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

In Zulip, a conversation is a direct message thread (one-on-one or with a group), or a topic in a stream.

It generally works best to read your messages organized by conversation.

Finding a conversation to read

From the Inbox view

Inbox provides an overview of your conversations with unread messages. Conversations are shown in the same order as in the left sidebar in the web app, and you can collapse any streams you are not currently interested in.

  1. Click on Inbox (or if the views section is collapsed) in the left sidebar, or use the Shift + I keyboard shortcut.

  2. Click on a conversation you're interested in to view it. You can return to Inbox when done to select the next conversation.

You can collapse or expand the list of topics in a stream by clicking the collapse () or expand () icon to the left of a stream name.

  1. Tap the Inbox (inbox) tab in the bottom left corner of the app.

  2. Tap on a conversation you're interested in to view it. You can return to Inbox when done to select the next conversation.

You can collapse or expand the list of topics in a stream by tapping the collapse (inbox) or expand (inbox) icon to the left of a stream name.

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. Click on Recent conversations (or if the views section is collapsed) in the left sidebar, or use the T keyboard shortcut.

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

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

From the left sidebar

In the web app, the left sidebar provides quick access to your direct messages, and the streams you are subscribed to.

  1. Click on DIRECT MESSAGES or the name of a stream in the left sidebar. You will see a list of the most recent unread conversations that you have not muted.

  2. Click on the conversation you are interested in.

To see all conversations, click on more conversations (in direct messages) or more topics (in a stream).

Reading conversations

  1. Find a conversation to read.

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

  3. 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.

Use the N key to go to the next unread topic, or Shift + N for the next unread followed topic, or P for the next unread direct message conversation.

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 Start new conversation button at the bottom of the app, or use the C keyboard shortcut.

  2. (optional) You can change the destination stream for your message using the dropdown in the top left of the compose box. You can start typing to filter streams.

  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 the Send () button, or use a keyboard shortcut to send your message.

You can click on the Clear topic () icon near the upper right of the compose box to erase the topic name.

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.

  1. Tap the Streams (hash) tab at the bottom of the app.

  2. Tap on the desired stream.

  3. Tap the compose box at the bottom of the app.

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

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

Starting a new direct message

  1. Click the New direct message button at the bottom of the app, or the Start new conversation button if you are in a direct message view.

  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 the Send () button, or use a keyboard shortcut to send your message.

You can also use the X keyboard shortcut to start a new direct message conversation.

You can also click on any user in the right sidebar to start composing a direct message to them. Or open their user card by clicking on their profile picture or name, and select Send direct message.

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

  2. Tap the New DM button at the top of the app to message one person, or New group DM to message any number of people.

  3. Start typing the name of the person you want to message, and select their name from the list of suggestions.

  4. (if sending a group DM) Continue adding as many message recipients as you like. 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.

You can also tap on a user's profile picture or name, and tap the Send direct message button at the bottom of the app.

Rather than kicking off a group direct message, 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 the Send () button, 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