Although Google Workspace (formerly known as G Suite) offers a wide range of tools to help businesses and teams, something was lacking on the communication side. Even with Hangouts Chat, teams opted for using a third-party tool to fulfill their needs. Mainly tools that allow them to chat with features that improve their conversations, such as Slack or Skype.
But recently, at the beginning of 2020, Google has rebranded Hangouts Chat as Google Chat on the Google Workspace enterprise. But not just that, the app has changed; it looks fresh and contains new tools to make collaboration between teams a lot easier.
On this guide, you are going to learn how to use Google Chat‘s new interface, as well as all its available features.
Whats is Google Chat
According to Google:
“Google Chat is an intelligent and secure communications tool, built for teams. From direct messages to team chat rooms, Google Chat provides an integrated platform that makes team communication easy and efficient.”
Google Chat is part of all the Google Workspace plans. Chat also has a mobile app for iOs and Android, which makes it possible to use it across many different devices. Therefore you can communicate with your team wherever you are, not depending on a computer.
Google Chat supports 28 languages and offers a maximum number of chat room participants of 8,000 people in all the Google Workspace plans. It means that Chat opens a whole new horizon of possibilities when it comes to communication inside a business.
A thorough look at Google Chat
To completely understand all Google Chat’s elements and features, let’s explore each one of them.
Find people, rooms, bots bar
If you need to start a conversation with someone, search for a group or bot, just click on the bar on the top left menu. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + K.
When you click the bar, a drop-down list appears with the following options:
- Group Message;
- Find a bot;
- Create room;
- Browse rooms;
- Message requests;
- Your frequent contacts;
The section “People” is where your private chats will be. All the contacts inside your Google Workspace account will be available for you to initiate a conversation. But first, you need to search for the name of the connection on the search bar, right above “People”. Once you have talked to someone, your conversation with them will be in this section, represented by their name.
You can manage your contacts by clicking the three dots on the right of their name. There you will be able to star the message, turn on/off notifications, block them, hide or delete the conversation.
Rooms are a new feature designed for teams to start group talks inside Google Chat. It’s very similar to “Channels” on Slack, or “Group Chat” on Skype. The purpose of Rooms is to be a place where teams can get together to discuss specific things, collaborate on projects, and share thoughts. You can exchange chat messages with your team, share files, and start video conferencing on Google Meet, everything inside the conversation.
It works in threads, which means anyone in the team can start a thread about a specific matter, and everybody else will answer on it, centralizing the communication.
By clicking the three dots next to the Room name, you can put a star in the room, control of notifications, or leave it any moment you want.
With Bots, you can access your favorite apps right from Chat. You can add bots to a specific room, or you can chat with them directly. For example, you can add gifs, assign tasks, schedule meetings, search leads, receive alerts from third-party tools you use for work, etc.
Meet is one of these Bots. When you add it to messages, you can open a chat with it. It gives you some instructions on how to “talk” to it. You can give commands such as ” Schedule meeting with (name)”, giving you dates to choose the best time for you. It’s also possible to modify or cancel a meeting, and even look up your schedule.
To configure your account, click the gear icon button to go to “Settings”. There you be able to control the following:
- Push notifications on the desktop and the mobile app, and also if you want sounds on the incoming ones;
- Receive emails for messages you haven’t read yet, but only for @mentions or direct messages from users;
- Enable smart reply on web and desktop, which consists of showing suggested responses when available;
- Manage accounts you have blocked;
One feature that can be a deal-breaker for many teams is the chat history. After all, having everything the team discusses documented is essential for future references. Some communication tools offer some limitations for keeping your History, being many times a premium feature. With Chat, you can keep everything recorded, with no additional costs.
Moreover, you have control over keeping chat history or not. Just click on the toggle button — with a timer icon — and you can turn History On or Off. Turning it off means that all the messages will be deleted after 24 hours.
As an admin, you can set the default and also let users change the default for their History. Chat history is on by default for both Google Chat and classic Hangouts. To set this configuration, go to your Google Admin console. There you will be able to control chat history for your entire organization.
Sometimes you need to find something older in your History, some specific information, data, or media. You can search for it on the search bar on the top menu. Just click the magnifier icon or either press Alt + / on Windows or Option + / on Mac.
On the left side menu, you can choose to search on the room or conversation you are at the moment or select “All rooms and direct messages” to do an in-depth search. Type what you want to find, filtering by @mentions of you, images, video, links, and types of files. When Chat finds it, the results are shown right above the bar, and you can click “Go to thread” to open it and see the context.
In your “reply” or “start conversation” box, you will be able to find two significant icons. The first one is “Upload File”, where you can choose files on your computer to send inside Google Chat.
The other one represents an essential integration with other Google Workspace app, which is the “Add Google Drive file”. When you click this button, you can send any kind of file that is inside your Google Drive account, such as spreadsheets, documents, presentations, forms, etc.
Start video meetings
Sometimes just texting isn’t enough, and you need to talk more deeply about a matter. Also, teams usually have weekly or monthly meetings in person, or some cases remotely. Either way, jumping on calls becomes necessary.
That’s why Google Chat has an integration with Google Meet, the Google Workspace video conferencing app. You can simply start a call with everyone in a room, or someone in a direct conversation, just by clicking the Meet button — represented by the icon with a video camera — that appear on Reply or New Conversation boxes.
A video chat is automatically created, and people can click on it to be sent to Google Meet.
When you hover a message you’ve sent, you can see four icons that let you perform different actions on it: Add reaction, Forward to Inbox, Edit, and Delete. But hovering someone else’s message shows only the first ones. Let’s have a look at these options and how they work.
Adding reactions turns the conversations more laid-back, funnier, and more straightforward. Sometimes you just need to react a with thumbs up emoji to agree with something that was said.
Just click on the smiley face icon when hovering a message and choose the one desire. The reactions will appear right above the message.
If you just want to insert an emoji to a message, on the text box, click the smiley face icon, or type a “:” followed by the name of your emoji. The Google Chat will start filtering through the emoji options; find the one you want, and just press “Enter”. It will be added to your message.
Forward to Inbox
A message inside a chat can contain important information, such as a password or log in, for example. In that case, you can forward messages to your email.
By clicking the message icon, you will receive the selection on your inbox automatically.
Sometimes you can make mistakes while talking through a chat app. That’s why most of them offer you the option to delete messages you desire. With Google Chat, you can also delete messages, and it doesn’t matter if it has already been read or not.
To delete a message click the trash can icon. A pop up will appear to confirm the action, so cancel or delete.
You can also edit a message to correct some mistakes you have made. Just click on the pencil icon, and start making the alterations needed. Note that you can insert files, add emojis, or send a video conference invitation when editing a message. Just click “Update” after writing it.
How to use Google Chat inside Gmail
Google Chat also integrates with Gmail, making it easier for you to communicate with your team without leaving your inbox. But to have this integration, the admin of your Google Workspace account needs to turn on this integration.
First, it’s necessary to go to Google Workspace’s admin console, and on the “Apps” option turn on both Google Chat and classic Hangouts. Then on the tab “Hangouts Chat”, click “Chat Clients”. Next, choose how you want to use Chat and Hangouts on your account:
- Both classic Hangouts and Chat: Both Chat and classic Hangouts will work. But in Gmail, only the Classic Hangouts works.
- Chat Preferred: Chat works in Gmail, while Classic Hangouts works only on the web.
If Chat doesn’t appear for any user in your organization, they need to go to Settings to turn it on. Just click the gear icon on the top-right of the screen and choose “Settings”. Select the tab “Chat and Meet” and then mark “Chat on”. Don’t forget to click “Save changes”.
The chat menu will appear on the bottom left of your screen, with your recent conversations. Just click on a conversation to open it, and if you want, click the diagonal arrow to maximize the window.
Now that you know how to use the new features of Google Chat, how about starting to test it with your team? Since you have Google Workspace, it is worth trying this app, to see if it meets your expectations.
It’s important to clarify that Google Chat is only available inside Google Workspace, and for Google users, the Hangouts Chat is still working. But remember that Hangouts Chat is a simple app, which does not include the features we have explained here.
Above all, we hope that this guide has been useful to a better understanding of this newly rebranded version of Google Chat.