Google Hangouts is a communications platform that facilitates messaging and video chat (or phone calls for that matter). It’s easy to initiate a session for a one-on-one chat or a multi-party conversation, and there are several options for doing so. It’s also ideal for people who work from home, as it’s easy to set up a meeting with colleagues no matter where you are in the world.
We’ll explore these different choices here, giving you a clear and concise guide to how Google Hangouts works in each case, while also looking at ways to troubleshoot some of the more common issues you might encounter.
1. Open Hangouts
To start a session with Google Hangouts, in your browser, simply open this page: https://hangouts.google.com. It’s that simple. If you’re not already signed in to your Google Account, you’ll need to do so to start a session (although you can join chats without being signed in).
Alternatively, another way to use Hangouts is its extension for the Chrome browser – which works the same. We’ll cover this in step 7.
Those with mobile devices can also use the Google Hangouts apps for Android and iOS, and we’ll see that in step 8 of this tutorial.
2. Start messaging
To send a message to someone via Hangouts, just click on the Message icon and select the name of the person you want to contact from the contact list that appears. Or if they’re not in the list, enter their email address (or name or phone number) in the search box at the top of the sidebar to search for them.
Click on the appropriate name and a dialog box appears. Here you can give your chat invitation a title and then click Send Invitation to start the chat. Once the other party accepts your invitation, then you can have a message-based conversation – it couldn’t be much easier.
In the future, you can resume the conversation where you left off (the chat history is kept). Additionally, by clicking on a person’s icon with a ‘+’ next to it at the top of the conversation window, you can create a group chat and add more people (again, just type in the names relevant to find the people you want to add).
3. Make a video call
Click the icon for a video call and a separate window will appear. In the Invite People dialog box, enter the email address (or name) of the person (or people – multiple people can be added) you want to contact, and click on it in the menu that appears below. Now click on the green Invite button. The recipient (s) will be alerted to your call and can choose to answer (or decline).
You can also click Copy link to share, and that will copy a link to the video chat session to your clipboard, which you can then paste, say, an email, and send it to the person ( or people) you want to chat with. If they click on that link, they can then join the call directly from their inbox (plus they don’t need to be signed in to a Google account).
After starting a session, it is also possible to invite more people to the call by using the icon of a person with a ‘+’ next to it (top right of the screen), such as we have already seen this with the text Messaging.
4. Basics of video calling
Assuming the intended recipient accepts the call, then you will enter video chat, so walk away as you wish. The main controls at the bottom of the screen work as follows: the red button in the middle allows you to end the call, and you can mute the microphone with the left button, or turn off your camera using the right button.
5. Troubleshooting mic issues
But what if your video call doesn’t seem to be working properly? One of the most common issues you might encounter is that your microphone doesn’t seem to be working and the person you’re chatting with can’t hear you (or vice versa).
The first thing to do is go through the basics: make sure you haven’t muted the mic (as described in the section above). Make sure the microphone is properly connected (check the cable to the PC). Also, make sure that you are not running any other programs that use the mic that might conflict.
You can also make sure the correct microphone is selected in Google Hangouts settings, accessed by clicking on the gear icon at the top right of the screen (in some browsers this may be under the button with three vertical dots, again top right). Make sure the correct microphone is selected in this submenu (click the down arrow to see all options).
If all else fails, we’ve found that restarting the call can sometimes fix the audio issues – also try asking the other person to initiate the video call. You can also try switching to another browser and / or restarting your PC; these measures can help. Sometimes Hangouts can just be a bit hazy, and in our experience, gremlins are often solved by simply restarting things in one (or all) of these ways.
6. Video chat bells and whistles
While you are in a video chat, there are a few more cool features you should know about.
To get started, it is possible to send a text message to the screen: just click on the three vertical dots icon at the top right, click on Chat, type your message and press Enter. Everyone on the call will see the message displayed (this can be useful if you are having mic issues, as discussed in the previous section, as this is an alternate way to temporarily communicate).
You may also notice that there is a Share Screen option. If you click on it, you can choose to share your entire screen – or just an app window – and click the blue Share button. The person on the other end of the phone can then watch as you browse your desktop, and this can be very helpful in showing someone how to do something on the computer, rather than trying to explain it. verbally.
A small message appears at the bottom of the screen to let you know that Hangouts is sharing your screen, and you can click the blue Stop Sharing button when you want to end your screen sharing session.
7. Chrome extension
Rather than chatting in a browser tab, do you prefer to use the extension for Google’s Chrome browser? Just grab it from this link, install the extension and start by clicking on the little green bubble icon at the top right of Chrome.
Click on New Conversation (the green “+” icon at the top left) and start a discussion by simply clicking on the name of the person you want to speak to (or find the person using the search box). Also from the chat window you can start a video call by clicking on the small video camera icon in the top right (controls in a video chat work the same as in a browser tab session , as above).
In the main menu, click on the three vertical bars at the top left to display the options screen, which includes checking your status, notifications, etc.
8. Mobile applications
If you are using a mobile device, you can use Hangouts with the Android and ios apps – simply download and install them from the respective app stores (assuming they aren’t already preinstalled on your phone). During the installation, you can choose if you want to give access to the application to your contacts, in order to find friends.
When you start the app, do you see that big green ‘+’ button at the bottom right of the screen? Just tap on it, then you can choose to start a new chat session or video call. Tap on any of your contacts’ names and you’ll see their chat history, with icons to start a video call or phone chat, at the top of the screen.
While on a video call, the basic controls remain the same as in a desktop chat – see above – although you don’t have the extra options like the ability to share your screen or text chat in line.