Google is moving the two main functions of Google Workspace-the paid tier of Google’s business Google account, formerly known as “G Suite”-to the consumer’s free Google account. The company’s latest messaging application, Google Chat, is now open to everyone. The great merger of Gmail with Google Chat, Google Docs, and Google Meet (Google’s Zoom competitor) will also cover consumer accounts. About a year ago, Google announced major changes to Gmail, making it a simple email. In a “single, integrated experience,” you can send emails, chat, process Google documents, and make video calls through a super browser-based application.
In August, this change began to roll out to paid Google Workspace accounts, and it has been tested experimentally in some consumer accounts. However, today, Google officially provides this feature to all Google users. Gmail’s “unified” user interface mostly takes the form of a segmented sidebar layout, with various Google applications on it. Gmail has long featured a segmented sidebar, including a chat program: first Google Talk (2005), then Google Hangouts (2013), and now Google Chat (2018). With today’s changes, there are new sections that include Google Chat “rooms” (or group chats, now separate from regular contacts) and Google Meet sections (so you can make video calls). If it’s not in the sidebar, Google Docs also has Gmail integration.
If someone pastes a link to Google Docs into Google Chat, they can hover over the thumbnail and click “Open in Chat”, which will open the Google Docs in Gmail’s new multi-pane interface, navigating the sidebar Located on the left. The split-screen interface will also appear, with Google Chat on the left and Google Docs on the right. The name of the “Open in Chat” button seems strange because it opens documents in Gmail.com, but if you receive the link via email, this split-screen interface will not work. If you have a chat in the pop-up window, the interface will not work either. The chat must be displayed in the full-screen interface to display the buttons.
Another new widget you may see in the Gmail user interface is the optional Google chat status in the upper right corner. Normally, this status shows “active” with a green dot next to it, but you can change it to “do not disturb” or “invisible” so you can complete some work. “Starting today, you can enable the built-in Google Workspace experience by opening Google Chat,” Google said. It does not make much sense to hide the unified Gmail interface behind the “Google Chat” logo, but you can change the “Chat” setting from “Classic Hangouts” to “Chat. Google” by going to Settings -> “Chat and Meet”.
If you hate the idea of all these extras in Gmail, you can change the “Chat” setting to “Off” and the Google Meet setting to “Hidden”. That should give you regular Gmail.
Also in today’s batch of announcements: Google’s latest messaging application, Google Chat, will be available to all consumer accounts. As a service, Google Chat has a long and eventful life. It was first announced as “Hangouts Chat” in 2017 and is unique to Google Workspace / GSuite. It is a competitor between Google and Slack, a $27 billion business chat application, and it was renamed “Google Chat” three years later.
Starting today, Google Chat will also join the service as a consumer chat application, and will eventually replace Google’s most popular chat product, Google Hangouts. Over the years, Google has released (and closed) many chat applications: Google Talk, Voice, Buzz, Disco, Google+ Messenger, Hangouts, Spaces, Allo, etc., but the user base keeps everything normal in this chaos.
The original Google Talk user base in 2005 was upgraded to Google Hangouts in 2013, and now these Google Hangouts users will be upgraded to Google Chat at some point. Google Chat now supports Google Hangouts; your contacts and messages in one app will appear in another app; Google only needs to kick users out of the old Hangout client and let them chat in the new Google Run on the client.