Stay Connected with Google Chat: Part 1 of 2 by Brian Burchanowski

Have you noticed the Google chat pane in Gmail? Did you know Google Chat is more than just a basic IM tool? Chat helps you stay connected to your friends and colleagues with voice and video, available through the Google Talk plug-in. If you’re interested in taking your collaboration to the next level, using Google Chat and Talk, then read on!

Inviting Others to Chat

Take note of the Chat widget located on the sidebar of your Gmail interface. Let’s get started by inviting a coworker to Chat. Navigate to the Chat widget and start typing the email address of the individual you’d like to add - the address should automatically populate if the address is already one of your contacts. Roll over their name, then click Invite to Chat to send them an invite.


Once your friend or coworker has accepted the invite, you can get started. Notice that their name has appeared in your Chat list along with a status indicator. A green dot means they are active and available to chat, orange indicates that they are idle, and red unavailable. If the contact has a camera icon, instead of a dot, they have a webcam and can participate in a Google Talk voice/video chat session.

You can choose a custom status message, by clicking the drop down arrow next to Set status here (see above). Your custom message will then display beneath your name (see below).

This is a great way to keep coworkers informed and politely indicate that you are busy.

Using Chat for Instant Messages

To send an instant message, first, click on the name of the contact you wish to message. You’ll notice a chat window appear in the bottom right-hand corner of the Google Mail interface. Start typing your message, and hit enter to send (see below).

Your Chat dialogues are stored in Gmail for future reference. You can access these by clicking on the default Chats label in Gmail, conducting a search, or browsing All mail.

For more private conversations, you can go “off the record” while chatting. To initiate this, click on Actions in the Chat window to display a drop down. Next, click Go off the record.

Once you’re off the record, this is indicated in the Chat box (see below). You can go back on the record at any time. Remember, anything you chat while “off the record” will not be saved for future reference.

Has Chat piqued your interest? There’s more! Stay tuned for our next post, which will cover more advanced features, such as multi-person conversations, and voice/video chats using Google Talk.