How To Get Facebook-Style Chat Heads For Hangouts In Chrome

Skye Hudson 31-10-2014

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. If you’re a Hangouts user (and you should be 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 ), you’re going to want this update.


Read on to learn how and see it in action.

Installing Hangouts On Chrome

The weirdest thing about this newest update to Chrome is the fact that it is a different app, not an update. That’s right: there is still the old Hangouts available on the Chrome Web Store that was last updated on September 17th, whereas the new Hangouts has been available since October 14th. Even stranger, the old Hangouts has a puzzle piece icon and is under Social & Communication, while new Hangouts has the regular quotation logo and is under Chat & IM.

Below, you can see the old Hangouts (top) and new Hangouts (bottom).


Regardless, you can ignore the old Hangouts and just download the new one from the Chrome Web Store. It’s available officially only on Chrome OS and Windows devices, so you may run into issues if you’re using Linux or Mac.


If you had the old Hangouts installed previously, I would recommend uninstalling it at some point so that you don’t confuse the two. You can do this by typing chrome://extensions into your address bar and locating Hangouts. Below, you can see the new Hangouts (top) and old Hangouts (bottom). Just click the little trash icon to delete the old Hangouts — the one with the lighter green logo.


Once you’ve got it downloaded, you can find the app by typing chrome://apps into your address bar. Launch Hangouts, and it’s time dive into the new app.

Using The New Features

I’ll let Google show you how their new Hangouts works with this video:


Looks cool, right? In fact, it’s rather significantly revamped from the old version of Hangouts. Below, you can see the two compared side-by-side, with the old on the left and the new on the right.



New Hangouts now has two green tabs along the top: one for your contacts and one for your recent messages list. A green circle hovers in the bottom right and acts as your home button for Hangouts as well as allows you to drag the window around your screen.


As before, Hangouts hovers over all your windows by default, though this can be customized in the settings, which are accessible via the small gray triangle just under the right tab. With the new design, the small circular icon isn’t very intrusive on a large desktop-sized screen.

Below, you can see what the chat view and settings view look like.


As you can see, small circular profile picture icons pop up above the Hangouts icon to denote your different conversations. The “always-on-top avatars” (as Google calls them) are quite similar to Facebook Messenger’s Chat Heads, which is suspicious given that Hangouts and Messenger are in direct competition Android Messaging App Faceoff: Google Hangouts vs. Facebook Messenger On the surface, they're quite similar, but dig a bit deeper and you begin to see the major differences. Read More . Still, for those who like Messenger’s design but prefer Hangout’s utility, this could be a welcome addition.


The Hangouts icon can be moved anywhere on your screen, and it auto-minimizes to stay out of your way. The only restriction on this is that it can’t reach the uppermost areas of your screen because it has to leave room for the chat window to expand upwards. Could this be remedied by expanding the chat window downwards? Yes, but that isn’t an option yet.

What Do You Think Of The New Hangouts?

Google Hangouts is really growing as a messaging platform, and it’s exciting to see this update coming to Chrome OS and Windows. Download the Chrome app now and get started! Hopefully it will make its way over to Mac and Linux soon. But is an improved interface enough to grow their user base enough to compete with Facebook Messenger and Skype?

If you love Hangouts on the desktop, don’t forget to check out the iOS and Android versions — because the mobile versions are just as good.

What do you think of the new Hangouts update? Will you be using it on your device now? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: Working on a laptop Via Shutterstock

Related topics: Browser Extensions, Google Chrome, Google Hangouts.

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  1. Jean Likover
    December 1, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    I hate the thing. I want to get rid of it. It covers up stuff I want. I never chat.

  2. bryanc
    September 14, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    I freakin hate all the confusing apps from Google. It is just f*cking amazing the level of screwed user-interface, constantly UI change for no apparent reason (other than some engineer wanting to put his/her mark out there), gmail in the browser is not usable unless you are looking for a heart attach or aneurysm. Google Apps for Business, it is a mess --everything is tied to every other "thing" under "Google". All web-based admin console/interface. It sucks. Why did I ever migrated from Exchange.

  3. puc
    November 7, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    mac version pleaseeee

  4. Larry
    November 6, 2014 at 5:46 am

    I hate it. I was recording a webinar and it popped up on it's own blocking an important of the screen. I will uninstall it.

  5. Vincent
    November 3, 2014 at 12:32 am

    I'm trying to use the new hangouts on my MacBook, but it seems to want to use my Google voice number. Can I change it to my cell phone? That's how it works on my Note 3.

  6. Replicated Grace
    October 31, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    The new Hangouts works on Linux Mint 17, with a few small issues. It doesn't make a sound on a new incoming message, and the background does not go transparent like it is in screenshots of it running on Macs and Windows boxen. I also wish it lived in the notification area near the clock rather than the main taskbar, but aside from these few small gripes it works pretty well.