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free instant messagingI have to admit, I’ve bounced around among countless free Instant Messaging services. I started out chatting, like many geeks, on the popular IRC chat rooms or the MUDD online gaming communities of the 1990s – straight from an IBM dumb terminal in the college computer clusters. As the Internet progressed and the recent “Web 2.0” surge produced a surplus of IM engines, I tested the waters, like everyone else.

First, I started with Skype so that I could get the benefit of free telephone calls. When the “free” part gradually disappeared and other free instant messaging services started offering VoIP support, I began branching out – trying Yahoo IM, MSN Chat, and most recently gTalk.


My immediate reaction when I first tried gTalk was – is that it? Is that the best that Google can do? However, it didn’t take long to realize that the power in gTalk isn’t so much its size or functionality, but instead its portability. You can use it anywhere and everywhere, and if you use other Google services, it’s integrated into many of them.

In this post, I’d like to show you 6 very cool ways that you can access your gTalk service no matter where you are.

Install gTalk Chat For Desktop

The obvious solution is to install gTalk as a standalone desktop application on your PC. This is the way that I access my gTalk account whenever I’m home and working on my laptop. It’s non-intrusive, convenient and I can still surf the web and work on other applications while I have gTalk open off to the side.

free instant messaging

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The beauty of this desktop version of gTalk is the fact that when you open a new chat, it opens as a small, detached sub-window, which you can move around and place in any part of the screen that you’re not using at the moment.

free instant messaging

This allows you to fit your individual gTalk chats in between the many other windows that you’re working with, so you won’t lose valuable, productive time even if you have a chat going on (although it may be difficult to get your work done…)

Install The gTalk Browser Addon

There are also times when I just don’t want a bunch of applications running on my PC, or I may be using my wife’s mini-laptop that doesn’t have a whole lot of expendable memory. In these situations, installing the gTalk sidebar for Firefox is the best solution.

instant messaging sites

When you install the gTalk sidebar plugin, all you have to do is type Alt-G (or use the included Bookmark) and your gTalk friend list sits on the left side of your browser window – allowing you to keep your active chats conveniently located to the left of the online work that you’re doing.

instant messaging sites

When you open a new chat, it simply opens in the same sidebar space, but with a small tab so that you can quickly switch between all of the chats that you have open, but it doesn’t take up any additional screen space.

Use gTalk In Gmail

Gmail is actually the first place that I learned about gTalk. I had no idea that the IM even existed until it showed up as an automatic feature within Gmail. That’s when I started exploring gTalk and all that it has to offer. Gmail also seems to be the place where there are more features available than many other gTalk platforms.

instant messaging sites

The app shows up in the lower left corner of your Gmail account. In reality, it’s much like the sidebar browser plugin, except that Gmail works in just about any browser, and you’re also limited to using it only within the window or tab where you have Gmail open. When you do open up a chat with a friend, the chat window opens up in a box at the lower right corner of your Gmail window.

instant messaging

Now that I’ve covered the three most popular ways to access your gTalk service, I’d like to mention three more reasons why I love gTalk so much, and to show how many additional ways you can access gTalk no matter where you are.

Connect To gTalk In Digsby

Ever since the multitude of free instant messaging engines invaded the Internet, a mix of services started up that could aggregate all of your IM chat accounts into one place. The two most popular ones that lead the pack include Trillian and Digsby 5 Reasons Digsby's A Must-Have IM Client 5 Reasons Digsby's A Must-Have IM Client Read More . You will find that whether you use Trillian, Digsby or any other of these services, gTalk is almost always included on the list of IM engines you can access, while many other IM services are hit or miss.

instant messaging

Personally, I prefer Digsby. From within Digsby, just go to Tools -> Preferences and select IM Account. Then, add your Google Talk account as shown. It takes seconds, and all of your gTalk contacts will immediately show up in your Digsby contacts window.

Connect To gTalk At Work With CommunicationTube

Another method that you can use to access gTalk is from a web based IM service that aggregates all of your IM services within your browser. Meebo is definitely the most popular one of these, but with its popularity comes limitations.

Most large employers have already added Meebo to the corporate filter – so you can forget about chatting on Meebo during your lunch break. However, there’s a scaled down version now available called CommunicationTube, or cTube for short.

Here’s the main page where you can use the cTube gTalk solution.

instant messaging

Why use this over the Meebo solution? Simple – the scaled down approach lets you use this regardless which computer you’re on – at a friend’s house, an Internet cafe or at school.

The main page lists several major advantages to using this service, including the following.

  • Small footprint – No installs, no Java and no ActiveX.
  • Low bandwidth – The service uses AJAX and auto-refreshes your chat.
  • Private – The service accesses your IM accounts through CGI proxy services, making it possible to access your gTalk account even if gTalk is blocked at work or school.

Access Mobile gTalk On Your Android

Last, but not least, when you need ultimate portable chatting and if you own an Android mobile phone, then you can download a mobile version of Google Talk right from the Android Market. Since I’m almost always on the road, I use this service constantly to chat real time with research colleagues or manage communications with writers and clients.

Click on any of your online contacts and immediately open up a real time chat. Best of all, if you’re using a Motorola Droid with multi-tasking, you can switch between your active chat screen and check email or use your GPS mapping applications. Switching between apps is a breeze with the Droid!

Do you have any other ways to access gTalk? Are there any unique applications with gTalk integrated into it that are missing from this article? Share your own love for gTalk in the comments section below!

  1. Jan Vaes
    May 17, 2010 at 11:07 am

    to me the problem with gtalk is that not most of my contacts/friends don't use it :)

  2. Ehsan
    May 16, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    no GTalk official standalone software for linux.
    I guess linux users don't chat or don't have time. :)
    this is definitely a drawback.

  3. Ehsan
    May 16, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    no GTalk official standalone software for linux.
    I guess linux users don't chat or don't have time. :)
    this is definitely a drawback.

  4. Ryan Dube
    May 13, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Luis - thanks for your comment. The point of the article wasn't, "wow, gTalk can do this particular feature" - the point is that gTalk can do *all* of these things at once while most other IM's can only do (or be accessed from) one or two.

    I struggled for a long time to find a good Yahoo IM mobile app so that I could chat with my co-workers at a particular client website...suffice to say that nothing worked very well on Windows Mobile or Android (this was a few months ago, so things could have changed I'm sure) - I was very pleased to discover the flexibility of gTalk and how pervasive it was through all of the online/offline/mobile/plugin access points.

  5. Rex
    May 13, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Are you serious? Gtalk is the most limited client ever, and the desktop version hasn't been updated in at least 3 years. The new features only work in the browser version.
    Yahoo Messenger is what rocks my boat.
    The best drawn smileys anywhere, for every kind of mood you would want to show.
    Smart privacy settings- you can be selectively invisible or visible to whoever you choose to, unlike Gtalk where either everyone or no one can see you. Oh, and the desktop gtalk client doesn't even support invisible mode!!
    Has had webcam/voice/photo sharing capabilities for years.I love how I can drag/drop a bunch of pictures after initiating a photosharing request.

  6. Rex
    May 13, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Are you serious? Gtalk is the most limited client ever, and the desktop version hasn't been updated in at least 3 years. The new features only work in the browser version.
    Yahoo Messenger is what rocks my boat.
    The best drawn smileys anywhere, for every kind of mood you would want to show.
    Smart privacy settings- you can be selectively invisible or visible to whoever you choose to, unlike Gtalk where either everyone or no one can see you. Oh, and the desktop gtalk client doesn't even support invisible mode!!
    Has had webcam/voice/photo sharing capabilities for years.I love how I can drag/drop a bunch of pictures after initiating a photosharing request.

    • Ryan Dube
      May 13, 2010 at 4:34 pm

      Very serious. As I mentioned above - I set aside the need for a ton of features in one particular app (such as a desktop app), and instead opted for the IM that is accessible from anywhere and everywhere....there are fast/effective mobile apps, browser plugins, LOTS of online apps - the list goes on and on. While access is typically hit or miss for most other IM services - gTalk is the one that you can trust to be part of the offering every time. No more hunting for a decent mobile app - and it's nice to see that everyone I know is transitioning over to gTalk even if they use other IM services!

  7. Luis
    May 13, 2010 at 1:19 am

    Just to clarify. My previous comment was on the reasons this article gives, not on GTalk service.

    Though reading through these comments I realize the cool features GTalk has. The article should be updated to add these valid reasons.

  8. Luis
    May 12, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    Just to clarify. My previous comment was on the reasons this article gives, not on GTalk service.

    Though reading through these comments I realize the cool features GTalk has. The article should be updated to add these valid reasons.

  9. kww
    May 12, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    and you get a local phone number that people can call you at and it forwards the calls at your home number or mobile and they are never the wiser...because you just pick up the call and talk even though they dialed your google talk number. keeps your anonymous if you want.

    • Ryan Dube
      May 13, 2010 at 4:30 pm

      kww - great point!

  10. kww
    May 12, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    Yep google talk is the best...you can make phone calls to anyone in the states to phone to phone not computer to computer for free in the USA and you can call internationally for cheap. Anyway. Send the development team or hook up with someone that has some invites. All mine are gone. Oh yeah I almost forgot you can sms with this too and it has a voicemail that you can hear right in your gmail...even gives you a transcript message for your voicemail...totally awesome.

  11. venkat
    May 12, 2010 at 11:02 am

    I use Gtalk a lot than yahoo messenger.

  12. higginpott
    May 12, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Hi friends, I have read your post which is interesting and amazing. I agree with you and i like all 6 Reason. they al reason are amazing. Currently i have using Gogle talk and All my friends. Google talk has loaded with many latets features.

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  13. Luis
    May 12, 2010 at 8:39 am

    I'm sorry, but I don't see the point of this article.

    "6 Reasons G-Talk is better for IMing". Apparently its the best because it successfully does what EVERY_OTHER_IM service does. Except GTalk inside Gmail.

    1. Wow, chat windows are now a feature? Seriously?
    2. Pretty sure every other IM service has an add-on.
    3. GTalk in Gmail - This is the only actual *unique* feature.
    4. Digsby connectivity, woodidoo.
    5. See #4. They all do it.
    6. See #5.

    I actually find what Ashutosh Mishra said more interesting. I didn't know GTalk was based on open source Jabber. That would've been a nice highlight, since MSN, ICQ, AIM and Yahoo aren't open-sourced.

    I'm not saying this to sound like an ass. I really like this site and I've been coming here for a long time. I would just like actual reasons why its a better IM program other than "it does what all the others do".

  14. Luis
    May 12, 2010 at 6:39 am

    I'm sorry, but I don't see the point of this article.

    "6 Reasons G-Talk is better for IMing". Apparently its the best because it successfully does what EVERY_OTHER_IM service does. Except GTalk inside Gmail.

    1. Wow, chat windows are now a feature? Seriously?
    2. Pretty sure every other IM service has an add-on.
    3. GTalk in Gmail - This is the only actual *unique* feature.
    4. Digsby connectivity, woodidoo.
    5. See #4. They all do it.
    6. See #5.

    I actually find what Ashutosh Mishra said more interesting. I didn't know GTalk was based on open source Jabber. That would've been a nice highlight, since MSN, ICQ, AIM and Yahoo aren't open-sourced.

    I'm not saying this to sound like an ass. I really like this site and I've been coming here for a long time. I would just like actual reasons why its a better IM program other than "it does what all the others do".

    • Ryan Dube
      May 13, 2010 at 4:28 pm

      Luis - thanks for your comment. The point of the article wasn't, "wow, gTalk can do this particular feature" - the point is that gTalk can do *all* of these things at once while most other IM's can only do (or be accessed from) one or two.

      I struggled for a long time to find a good Yahoo IM mobile app so that I could chat with my co-workers at a particular client website...suffice to say that nothing worked very well on Windows Mobile or Android (this was a few months ago, so things could have changed I'm sure) - I was very pleased to discover the flexibility of gTalk and how pervasive it was through all of the online/offline/mobile/plugin access points.

  15. Ashutosh Mishra
    May 12, 2010 at 4:05 am

    Google Talk uses the open source Jabber protocol, so it's kind of obvious it's going to be available everywhere. Same for Facebook Chat, which recently moved to Jabber. On Windows I mostly use Digsby / Gmail Chat, while Empathy does the job in Ubuntu (it was quite buggy in the previous versions, but has improved a lot in Lucid Lynx). Btw, the Google Talk desktop client was last updated more than four years ago, so I tend to avoid using that. There are bound to be security holes in an app which hasn't been updated for so long. :)

  16. chrelad
    May 12, 2010 at 3:40 am

    Some other features that rock the casba:
    * File sending
    * Video/audio chat
    * Uses jabber protocol (non-proprietary)
    * Nice open API allows further development
    http://code.google.com/apis/ta...
    http://sites.google.com/site/c...
    * Embed the GTalk client right in your website
    * Pidgin support for GTalk
    * Bitlebeed support for GTalk
    http://sites.google.com/site/c...
    * Friend suggestions
    * Seamless integration into Orkut
    * iGoogle gadget

    Great article,

    Chrelad

  17. zach
    May 12, 2010 at 2:44 am

    i prefer pidgin to digsby, on the subject of multi-protocol IMs. but i agree that google talk is the best choice for pure instant messengers.

    • Aaron Couch
      May 26, 2010 at 4:23 pm

      I agree Zach. I wish Google would make Gtalk a multi-protocol app. They have the video chat down - it'd give Digsby and Pidgin a run for their money! (so to speak)

  18. chrelad
    May 12, 2010 at 1:40 am

    Some other features that rock the casba:
    * File sending
    * Video/audio chat
    * Uses jabber protocol (non-proprietary)
    * Nice open API allows further development
    http://code.google.com/apis/talk/
    http://sites.google.com/site/chrelad/notes-1/jabber-client-in-java
    * Embed the GTalk client right in your website
    * Pidgin support for GTalk
    * Bitlebeed support for GTalk
    http://sites.google.com/site/chrelad/notes-1/consolidateyourchat
    * Friend suggestions
    * Seamless integration into Orkut
    * iGoogle gadget

    Great article,

    Chrelad

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