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Does Google hate desktop users? The mess that is Google Hangouts (previously known as Google Talk) kind of suggests they do. It took someone outside Google hacking away at CSS to finally offer a decent chat experience for Windows, Mac and Linux users – and you can give it a shot right now if you’re a Chrome user.

Chat shouldn’t be complicated, and Google seems to know this…on mobile. Hangouts for Android is the best all-in-one messaging app The Best All-In-One Messaging & Calling App For Android: Google Hangouts The Best All-In-One Messaging & Calling App For Android: Google Hangouts What if there was one app that could do it all? Meet Google Hangouts for Android. Read More for that platform, and the iOS version is also straightforward. Open the app; start chatting.

On the desktop…not so much. Hangouts is designed on these platforms to be second fiddle to something, as Michal Csanaky outlined:

Currently you can access the chat either as a secondary feature in Gmail, or install the Hangouts extension where, similarly as in Gmail, you constantly keep hiding and resizing the chat windows all over your screen.

Neither are great options, so Csanaky made his own alternative version of Hangouts – one that functions more like the mobile versions Google offers. The result, Common Hangouts is what Google should have offered all along

common-hangouts-main

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Here you can see all of your conversations, in the same place, without cluttering up Gmail or anything else. Windows don’t pop up over your inbox or your operating system – they’re continued in one tab. It just works.

We can’t help but ask: why did a third party designer have to hack this together, instead of Google offering it?

What Common Hangouts Offers

Common Hangouts, offered as a Chrome extension, is basically a CSS hack that gives you a window with Hangouts and only Hangouts – no Gmail or Google Plus in the background. This is going to be better for many users for a variety of reasons:

  • Unlike using Hangouts in Gmail, your chats are the primary focus – not the inevitable distraction of email.
  • Unlike the Hangouts extension for Chrome, windows don’t pop up over your work in other programs – everything stays in one place.
  • The design is cleaned up quite a bit, in a way that’s easy on the eyes and consistent.

common-hangouts-design

I’m not alone in saying this.

common-hangouts-review

Which brings up a relevant question: what is Google offering instead?

What Google Offers

Google’s ongoing mission to unnecessarily complicate our lives with conflicting products means that there are two different Hangouts options for desktop users outside of Gmail. Both aren’t “desktop clients” so much as Chrome-only add-ons, and if you’re looking to add Hangouts to Chrome it’s going to be hard to tell the difference.

The Hangouts extension, which basically pulls your chats out of Gmail Hangouts Extension For Chrome Brings Conversations To Your Desktop Hangouts Extension For Chrome Brings Conversations To Your Desktop Use Hangouts outside the browser. An overlooked Chrome extension from Google lets you chat without opening Gmail or Google+. Read More and into the rest of your desktop:

The Hangouts app, which (thankfully) puts everything in its own window.

google-hangouts-app-mac

At least, it does now – Google seems to change this one whenever they feel like it. At one point it re-created Facebook’s ‘Chat Heads’ feature How To Get Facebook-Style Chat Heads For Hangouts In Chrome How To Get Facebook-Style Chat Heads For Hangouts In Chrome Hangouts is a wonderful cross-platform messaging and video chat app, but this newest release straight from Google improves upon the app by offering Facebook-style "Chat Heads" on Chrome. Read More :

I actually kind of like the new approach of this app: it’s a single window where you can manage your conversations. But there are still some downsides: you can only see one conversation at a time, and the way in which it relates to Mac’s window manager is confusing to put it lightly.

I’m sure both of these approaches work very well on a Chromebook What Is A Chromebook? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is A Chromebook? [MakeUseOf Explains] Everything is moving towards the web, which is now more commonly being dubbed “the cloud”. As such, your devices should probably be ready and well equipped to make full use of cloud services for your... Read More , but Google knows the vast majority of their users aren’t using ChromeOS. Why not offer a more functional version of Hangouts for them?

It Took an Outsider to Make Hangouts Usable

Common Hangouts isn’t perfect. It’s currently only offered in Chrome, and Csanaky doesn’t really recommend anyone use it.

Even though it works perfectly with current Hangouts, I wouldn’t recommend to rely on the extension too much. Google will change just few things and it will get all broken.

So Google’s users just have to do what they’ve been doing for years: wait for Google to offer native desktop clients, and complain. Constantly.

Complain about Hangouts, or my article, in the comments below. While we’re at it, let’s talk about other worthwhile Hangouts apps for the desktop – if you know of any.

  1. Robert
    May 9, 2016 at 9:55 am

    You can use BlueStacks on PC to run hangouts app in a Android emulator.

  2. Cyfry
    May 5, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Bring back Gtalk! Hangouts is complete garbage! Stop making me use Chrome I don't like it!

  3. sfd
    April 25, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    common people?!?!
    200MB ram only for a chat?!?
    Also Gmail loaded takes 250MB ram
    What a days.
    5 years ago 10MB were more than enough

    • Jeffreh
      September 25, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      Dude, just buy more ram. Its so cheap these days its more than comical to complain about.

      • TG2
        October 8, 2016 at 12:10 am

        so says id 10 t. what happens when you're on a platform that doesn't support more than 4 gig of ram and you need that for other purposes.... Oh I know your answer.. buy something else .. look dumba$$ suggesting someone buy something or anything when the real answer is to efficiently design a stand alone client around a protocol that can be commonly used is not a good answer and begs to be treated the way this message is treating you. If people LIKE YOU were to get behind the REAL answer for this stuff, we'd have less to complain about, but because your position in life, like much of those so called friends of yours is well off enough to buy the current cool thing, or to replace your hardware because its not faster, more spacious, or missing new fuctions.. we have to endure your stupidity with theirs.

      • TG2
        October 8, 2016 at 12:22 am

        While this app (css code or whatever) may give some relief where chat windows are concerned, it still does absolutely nothing for having multiple users with the same name in your chat list.

        The only way of which to distinguish users is at the very beginning when *you* initiate a conversation with someone, and are searching ... it gives you their name and email address .. after that first message, after you've started, gone away and come back to your chats ... you have no way to distinguish one John Smith from another unless they have profile picks..

        "ID 10 T" users are going to say "well everyone should have a picture" and I'd equally come back with .. why? Why require something that not everyone wants? and then what? and then they can put any picture they want up there.. and you may not recognize that picture, I use pictures of my dogs ... doesn't mean anyone but me recognizes them, and I'm not chatting myself.. so... pictures, not the answer.

        The real answer is that google has to come up with a real proper and open standard! And that standard has to include detail that apps outside of google and even within (as with talk & hangouts) will use and present that information when hit with an "Info" request ... just like AIM did, just like Yahoo, and every client in the real world HAS DONE, day after day, since their inceptions.

        Sometimes not everything about a "thing" is broken, and you CAN incorporate the good parts of a thing with your re-written supposedly non-broken "thing" (supposedly, because the moment your standard isn't right in all situations, part of it becomes broken yet again, and along comes someone else wishing you'd correct it)

        Google needs to fix this.. they need to be motivated to do so, need to have reasons why they were wrong and forced into compliance with a standard others can agree on, and as it is right now, too many people still believe google can do no wrong.

  4. Lynne
    March 2, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Hi tech gurus,
    I need some guidance Ive read the trail and thought Common Hangouts sounded good until I read the comment that it is not recommended by the designer ??
    so what Extension do I use for a Webinar?
    Google Hangout (by google)
    One Click google hangout
    or Common Hangouts

    or something entirely different?
    very confused :(
    many thanks

    • Justin Pot
      March 2, 2016 at 10:24 pm

      Hey there, Common Hangouts is just an alternative user interface for Hangouts. You can just head to hangouts.google.com to use the service, that's the simplest place to find what you're looking for. Good luck!

  5. Adam Plocher
    March 1, 2016 at 12:16 am

    I hate the dependency on Chrome for both Google's and this third party one. I used FF primarily, but rarely use Chrome and have multiple extensions loaded. Each extension has at least one process allocated to it. To just have hangouts running all day, it loads about a dozen processes into memory - so roughly 12 chrome.exe's listed in Task Manager for an idling chat window.

    • Justin Pot
      March 1, 2016 at 12:19 am

      Yeah, that does suck, but the new https://hangouts.google.com is at least a partial solution. It came out since this article, and isn't quite as nice but at least works in Firefox.

  6. Maxim R
    November 6, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    There's now https://hangouts.google.com which is very similar to this addon...

  7. likefun butnot
    August 14, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    I have the best experience using Gchat/Hangouts/Whatever on IM+ or in Thunderbird's chat module. I don't like Gmail on the web. It's sluggish and tends to get lost in all the other tabs I have open. I use IM+ on tablet-type devices and just sign in to chat on Thunderbird anyplace I have a real screen and keyboard.

    I disabled Google Voice integration, even though I have a fully integrated Google Voice phone number. I don't want SMSes appearing in my chat interface. I'd rather redirect and respond to SMSes as E-mail. I really wish people would drop SMS in general. It's yet another message service that I don't want or need to monitor, yet people expect to use it for real time communication. Just like the Google IMs they could just as easily be sending.

    • Justin Pot
      August 14, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      SMS has so many advantages for those of us without data plans, and if you set up Hangouts to work with it you don't even need to think about it. Why turn it off?

      • likefun butnot
        August 15, 2015 at 1:13 pm

        Because SMS is fundamentally tied to one device and one kind of data service. It has ridiculous character limits, spotty delivery and occasional network incompatibilities. It's a terrible technology and there's no justification for using it when the same messages could be delivered over a worthwhile protocol with standardized tools for message receipt like SMTP or Jabber. There really isn't even a reason why messages aren't gatewayed to a proper network and protocol at the cell tower itself.

        SMS needs and deserves to die.

  8. Phil Nolan
    August 13, 2015 at 7:39 am

    I have no problem with Hangouts on Desktop the way it is.

    • Phil Nolan
      August 13, 2015 at 7:44 am

      Of course you have to switch to Chrome to use this anyway.

    • Justin Pot
      August 14, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      The needing to switch to Chrome thing sucks, though there's no particular reason this couldn't work on other browsers. It's just a CSS hack, should be easy to move from one platform to the other.

  9. Kieron Quinn
    August 12, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    "At least, it does now – Google seems to change this one whenever they feel like it. At one point it re-created Facebook’s ‘Chat Heads’ feature:"

    It still does? You can switch in the settings.

    • Justin Pot
      August 12, 2015 at 10:33 pm

      I couldn't find that option, possibly because it doesn't work on OS X. Thanks for the heads up.

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