Last week, we spotted how the Google Chat website was getting some tweaks and Hangouts-style chat windows. This redesign of Google Chat is now rolled out for free accounts and is interestingly directly part of Gmail.
Google is starting to migrate classic Hangouts users to the free version of Chat. This builds on how Workspace customers have long been able to invite any Gmail account to select conversations. In either case, personal Google Accounts can download the Chat apps on Android or iOS, as well as the web client.
As part of this change, visiting chat.google.com is redirecting users to:
This loads the new UI that started appearing for some last week. It looks more like the Gmail web app — down to the loading screen — than the version of Chat available for paying customers. The top bar features a search bar, settings, and a dropdown to determine whether you’re “Active,” “Do not disturb,” or “Set as away.”
A navigation drawer lists “Chat” conversations — both one-to-one and groups — and larger Rooms. There’s also a “Meet” shortcut to start or join a video call. The sidebar can be minimized by clicking the hamburger button so that only profile avatars appear.
The key improvement is the ability to dock conversations in compact windows that match the classic Hangouts experience in Gmail. Conversations start appearing at the right and can be further minimized. All functionality is available in this small window, including Google Drive insertion and video call invites. As we noted before, this is a great productivity improvement:
In addition to being very familiar to longtime Gmail users, it’s an efficient way to talk to multiple people simultaneously. For example, it’d be very convenient to have one Room in the main screen and multiple docked windows, so that constant switching is not needed.
This Google Chat redesign that integrates it into Gmail will presumably come to Workspace customers next. Alternatively, this could just be for the free version of Chat.
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