Google Talk, also informally known as Gmail chat or Gchat, is a great way to keep in touch with other people both inside and outside the business. All you need is your Google account and the necessary software depending on your chat needs - at minimum a browser. If you do not have a Google account you will need to set one up to proceed.Note: always check with your IT and/or security team before implementing any new software in a corporate setting.
Google Talk integrates with Gmail and provides instant messaging, voice, and video communications (a browser voice/video chat plug-in is required for these latter two functions) with fellow Talk users.
A standalone Talk application is also available for Windows. You can also use Talk on mobile devices; Androids should have the application preloaded in the OS, and iOS users can access this link from their device browser: http://www.google.com/talk.
This article will show you how to set up and use some of the Talk features and programs.
To use the native Gmail Talk option
Talk is built right into Gmail and if you aren't already using it the steps involved are simple.
Look for the chat icon in the lower left of your Gmail window:
Click this icon to bring up the following box:
Search for contacts with whom you'd like to chat. For example, Ted Long.
Note the contact card with icons along the bottom for starting a Hangout, sending an email, and starting a chat. Click the chat icon. This brings up a chat box in the lower right of your Gmail screen.
The chat box provides an icon toolbar to invite the recipient to a Hangout, add voice/video chat (plugin required; see below) or add other people to the chat.
Installing the voice/video chat plugin
I recommend using this plugin for Chrome, but here is the full list of supported operating systems and browsers.
In addition, you and your fellow participants will need a microphone / speakers for audio and a webcam for video.
To set up the plug-in, access the "Install voice and video chat" page.
Click "Install voice and video chat."
The plug-in will proceed to install.
(You may be prompted to manually save and run the install file if there is a problem with the installation procedure.)
When finished, you'll see the following confirmation box.
You can now start using the voice and video chat function in Gmail - using the standard chat interface, click "More" and then "Start video chat."
Here is a demo from Google showing how video chat works.
Set up the Talk application on a Windows PC (XP or later)
The Talk application lets you use the same features shown above without having to sign into your browser. It's also larger and more robust than the Gmail chat window.
The browser will prompt you to save the executable.
Save and run the file.
Click "I agree," and the installation will proceed.
Click "Finish" when done.
A new program folder called "Google Talk" now appears in the programs list of your Start Menu. Open this folder then launch Google Talk. You will see a new icon in your system tray.
Talk will come up with a sign-on screen.
Sign in using your Google account credentials. Once authenticated, you will see your Contacts load.
You can start chatting or place audio calls to existing contacts. You can also click "Add" to invite friends.
Using these steps you can easily initiate text, audio and video chats with other Gmail users, whether you're working from home, traveling, or just across the hall in need of quick collaboration.
Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.