We all have already known about last week’s I/O event, Google announced a revamped, unified messaging replacement for Google Talk called ‘Hangouts’,
An official Hangouts extension for Chrome and Chrome OS is already available to install from the Chrome Web Store. If you’re a Google+ user you’ll also find the new chat experience available from there, too.
But the revamped chat service isn't enabled by default on GMail for everyone just yet. Google are rolling it out to users in stages.
If you don't yet have Hangouts in Gmail but want it, here’s how to manually turn it on.
- Sign in to GMail (note: doesn't currently work for Google Apps users)
- Expand the Google Talk box in the left-hand sidebar by clicking the ‘speech bubble’ icon.
- Click on your chat avatar
- Select ‘Try the new Hangouts’ option
See the image below if you're unsure of where it is.
Enable hangouts in Gmail
Gmail will instantly reload when you click this option, so if you're in the middle of something important (i.e. gossip, or reading the latest bit of spam from Amazon) be sure to save, make excuses, etc.
If you're a fan of Gmail's phone dialer, you're in for a bit of a disappointment. The upgrade eliminates easy access to Google's VoIP service. Luckily, though, switching back to the old Gmail Talk interface is easy: just click on the Hangouts menu and select Revert to old chat on the dropdown:
We can only hope that Google integrates SMS and voice calling into Hangouts soon.
Update: If you really want Hangouts in Gmail, but don't want to give up voice calling, you can still manage. Although it's a little awkward. For starters, you can still receive phone calls in Gmail via Google Voice. If someone calls your GV number, your desktop will ring like normal. However, the phone call will be answered in a separate Hangout window. It seems to treat the phone calls as a video Hangout without any video on either end.
Which, shockingly enough, is how you can place phone calls from the desktop. This is a little ridiculous, so follow me here. If you want to place a phone call from the desktop follow these steps:
- Open plus.google.com.
- In the right-hand Hangouts bar, start a "Hangout party" (this is the new name for the multi-user video chat we've been calling simply "Hangouts" until now).
- Share the Hangout party with yourself.
- Click "Invite people"
- Click "Add telephone"
- Enter the telephone number of the person you want to call.
Unfortunately, this method won't pull up your contacts, so you'll have to manually track down the person's phone number and copy/paste into the box. However, the recipient will see your Google Voice number (if you have one) when their phone rings.
This feature has actually been in Hangouts for a while, but now that the new Gmail Hangouts eliminates the easy method to place phone calls, this is a fallback. As we said before, the alternative is to switch back to Talk for now.
So, really, the question is which do you want more? In line images, or the ability to place phone calls from your computer?