Google Apps

Why you can't live without Google Talk

Google Talk could be the stickiest Google App feature ever. David Politis explains why.
By David Politis

Credit: Google

On Thursday, July 26, Google reported widespread outages for its popular chat client - Google Talk, which features chat, voice and video functionalities. Commonly referred to as Gchat, the service was first implemented by Google in 2005 for Gmail users and brought to business users when Google rolled out Google Apps in the summer of 2006.

I was personally affected by the outage as was my entire team in both our New York and Atlanta offices. The outage highlighted how much I rely on Gchat both for professional and personal communication and brought to my attention the significant amount of time I spend using the service, often times without even realizing it.

Although upwards of 90% of our customers have enabled Google Talk for their Google Apps domains, the service's wide capabilities are often overlooked. It was only when I couldn't use chat, that I realized how much I depend on it, and it got me to think, could Google Talk be Gmail's stickiest feature ever?

Multitasking

Unlike similar services such as Facebook Chat and Adium, Gchat is seamlessly integrated within the Gmail interface, making it possible to truly multitask. We sit in front of our computers for hours on end and if someone inside or outside my organization needs to reach me during work hours, they know I'm most likely in front of my computer and frequently checking my inbox, which is not always a good thing especially if you're doing a product demo for a customer.

To ensure you don't miss a single chat, install the Chrome browser and enable desktop notifications in your Gmail settings.

Email reply via chat

Another great multitasking feature built into Google Talk lies within the People Widget at the top right of every email. Included in the People Widget is the ability to reply to an email via Google Talk. The chat conversation will include a hyperlink to the email so the person you are chatting with can refer back to the original email. Additionally, chats regarding the email will be automatically added to the thread.

Group chat

Google's vast suite of features and tools gives users multiple ways to collaborate, whether it's in a document, a presentation or a Google Hangout. But more often than not, I find myself holding conversations with multiple team members not on a conference call, but through a group chat.

Holding a group chat in Google Talk is for me the fastest way to collaborate when I'm not sitting in the same room with fellow collaborators.

Voice and video calling

If you find you can't communicate your idea to teammates through group chat, you can always just click the voice or video call button. There you can communicate orally on how to best solve the problem you're working on.

Most recently, Google rolled out an integration with Google Talk and Hangouts, replacing Talk's video calling service. The move was seemingly made in an effort to increase adoption of Google's social network, Google+, but the integration delivers some real value. Now you can share documents via the Google Hangout window in Talk.

Automatic friends list updates

I've been using Google Talk since the feature was first introduced, but lately I've found myself using the product more and more, almost unwittingly. On the back-end, Google auto-populates your Google Talk Friends list with people you contact frequently via email. If you do not wish to chat with these new contacts, simply block or hide them from your chat list.

And now, with Google+, you'll notice even more friends auto-populating your chat list. Google+ now automatically allows you to chat with people in mutual Google+ Circles. To disable this feature, visit private settings from your Google+ chat.

Mobile

iMessage has certainly replaced traditional texts for a large majority of smartphone users, but if you're like me and prefer Android over iPhone, iMessage is unavailable. Rather than wasting my limited text messages, I use the mobile version of Google Talk, which comes preinstalled on Android phones. After setting up your phone with your account information, Google Talk buddies automatically appear on mobile app.

Plus, you can actually send an SMS message from Google Talk inside of Gmail to a mobile device. The service can be enabled via the Chat lab and once in place, it is extremely useful if you need to send a message, but can't get to your mobile device.

Also read:

David Politis is the Founder and CEO of BetterCloud, the maker of FlashPanel featuring Apps Butler.

25 comments
rtroy56
rtroy56

You say to install Chrome to make good use of Google Talk. I've mostly stopped using Chrome - again, because of the horrific bug where Chrome crashes when you upload and download files (especially over a home network). I still use gmail, love Android ICS and Google Navi, but so far I have not figured out any use for so many other things that Google pushes so hard. It's not like I'm computer illiterate or fixed in my ways. I've been studying or working in IT for 40 years, and have used email since the 1980's. I beta test consumer software (including Windoze 8 Mutro). I maintain a home network with more then 20 connected devices. It's just that Google has given me no reason at all to even try to figure out what their other 'tools' do, and the 'tools' I use now meet my needs. And Google isn't always all that interested in some cases, IMHO, in debugging it's tools - like Chrome. In contrast, in a beta test I'm currently participating in, the vendor in question really encourages bug reporting and product discussions so they can figure out what the product needs. And when Motorola did one of their ICS pre-releases recently, they took people's concerns and comments seriously (but still owe us some fixes).

dnewman20
dnewman20

Since SMS can be done through Google Talk, I am not sure why this service is kept separate from google voice's SMS service. I have to switch between two clients which seems to be a missing link.

wrapper
wrapper

I mainly gTalk instead of sending sms,. It's cheaper and awesome in that you can move between your mobile and pc without disrupting your chats! A huge advantage of using gTalk is the ability to search your chats and label them in GMail! I have an Android which is configured to back up my sms and call logs to my GMail account, which enables me to track both types of communication for a specific person. Google is not trying to monopolize the business, they're integrating everything for ease of access and they're doing a fantastic job so far!

Snak
Snak

I use Ask for my searching, and Skype for my talking. As others have said, Skype has all of the features of GTalk without the annoying bits like auto-populate. I have many friends and colleagues online, but very few on my Skype list. That's the way I like it. If Google disappeared tomorrow I'd party. I appreciate that Microsoft bought Skype recently but I do try to use as many different suppliers of software/apps as possible. I don't like monoliths and I don't like monopolies. In fact, in the UK, monopolies are illegal. And damned right too. Companies like Microsoft and Google get seriously above themselves when they think they rule the world. Look at all the moaning about IE, most of which would go away if MS took a bit of humble pie and adhered to standards on which the rest of the world agreed. Thankfully IE is now no longer the market leader in Internet Browsers. No. You can keep GTalk. I'll continue to use Skype because, quite simply, it is the best. I'll consider changing when (note: not if) Microsoft ruin it. But it wont be to GTalk.

bestquality
bestquality

More services are better than Google Talk

aghilvr
aghilvr

Why you can’t live without Google Talk? There are a lot lives out there living without Gtalk, like me. I use Skype professionally and Yahoo Messenger personally. Nothing out beats Skype and Messenger in this field. I even has dumped the Google mail for the new Outlook, pretty impressive mail service from MS. Now the Google products that I use day today are; my android phone and Google Chrome. Once Windows Phone 8 is out, i'll say bye-bye to my android. Finally only Chrome exists, which is good and I might continue to use it, making chrome the only product that I use. So my point is, even a Google outage wont affect my life AT ALL!

technomom_z
technomom_z

Two other, probably less well known reasons GTalk is awesome. Its messaging provides the basis for Cerberus, which is, hands down, the best "Find my Phone" anywhere on any platform. It also is used by GrooveIP, which is a neat little app that allows you to use Google Voice over 3G, 4G, and wifi data saving those precious minutes in your dialing plan.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We're running MS Communicator, with an upgrade to Lync in pre-deployment trials. I confess to not 'getting' this tool. Specifically, I don't know when to use it, what situations make IM or chat preferable to e-mail or even (gods forbid) a phone call. We're a multinational company, and the only advantage I can see is that using Communicator for a voice call saves the costs of an international long-distance telephone call. However, it's configured only for internal use; outside communications must still go through e-mail, telephone, etc. I don't avoid or ignore it, I can handle the mechanics of using it, and I respond when someone else uses the tool to initiate a conversation. I just don't know why I'd pick it over the tools I'm accustomed to. I'm not mobile, so that doesn't factor into my usage.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

forums and emails do quite well, and allow me to still communicate when we're on totally different time zones so one of us is asleep or away most of the time.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

have used AOL Instant Messenger in the past, have used Yahoo Messenger some. In fact, a lot of the Google Talk features presented here in this blog post have been part of Yahoo Messenger for as long as I can remember...voice calls, video via web cam, SMS messaging...heck I used to do that with AOL way back when. I'm not convinced that I cannot live without Google Talk, nor Yahoo Messenger, nor even AIM! At one time IMs were getting to the point of interfering with other things I wanted to do while online, so I would either not fire up any messenger, or if using AOL I would turn IMs off, or maybe run a little gadget to auto-answer them!

Slayer_
Slayer_

I guess I can live without it....

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you spend a substantial amount your work day using an instant messaging client? Which client do you use? What are the benefits of Google Talk? Drawbacks?

hippiekarl
hippiekarl

I'd eulogize YouTube, though, somewhere during the festivities. This blog read like Google boilerplate, sent out for near-verbatim dissemination to the tech sites (to trumpet the latest google service YOU CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT), didn't it? That's stupendous hyperbole for a messaging app; the sort of things *I* can't live without are along the lines of oxygen, ELV current, coffee, and GranTurismo5 ;)

rakotomandimby
rakotomandimby

On my Desktop, I use GTalk through Pidgin or Empathy. This is possible because it uses XMPP (and some other dark protocols). If it ever uses a proprietary protocol, I would leave it.

gscratchtr
gscratchtr

it seems to me that IM has some of the advantages of eMail (comments are logged and can be reviewed; replies can be delayed) and some of the advantages of voice (real-time, two-way conversation is possible), but won't replace either.

juliekimjoyce
juliekimjoyce

On a Helpdesk, Comminicator's good if you want to check something with a colleague while on the phone to some-one else, or send some-one a quick note if you tnow they're expecting a call from a third party - but best of all it lets you know if there's likely to be any-one at the other end of the line before you call, and whether or not they're too busy to talk if you call back (or indeed, have given up and gone home.)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If there isn't, I leave a voice message or send an e-mail. That way, my message has been delivered and I can move on to the next task. I can see your point about a help desk, but support calls where I work are rarely of a nature that the caller can't wait for a few minutes. I realize everyone has different work environments, but maybe that's why these tools don't fit me.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

many just rattle off the phone number so fast you have trouble checking against the one you're calling. I have voice mail turned off on all my personal phones, yet I still get lots of people telling me they left a message on my voice mail. I often wonder what the recipients of those messages thought of them.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I have the same sense of interruption whether I'm answering a phone call or responding to a chat / IM message. As to callers, if I know it will be only a few minutes to provide an answer, I ask the caller if they want to wait. If it looks like it will take longer, I tell them I'll call back. I abhor it when i respond to a chat and the user takes a couple of minutes to reply. I'm stuck staring at the screen, waiting for them to start typing. It's not worth returning to my previous activity since I'll only get interrupted again when the other person finally replies. Downsides to chat / IM: I can speak faster than I can type. For whatever reason, Communicator doesn't have a spell checker; that really frosts my shorts.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Wait until the auto response tells you whose mailbox you've reached. Duh.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

right voice mail, as the last stats on voice mail I saw said about 40% of messages were left at the wrong mailbox, and another issue was messages left while people were away for a few days only.

jeb.hoge
jeb.hoge

The problem with using the phone (and yes, I know you're going to think this is ridiculous but bear with me) is that if I'm working on anything text/screen -related and I get a call, I have to "shift gears" rather significantly and focus on the call at the expense of the other work that I'm doing. In other words, I switch from text to voice. When I get chat requests (through MS Communicator here at this time), I can more easily respond, either right then or by letting the request sit a couple of minutes. Take a call from someone and see what they do when you don't answer their question for a minute or two. So chat in general is more flexible for both ends, plus even if your recipient isn't there, you can send a question/comment through the IM protocol and it will be there when the recipient returns (assuming there's not, say, a crash or reboot).