Sunday, January 10, 2016

Getting Started with Google Hangouts

Google's Hangouts is like Skype and other messaging services. You can conduct chat/text sessions, call landlines or cell phones, and have a video conference with as many as nine other people. While the other services have their niche (I use Skype routinely as well), Hangouts is useful because so many people use Google services on a variety of devices and it is the easiest way to connect to people who use Chrome OS devices (Chromebooks, Chromeboxes, etc.).

Note: You will need a Google Account. It is not necessary to have a Gmail address (you can use another service's email address).

Here's a "Get Started" guide from Google. There's also a very brief introduction video which shows what you can do with Google Hangouts:

The following is my take on Google's "Get Started" guide...

First, you should install the Hangout plug-in on your computer:

There are 3 primary ways to use Google Hangouts on your computer:
  1. Within Gmail
  2. Within a browser (like Chrome, IE, etc.) as a Web Page (the address is
  3. As a Desktop App (you'll need to have Google's Chrome Browser installed)
I use option 1 (within Gmail) most often. It's just my personal preference.

Go to Gmail and settings (cog at the upper right).
Click the Chat option and make sure Chat is set for ON (click on the picture to see a larger version):

I also recommend that you move "Chat" to the right-hand side of your Gmail. It will make it easier to see your Hangouts contacts as they will be closer to the top of your screen. To do this, in Gmail settings click Labs, scroll to the "Right-side chat" option and click "Enable". Be sure to scroll to the bottom and hit "Save Changes".

Go back to the main Gmail view (click Google or Gmail at the top left), click the downward pointing triangle next to your name or Google image, and select "Try the new Hangouts". Changing from Google Chat to Google Hangouts will add audio and video capabilities.

Here's an old article about changing from Chat to Hangouts (it may look a little different today):

If you want, you can also use the desktop app which gives you quick access to Google Hangouts. It uses the Google Chrome browser engine but you don't have to have the browser up to use it. Here are the instructions:

Finally, you can also install Google Hangouts as an app on your phone or tablet.

Here are some links to helpful videos about Google Hangouts:
There is also something called Hangouts "On Air." The principle is the same but you can actually have live, public or private Hangouts that can be recorded for later use. NOTE: As of September 12, 2016, this has been rolled into YouTube Live.

Also, check out these photos of an inexpensive video conference room setup and recommended equipment.

Hope to see you on Google Hangouts!

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