[This is a sponsored article with Lark.]
Since the pandemic hit, the importance of workplace collaboration tools has never been greater.
At Vulcan Post, we’ve used our fair share of digital collaboration platforms but we migrated because the previous platforms changed to a paid subscription model that we personally felt wasn’t worth its price.
We were approached by Lark, who provided us with an opportunity to test and review their collaboration platform. To get a full experience of what Lark has to offer, we moved our team onto the platform.
What is Lark?
At first glance, Lark Suite or Lark for short, is similar to other collaboration platforms we’ve used in the past. But the team behind Lark defines it as ‘a tool to change the way people work’. While that is an ambitious claim, the team believes they can back it up.
On the Lark platform, users have access to Lark versions of Calendar, Docs, Messenger, Meetings, Cloud Storage, Email and other features. While these features are present in other platforms, Lark has many tricks up its sleeves to stand out from the rest.
Instead of navigating out from the application and switching to a browser, for example, Lark tries to get everything integrated into a single platform, without needing to switch apps or tabs.
Pricing-wise, you can use Lark’s enterprise version for free. The only advantage that paid enterprise users get is access to unlimited storage and priority support. The free version of Lark still comes with unlimited video conferencing minutes for up to 350 participants, a shared 200GB cloud storage and 500GB email storage between the entire company.
The app is extremely functional and versatile. Great design and intuitive user interface for most of the features. I love that my basic work communication, planning, and tasks are all-in-one with the Lark app. – Sarah, Managing Director of GRVTY Media
Currently the app does not have Dark mode available, and I’m not the only one in the company requesting this feature. So we have escalated this request to the Lark team and they have included it in their internal product feedback.
Lark can also be used on different devices. If you don’t wish to download an app, you can use it via your desktop. Alternatively, Lark is available on both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. In our 2 weeks of testing, the platform remained intuitive and snappy, even for us who are not on the latest devices.
Integrated chat features
When you launch Lark, the first screen you’ll be on is Lark Messenger. Here, you’ll have access to a myriad of tools at your disposal. You can set up a meeting, check a colleague’s calendar, highlight and pin important messages, set announcements, search messages and more.
Lark video conferencing
Through Lark, you can also host video conferences of up to 350 participants with unlimited minutes. This can be beneficial for those who want to host calls with external members or the community they manage without having to pay extra.
Along with that, you also have access to Magic Share, which allows for users to collaborate on a single document without needing to exit out of the video conference.
Additional privacy with secret chats
When creating a chat with your colleagues, you have an option to create a Secret Chat. This feature can be useful to send one-time company passwords or sensitive company documents. The timer on the messages can be set to a minute, an hour, one day or one week to clear after reading.
Screenshots with annotation
In chat, you have access to a screenshot tool. It includes annotation features and even mosaic if you need to blur out certain details. Screenshots come with an automatic watermark tool that will show who created it.
Automatic speech to text
One of the features we found useful was the ability to turn voice notes into text automatically. After the user records the audio note, they will be prompted with the option to automatically translate your audio into text for the chat. Or, you can select this feature from the start when recording the audio.
This helps when you’re glancing over the chat to see its contents, and the transcription is also searchable, which is very useful for teams who have the habit of leaving long voice notes to each other for work.
In each chat, you can enable a setting to auto-translate all incoming messages to your system language. This can be beneficial to those who are working with international colleagues. There are currently over 100+ languages available, and the Lark team is working to add more. We generally only use English in our company, but it was funny to see our colleagues try some of their broken Mandarin to test this feature out.
Lark Docs is similar to most online word processors. You have access to docs, sheets and a recently added Bitable. Bitable allows for easier project management through features such as Kanban and Gantt Charts. You could use the predesigned templates to speed up your document creating process as well.
Lark Docs offers one of our favourite collaboration features, which is the ability to edit a Lark Document straight out of chat, without going into a different tab.
When in a video meeting on Lark, you can also generate a meeting agenda directly into the video call, and edit it live using Magic Share, whether on the mobile app or on the web platform. The document remains in the Lark chat even after the call and it’s easy to access again without switching platforms. The search function in the chat can also be used to search Docs.
Like most collaboration platforms, you can also add additional tools to improve your workflow. In Lark, you can connect other apps such as Asana, Trello, Google Drive and more. If you have programming knowledge, you can also create and code your own app to suit your needs. We’ve added a GIPHY bot into our chat for GIF reactions, but I’m not sure if we’ll be using it since we saw this tweet.
If you use Trello for work or for personal management, you can link Trello to Lark. This will allow you to easily edit, create or add cards onto Trello without going out of Lark. So far, the 3rd party apps we’ve used integrated into Lark smoothly and didn’t overload the platform.
Lark allows users to sync up their Google Calendars into Lark. Since we primarily used Google Calendar to schedule our work, transferring our to-dos into Lark was fairly easy. We ran into some syncing issues because of the calendar permissions, but after changing some of the settings, it worked fine.
Video meetings set on Lark are accessible through the Calendar as well, and you can view the meetings notes here too.
Overall, Lark is a powerful collaboration platform that we believe many will like. It’s fast and video chats are stable in our experience too, even for colleagues with slower Wi-Fi connection.
We only have a few minor quibbles, chief being that there is no dedicated dark mode for Lark yet. Besides that, there are smaller UI changes we would request, such as having a “currently typing” status when someone is writing out a message, and also being able to see our total unread message count on the web and desktop app. But its benefits currently far outweigh the disadvantages.
There are a lot of features that we’ve yet to explore for ourselves too. You can even get trained and certified as a Lark user or administrator through SaaS University.
We can see a lot of companies, both SMEs and large corporations, being able to take advantage of Lark—not only to increase productivity, but also make collaboration more enjoyable, especially as we continue to work remotely. As for us, it seems our trial period is almost over, but we’re not going anywhere.