat apps are great for in-the-moment conversation with their chronological list of messages. But when everything’s just another comment in your team’s General channel, it’s easy to miss out on important info if you don’t read through every message that’s posted.
Twist, the new team chat app from the Todoist team, changes that by turning all team chats into threads. It includes standard channels to group conversations—but when you want to say something, you either have to comment on an existing thread or start a new one. That keeps each conversation focused and helps you quickly see what’s been talked about by your team while you were away.
For a more traditional chat experience, the Messages tab lets you direct message anyone on your team or form an ad hoc group for private discussions. And, if you need to take action on any message or thread, just tap the Todoist button in the top right corner to add a new task that links back to the original conversation.
- Twist Pricing: Free for unlimited users with 1 month message history and 5 integrations; $6/month per user Unlimited plan for unlimited message history, file storage, and integrations
- Connect Twist with 750+ apps and build your own chat bots with Zapier’s Twist integrations.
- For a deeper look at Twist’s features and pricing, check out our Twist review.
Microsoft Teams (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web)
Best for detailed discussions about documents and meetings
Microsoft Teams chats are designed around meetings and documents. It works for random conversations, but is at its best when you’re hammering out a proposal or outlining a project together with a team.
Channels in Microsoft Teams are organized under teams. Invite everyone who should be in that team, and they’ll automatically be able to join in every channel in that team. There, you can chat as normal, with a Reply button under every message to turn it into a thread. Need to write something longer? Tap the A button to get a full rich text editor where you can write an email-style message complete with a subject and importance indicator. Or, you can write a full wiki of documents as a permanent record of what your team works on.
Then, whenever you have a meeting, Microsoft Teams makes a new chat room just for that meeting. You can jump on a video call, share your screen, and log everything that’s discussed in longform messages. It’s almost email reinvented.
- Microsoft Teams Pricing: Included with Office 365 Business Essentials and higher from $6/month per user for hosted Exchange email, Sharepoint, Yammer, OneDrive for Business, and Microsoft Teams chat
- Microsoft Teams Zapier integration coming soon
Flock (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web)
Best for quickly making decisions in chat
You need to figure something out. So, in Flock, you start a new chat, add the people you need, and start talking about it. Reply to someone’s message, and Flock will quote what they said right under your reply—much like in a forum.
Maybe you need to share a file—so you connect Google Drive, see a list of recent files in the sidebar, and share the file directly into the conversation. You might need to talk face-to-face, so you tap the camera icon to open an Appear.in video chat—or tap the email to send a group email, if chat’s just not cutting it.
Once you have all the options on the table, tap the poll icon to quickly get your team to vote on what to do. Then, in the shared to-do list—again, in the sidebar—add tasks for everything that needs completed and assign them to the right people. It’s a quick and actionable way to talk to your team and get things done with Flock’s apps that live in the sidebar of your conversations.
- Flock Pricing: Free for unlimited users and 10k message history; from $3/month per user Pro plan for unlimited messages, history, and integrations
- Connect Flock with 750+ apps and build your own chat bots with Zapier’s Flock integrations.
Discord (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web)
Best for always-on voice chat
Discord is CB radio reinvented for the web, built into a team chat app. The team chat side of things works much as you’d expect, similar to HipChat or Slack in its early days. There are channels for every topic you want to discuss, emoji reactions to give quick feedback, and pinned messages so you don’t lose track of important ideas.
Behind all that are Voice channels, always-on phone calls where you can talk to anyone in your team. You can keep your mic off, then push a key to start talking whenever you want to jump in. It’s designed for gaming, with an overlay view that shows voice channels on the side of your games—but could be just as handy to talk to colleagues while working remotely in a shared Google Doc. And you can easily add someone from another team to your chats, with their DiscordTag or the Instant Invite link that lets you share a chat server with anyone.
- Discord Pricing: Free for full features; $4.99/month Nitro plan for custom emoji, larger file uploads, and GIF avatars
Cisco Spark (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web)
Best for mocking up ideas in chat
Sometimes a picture’s worth a thousand words—and the easiest way to discuss stuff just might mean picking up the phone. Cisco Spark is a team chat app designed for creative teams. It keeps chat simple, with straightforward messaging that lets you make a new room in one click.
Everything else is off to the side, with an app pane that lets you start a voice or video call or share files with your team. Or, tap the Whiteboard for a blank space where you can sketch your ideas on a virtual whiteboard. It’s a quick way to show your team what you’re talking about.
- Cisco Spark Pricing: Free unlimited team messaging and 10 integrations; from $12/month Plus plan for unlimited integrations, admin controls, Cisco conferencing tools connections, and support
- Connect Cisco Spark with 750+ apps and build your own chat bots with Zapier’s Cisco Spark integrations.
Mattermost (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, Web)
Best for self-hosted team chat
Want a team chat app that’s deeply customizable and can run on your company’s own servers? Mattermost is the tool to use. It’s a self-hosted team chat app with the core chat tools your team expects—along with options to customize almost everything about how your team works together.
The core chat experience feels much like Slack, with a unique take on message replies that shows all of the replies together in-line with the rest of the chat conversations. You can keep things a bit more orderly by making as many teams as you want, each with their own members and channels. Then, with it hosted on your own servers, you can tweak everything: the languages available in the UI, where your team’s files are stored, the design of your login page, how your team logs in, and much more. You can even make your own builds of its mobile apps. If your team has strict policies on communications, it’s the chat app that can work the way you need to.
- Mattermost Pricing: Free Team edition to run on your own servers; from $20/year per user Enterprise E10 hosted edition
- Connect Mattermost with 750+ apps and build your own chat bots with Zapier’s Mattermost integrations.
ChatWork (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web)
Best for chatting across teams
Work with people outside your company often, perhaps juggling relationships with suppliers or contracting with multiple teams at once? ChatWork is a social network for business chat. You’ll add a full profile to your account, complete with contact info and a Chatwork ID that anyone can use to add you to their chats.
You can then join in group chats at your company, message anyone else with a Chatwork ID, or start new public or private group chats. Chatwork keeps all of those together in your left sidebar so you can quickly jump between conversations and teams without missing anything. It even consolidates mentions from every team you’re in—and includes a to-do list where you can manage all of your actionable items from every conversation—to help cut through the noise.
- ChatWork Pricing: Free for up to 14 group chats and individual video calls; from $5/month Business plan for unlimited group chats and group video calls
- Connect ChatWork with 750+ apps and build your own chat bots with Zapier’s ChatWork integrations.
- For a deeper look at ChatWork’s features and pricing, check out our ChatWork review.
Ryver (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, Web)
Best for adding more details to important conversations
Sometimes you post a quick idea to chat, only to end up adding a half-dozen more ideas in subsequent messages. Ryver helps you organize those with its Posts tool. Select as many messages as you need—from you or others—then add a subject and formatted long-form message that expands on your thoughts. Ryver will group your message and the chat posts together, adding them to the Posts tab in your chat.
Then, if you’re worried you’ll forget to followup on a message, there’s a Set Reminder button on each chat and longform post where Ryver can notify you about that message again. That combined with the Notifications page helps you keep from missing important conversations. And if you need to bring someone from outside your team into your conversation, anyone can invite a guest member—though note, they’ll be able to see everything that’s been said in that forum (Ryver’s name for chat groups).
- Ryver Pricing: Free for unlimited users and chats with 10 integrations; Ryver Task coming soon with paid project management tools alongside chat
- Connect Ryver with 750+ apps and build your own chat bots with Zapier’s Ryver integrations.
Zoho Chat (Android, iOS, Web)
Best for chatting in multiple conversations at once
There’s a Zoho app for everything, it seems—even team chat. And here, as in their email app, the focus is on keeping communication from getting too overwhelming. Zoho Chat does that with a multi-column layout. If you get a message in a new channel, tap it and it’ll open in the left-most column, keeping your current conversation going so you don’t waste time switching back and forth.
Need a different team’s input? You can forward any post to another channel. Or, if you need to collaborate with a few colleagues and dig more into the project details, you can fork a conversation into a private chat so you don’t clutter up the main channel with all the details.
- Zoho Chat Pricing: Free for unlimited users, 50 channels, and 10k message history; from $2/month Startup plan for unlimited channels and message history with up to 1k participants per channel
Google Hangouts Chat (coming soon)
Best for an automated chat assistant
Don’t look yet, but later this year a new team chat app is joining the fray: Google Hangouts Chat. A text chat focused spinoff of Google’s popular Hangouts video chats, Hangouts Chat is a thread-focused team chat tool built around your Google account.
It’ll pull Google Docs files and Google Photos pictures right into your conversations. And, with its
@meet bot, you’ll be able to schedule meetings or lookup info from Google Drive with an intelligent assistant, right from your chat conversations.
Alternative Team Chat Apps
Still looking for something different? Here are some other great apps to try out, each with their own take on team chat:
|Icon:||App||Description||Free for:||Paid from:|
|Fleep||Need a chat app that’s more focused on direct messages—and one that still works with email? Fleep’s the tool for you. You can make group or one-off chats, jumping into the most recent conversation easily from the sidebar. And if you want to add someone to a conversation, just enter their email address—they can sign in to chat or just read and reply via email.||Unlimited users and messages||€5/mo./user|
|Yammer||Ever wanted a Facebook-style network for your company? Yammer, now part of Microsoft Office 365, lets you update your team on what’s happening, with like buttons and comments just like you’d expect in Facebook. And it includes Messenger-style chat for real-time conversations.||Unlimited users, core features||$5/mo./user|
|Convo||Need feedback on your work? Convo also is built around a social network feed of updates, but it has more than a like button. You can also add annotations to images and files your team shares for direct feedback. And, you can have your email, real social media updates, and more come into your feed for one app with all your conversations.||200 post history||$9/mo./user|
|Flowdock||Find it confusing to have team chat messages and app notifications in the same chat conversations? Flowdock simplifies things with an Inbox for notifications so you can get updates from your team and apps in separate places.||5 users||$3/mo./user|
|Glip||It’s easy for important info to get lost in chat conversations, too. Glip’s sidebar automatically keeps track of every link, task, file, and note shared so you can grab them again easily anytime.||Unlimited user, 500 min. video||$5/mo./user|
|IRCCloud||Keep things old-school with IRCCloud, a modern take on traditional IRC chat. You can chat with your team in a private IRC server, or join open IRC channels to talk with other teams.||2 IRC connections||$5/mo./user|
|Rocket.chat||Chat isn’t just for your team—it’s also a great way to talk to your customers. Rocket.chat lets you combine the two, with a live chat embed for your site that sends messages into your core team chat app. And, it can be self-hosted on your own servers.||Self-hosted||$50/mo. for 500 users|
|Symphony||Need to keep up with lots of data in your chat rooms? Symphony can display stock prices, web updates, and other feeds inside your chat interface. You can even refine your company’s own chat with signals to monitor only specific keywords across every conversation—even from other users with Symphony’s public profiles.||Unlimited users, core features||$15/mo./user|
Apps with Team Chat Included
Another option is to use a team chat tool built into another app you use, perhaps a project management or documents app. Instead of something dedicated to chat, you could use something simpler that comes as part of another tool you need. These team chat tools often include less features but also give your team one less app they’ll need to install.
From all-in-one apps that include tools for everything to more focused to-do apps that also have chat, here are some great apps with team chat tools:
|Icon:||App||Description||Free for:||Paid from:|
|Basecamp||Projects can get confusing with files here, appointments there, and bits of details scattered across chats and emails. Basecamp brings it all together with one place for every project detail—and a dedicated team chat room for that project, too.||$99/mo. per company|
|Flow||Manage your to-dos with your team or in your own private list, then chat about them all with dedicated chat rooms and direct messages to keep your communications going between projects.||$19/mo. for 3 users|
|Quip||A new take on the traditional office suite, Quip combines documents, spreadsheets, and team chat in one app. You can format text in a click, add data from a spreadsheet in the middle of a document, and chat about the changes with your team in a sidebar.||Personal use||$30/mo. for 5 users|
|Hive||Build a workflow for your team and talk about it in the same place with Hive’s kanban boards and integrated chat. It’ll help you keep your projects moving along smoothly.||$12/mo./user (min 5)|
|Samepage||Sometimes the best way to make sense of what you’re working on is to write down everything important in one place. Samepage helps your team get on the, well, same page with a collaborative document your team can edit together in real time while chatting about it together.||Unlimited users, 10 pages||$8/mo./user|
|Bitrix24||This app does everything—project, events, contacts, HR, and much more. And it’s also great at chat. There’s an internal social network that ties everything together, with group chat that even comes with its own dedicated app for conversations.||12 users||$39/mo. for 24 users|
|Podio||Your team needs apps to manage projects, organize contacts, track sales—along with tools for communications. Podio, part of the Cisco family of apps, does it all. It’s an app builder tool with a built-in social network to share what you’re working on and simple chat to talk with colleagues.||5 users||$9/mo./user|
Time to Start Chatting
Whether your team needs a dedicated chat app or a project tool that happens to include chat as well, there are more ways to talk to your team than ever before. The simplest tools let you organize chats into conversations and talk in real-time; the most advanced let you automate things with bots and jump on a video call when text isn’t cutting it.
Which team chat does your team use—and why do you love it? We’d love to hear more in the comments below!
Beyond Team Chat
Now that you’ve found the best team chat app for your team, it’s time to get the most out of it. Here are some Zapier tutorials to help:
- Team chat can get overwhelming, with new messages coming in all day long. Here’s 12 tips to stay productive in your team chat with ways the Zapier team copes as a fully remote team.
- One of the best ways to get more out of your team chat app is with a chat bots. These automations can lookup contact info, create new projects, and much more—right from your team chat. Here’s how to get started with our guide to building Slack bots, with tips that’ll work in many other team chat apps.
- Need a better video call tool than the one that’s built into your team chat app? Check our roundup of the 12 Best Video Conferencing Apps to see how Zoom, Appear.in, Hangouts, GoToMeeting, and more compare.
Header photo via Startup Stock Photos via Pexels.