Google Hangouts, a beloved yet often hated communication tool for Google Gmail users, is finally ending and being transitioned into Google Chat, a new-age messaging service that provides many improvements. While Google Chat has been around for some time, it is now nearing mandatory enforcement for organizations; while it’s still optional, one must provide reasoning to Google for choosing to opt-out of its use.
I am making the switch to Google Chat for my professional use on Monday, so I thought I would tear into the new features of Google Chat and provide some helpful information on it.
Note: If you wish to learn more about Google Chat, Google provides a free course via Google’s Cloud Training website.
Google Chat Layout
Once Google Chat is enabled, your Google Gmail window will look different.
Below is a quick view of everything new.
On the left side of your Gmail window, you will notice the following:
Chat (first yellow arrow)
In Chat, you will find your typical messages from your coworkers and clients. You will see the following by clicking the + symbol, which allows you to start a group conversation, create a room, browse a room, or view message requests. In the Frequent tab, you will see users you have contacted frequently.
Rooms (second yellow arrow)
In Rooms, you will find, create, join, and browse Rooms, which are merely groups of users who can form a chat room. For example, customer service could create a Room to allow seamless communication between all agents in real-time.
Meet (third yellow arrow)
In Meet, you can start or join a Google Meet, also known as a video call (webcam).
New Activity Indicator
At the top right of your Gmail window, you will notice a repositioned activity status indicator/selector; here, you can set yourself as Active (available), Away (not available), or Do Not Disturb (busy or requiring silence, such as on a phone call). The default setting is Active, which will show you as available based on activity (if you are currently logged in/using Gmail.
New Chat Features/Improvements
Google’s new Chat update brings more emoji reactions, improved message threading, user roles for larger chat rooms and communities, and moderation tools—all of which are features in chat apps like Discord and Slack. There is also a Spaces feature, effectively a collaboration tool available within any Room in Chat, which looks convenient for employees who work in larger groups and require constant contact and enhanced workflows. Spaces include shared tasks and files, and you can multitask between Docs and Chat right from within Gmail.
I have played around with Google Chat and found it to be quite impressive, but the final review of its effectiveness will be the end-user test.