SolutionBase: Expand your IM choices with Google Talk

Instant messaging is an increasingly important form of communication for business today. Here's how you can use Google Talk as standards-based instant messenger in your organization.

You've long been able to instant message people using AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger. These programs are extremely popular with millions of users on each service. Some people in your organization may have all three instant messengers running at the same time. Google recently introduced a new choice in the form of Google Talk.

What's Google Talk?

Google Talk is Google's entry into the IM field. Like AIM, YM, MSN Messenger, and ICQ, it allows you to IM people who are on your buddy list. It also allows you voice chat with other Google Talk users. You can also directly chat with people who have Google Talk and are listed in your Gmail address book.

Unlike the other IM vendors, Google Talk uses a non-proprietary protocol for communications. Google Talk uses the Jabber/XMPP protocol. That means that you can use other IM clients other than Google Talk to talk to Google Talk clients if you want. It also means that if you use something other than Google Talk, you don't have to worry about the service randomly disappearing as occasionally happens when you use something like Trillian to access a service like Yahoo Messenger.

One of the bad points about Google Talk is that it only runs on the Windows platform. If you're running anything other than Windows such as Mac OS X, Linux, or OS/2 you're out of luck. However, you can still talk to Google Talk users by using GAIM, Trillian, or any other chat client that supports the Jabber protocols.

Google Talk is also still officially in Beta. That means that Google is still busy working on the product. New Features may appear at any second. Even though it's currently in Beta, there's still a lot of good in it.

Obtaining and installing Google Talk

You can get Google Talk directly from the Google Talk Web site. Click the Download Google Talk link. The file you'll download, googletalk-setup.exe, is small— only 834Kb—so it won't take very long to download.

Install it by running the googletalk-setup.exe file. The installation is absolutely idiot-proof. There are no questions to answers other than accepting license agreement. After the program is installed, Google Talk starts automatically.

Running Google Talk

If Google Talk is easy to install, it's even easier to use. Enter your Gmail account user ID and password and the program signs you in and loads. You'll see the screen shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Google Talk looks and works like regular instant messengers.

It will immediately check your Gmail account for e-mail. You can see your Gmail message by clicking the Inbox link.

Click Add Friend to build your buddy list. When the Invite window appears, you can enter in a specific email address to add. If you click Choose From My Contacts, everyone you've ever emailed in Gmail. Click the checkboxes to each name you want to add and click Finish. On the next screen, you'll see an email you can send to the people you've selected inviting them to join Google Talk. The names will then load, with (Invite) listed next to your invitees. Users who are online will appear lit up.

To chat with someone, it's just like any other IM program. Select the person and start typing. To voice chat, it's essentially the same thing, but you must have a microphone and speakers on your computer. Google Talk won't yet allow you to voice chat with people on cell phones or on land-lines, but with Google's recent interest in VOIP, who knows—that might be a future feature.

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