Google just announced a slew of “visible” improvements to Google Hangouts in Gmail. Little touches like a green availability indicator, a large set of emoji, message snippets, and a better friend search come together in what Google calls “the new Hangouts”.
The first thing you should see when you click to try the new Hangouts in Gmail are tiny green bubbles next to the names of your contacts. They show which of your friends are online and available for a chat. A message snippet below the name is a cue to the last conversation you probably had one to one or as a group.
Take off from there. But then if you are not in the mood, hit the tiny dropdown arrow next to your name and share your status. The best way – 80 emoji icons. Choose one to express yourself. The variety should be enough to show your friends the range of moods you are going through on a good or a bad day.
The search feature is now much neater. This helps because the small amount of screen real-estate next to the email threads isn’t quite enough to display your long list of friends. With a single click you can locate them and see if they are active. You can also use it to find others who are not in your immediate chat list but are on Hangouts.
The status indicator is a welcome inclusion and most of us missed this erstwhile feature of Google Talk. There still isn’t a feature to set yourself as “invisible” or “away”, so that could be an irritant for many. You can of course, sign out of Hangouts.
Are the changes helpful for the way you communicate with chat? Would you have preferred a simpler version?