Getting started with Zulip

Welcome to Zulip! This page guides you through getting started using Zulip. If you are setting up a new organization, you may also want to check out our guide for setting up a new Zulip organization.

Mastering Zulip can take a bit of time, but once you get the hang of it, you'll never want to use a different team chat app!

Set up your account

If this is your first time using Zulip, we recommend starting with the web or desktop experience to set up your account and get oriented.

Learn about Zulip topics

In Zulip, streams determine who gets a message. Topics tell you what the message is about.

Topics are light-weight subjects, very similar to the subject line of an email. Like in email or a forum, messages about the same topic are shown together as a conversational thread. Here is what it looks like in Zulip.

Streams and topics

Topics are one of the most wonderful aspects of using Zulip:

  • Lots of conversations can happen in the same stream at the same time, each in its own topic. You never have to worry about interrupting — each conversation has its own space.
  • Conversations can last many hours or days, letting everyone respond in their own time. Don't worry about replying long after a message is sent — everyone will see your reply in context.

Check out Why Zulip to learn more about how Zulip's topic model helps transform how your organization communicates.

Reading your messages

Like your email inbox, Zulip works best if you read it topic-by-topic.

Finding a topic to read

From Recent conversations

Use the Recent conversations view to get an overview of all the ongoing conversations. This view is particularly useful for catching up on messages sent while you were away.

  1. Open Recent conversations from the left sidebar or by pressing the Esc key.

  2. The filters at the top help you quickly find relevant conversations. For example, select Participated to narrow to the topics you have sent messages to.

The Participants column shows which users recently sent a message (newest on the left).

From the list of streams

In the left sidebar, you can see the streams you are subscribed to, along with unread message counts for each stream.

  1. Click on the name of a stream in the left sidebar. You will see a list of the most recent unread topics in that stream.

  2. The initially shown list of topics usually has what you need, but you can click on more topics underneath to see additional topics.

Older topics disappear from the left sidebar, but you can always find them by clicking more topics or by using search.

Reading topics

  1. Open Recent conversations from the left sidebar or by pressing the Esc key.

  2. Click on the name of a topic in the Topic column.

  3. Read the topic, scrolling down with the mouse or by pressing PgDn.

  4. If the topic is not of interest, you can mark all messages as read by jumping to the bottom with the Scroll to bottom () button or the End shortcut.

  5. You can then click on another topic in the left sidebar, use the N key to go to the next unread topic, or go back to the Recent conversations view.

  1. Click on the name of a stream in the left sidebar. You will see a list of the most recent unread topics in that stream.

  2. Click on a topic in the left sidebar.

  3. Read the topic, scrolling down with the mouse or by pressing PgDn.

  4. If the topic is not of interest, you can mark all messages as read by jumping to the bottom with the Scroll to bottom () button or the End shortcut.

  5. Click on the next topic in the left sidebar, or use the N key to go to the next unread topic.

  6. To go to older unread topics, use the N key or click more topics to view.

Reading private messages

  1. If the Private messages section in the left sidebar is collapsed, click on it to expand it.

  2. Click on a conversation under Private messages.

  3. Read the conversation, scrolling down with the mouse or by pressing PgDn.

  4. If the conversation is not of interest, you can mark all messages as read by jumping to the bottom with the Scroll to bottom () button or the End shortcut.

  5. Click on the next conversation in the left sidebar, or use the P key to go to the next unread conversation.

  6. To view all your private message conversations, click the more conversations link at the bottom of the Private messages section.

You can also find recent PMs in the Recent conversations tab by selecting the Include PMs option.

Sending messages

When to start a new topic

To get the full benefits of Zulip's topic model, when starting a new conversation, you should start a new topic!

Starting a topic is like a lighter weight version of giving your email a subject. Topic names should be brief but specific, e.g.:

  • Good topic names: "question about topics", "welcome Anna Smith!", "issue #1234"
  • Not so good topic names: "question", "hi", "help", "this topic is about a question I have about topics"

Don't overthink naming your topic. The first 2-3 words that come to mind are probably fine!

How to start a new topic

  1. Click the New topic button at the bottom of the app, or use the C keyboard shortcut.

  2. Enter a topic name. Auto-complete will provide suggestions for previously used topics.

  3. Click on the compose box, or press Tab to compose your message. You can preview your message before sending.

  4. Click Send, or use a keyboard shortcut to send your message.

  1. Click the New topic button at the bottom of the app, or use the C keyboard shortcut.

  2. Enter a stream name. Auto-complete will provide suggestions for streams you can send to.

  3. Enter a topic name. Auto-complete will provide suggestions for previously used topics.

  4. Click on the compose box, or press Tab to compose your message. You can preview your message before sending.

  5. Click Send, or use a keyboard shortcut to send your message.

In Zulip, you can compose a message to a different place than the one you are viewing. In this situation, the message feed will fade to indicate what's going on.

Starting a new private thread

  1. Click the New private message button at the bottom of the app, or use the X keyboard shortcut.

  2. Start typing the name of the person you want to message, and select their name from the list of suggestions. You can continue adding as many message recipients as you like.

  3. Click on the compose box, or press Tab to compose your message. You can preview your message before sending.

  4. Click Send, or use a keyboard shortcut to send your message.

  1. Tap the private messages ( private messages ) tab at the bottom of the app.

  2. Tap the New group PM button at the top of the app.

  3. Start typing the name of the person you want to message, and select their name from the list of suggestions. You can continue adding as many message recipients as you like.

  4. Approve by tapping the checkmark (checkmark) button in the bottom right corner of the app.

  5. Compose your message, and tap the send (send) button in the bottom right corner of the app.

Rather than kicking off a group thread, consider starting the conversation in a new topic to make it easier to browse later on.

Responding to an existing thread

To reply to an existing thread:

  1. Click the Message... button at the bottom of the app.

  2. Compose your message. You can preview your message before sending.

  3. Click Send, or use a keyboard shortcut to send your message.

You can also reply by clicking on a message, or using the R or Enter keyboard shortcuts to reply to the message in the blue box.

Messaging tips & tricks