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With all the confusion around Google’s messaging apps, remember Hangouts? It’s a bit like Google’s version of Skype, offering video and audio calling, as well as text chat, over the internet.
While Hangouts was once the default communication app on Android, Google has phased it out in favor of Allo and Duo. However, Hangouts is still a great service for both desktop and mobile. We’ll answer common questions and show you how to use it.
The Basics of Google Hangouts
To use Hangouts, you’ll need a Google account. You already have one of these if you use Gmail, YouTube, or one of Google’s many other services. Head to the Hangouts homepage and click the Sign in button in the top-right corner. Log into your Google Account, or click Create account to make one.
Once you’ve logged in, you’ll see options for contacting your friends. Use the tabs on the left side of the screen to swap between Contacts, Conversations, and Phone Calls. At the top of any list, click New conversation and enter someone’s name, email address, or phone number to start chatting with them.
When you open a chat with someone, you’ll see it in a panel similar to Facebook Messenger. Use the text field at the bottom to send a message. You can also send emoji or attach a picture using the respective buttons. If you mouse over the Picture button, you’ll see a Pencil icon appear. This lets you draw with your mouse or touchscreen.
Using the icons at the top of a chat, you can quickly start an audio or video call with your contact, or start a group chat with them and others. You can also minimize or pop out chats using the toolbar buttons at the top.
How to Set Up a Google Hangouts Video Call
Sending instant messages with Hangouts is easy, but the service makes video calls simple too. On the homepage, click Video Call to start a new video session. If you prefer, you can also click the Video call button in any conversation.
When you click the Video Call link, Hangouts opens a new window and asks you to invite some people. You can either type a friend’s name or email address to invite them or click Copy Link to Share. Once you have that link, you can send it to friends via any method (text message, email, etc.) and clicking it will let them join your Hangout.
Once in a Hangout, you’ll see whoever is speaking in the center of your screen. If you prefer, you can click someone’s thumbnail in the bottom-right to always show them. Click the Message icon in the bottom-left corner to send an instant message to all call members.
To invite more people to the Hangout, click the Add icon in the upper-right. Here you’ll also see the Settings icon, which lets you adjust the camera, sound, and bandwidth settings.
You can click the Microphone icon to mute your mic. When you’re done with the call, just click the red Hang up button to leave.
How to Record a Google Hangout
Hangouts once had a feature called Hangouts on Air that made it easy to broadcast your video calls live and record them. However, Google killed this off in September 2016 in favor of YouTube Live. Thus, this is now the best way to record Hangout conversations.
To record with YouTube live, open YouTube and click your profile picture in the top-right corner. Select Creator Studio and then choose Live Streaming on the left sidebar. If you haven’t created a YouTube channel yet, you’ll see a prompt to do so now.
Now, select the Stream now entry under Live Streaming. If this is your first time doing this, you’ll see an Enable live streaming button. Click it and YouTube should instantly approve you for streaming if your account is free of issues.
From here, you can set up your stream and start it when ready. Under the Basic Info tab, change the Privacy to Private if you don’t want others on YouTube to find it. Once you go live, YouTube will record the entire event. You’ll see it in your Creator Studio once the stream ends.
If you don’t want to do this, you could always use a screen recorder app to record conversations locally. If your Hangout is longer than a few minutes, though, you’ll likely need to pay for a premium tool.
How to Schedule a Google Hangout
You can’t schedule a Hangout using the app, but you can achieve the same effect by creating an event in Google Calendar.
Head to Calendar’s homepage, then double-click on the date you’d like to schedule a Hangout for. Fill out information like the name, location, and time of the event, then click the Add conferencing box. Select Hangouts here, then make sure to use the Guests panel on the right to invite people.
Once you create the event and send invites, your guests will receive a notification about the event with a Join video call link. Once they click that, they’ll jump right into the scheduled call.
How to Share Your Screen on Google Hangouts
You don’t need any special software to share your screen during a Hangout, as Google makes it easy. In a Hangout call, click the three-dot Menu button and choose Share screen. You’ll see a prompt to choose what you’d like to share: pick either a monitor or a single app.
Once you start screensharing, everyone in the call will be able to see what’s on your screen until you click Stop.
How to Block or Unblock Someone on Google Hangouts
If someone is bothering you on Hangouts, you can easily block them. To do so, open Hangouts and select the conversation with the person you want to block. Click the Gear icon on their conversation, and choose Block [Name].
To unblock someone later, click the hamburger Menu button in the upper-left of Hangouts. Choose Settings, then select Blocked people. You’ll see everyone you’ve blocked and have the option to unblock them.
How to Delete Google Hangouts
You can’t fully delete your Hangouts account unless you delete your Google account. However, you can remove old messages if you like.
Select any conversation and click the Settings gear on it. Choose Delete conversation to delete all messages with that contact. You can’t do this for group chats; your only option is to leave the group.
If you’d like, you can also disable the Conversation history option here. Turning this off prevents Hangouts from saving your messages, so they’ll disappear after a short time.
How to Sign Out of Google Hangouts on Your PC
Signing out of Hangouts signs you out of your Google account in the current browser, so you’ll have to sign back in to access Gmail, YouTube, and other services.
To sign out of Hangouts, just click your profile picture in the upper-right corner of Hangouts and choose Sign out.
How to Use Google Hangouts on Android and iPhone
We’ve covered Hangouts on the web in this guide, but you can use the app on Android or iPhone as well. It functions nearly the same on those platforms, allowing you to instant-message friends and start video or audio calls.
Download the app for your platform and sign into your Google account to access your chats. Like most messaging apps, Hangouts includes emoji, stickers, photo uploads, and more. In any chat, you can tap the Video or Audio calling buttons to start a call with the other person.
Ready to Hang Out With Google Hangouts
We’ve taken a look at some of the biggest questions people have about Google Hangouts. Hopefully, reviewing the basics of how the service works has helped you understand how to better use it. Google hasn’t focused on Hangouts recently, instead favoring its other apps, but it’s still a fine messaging service and video calling app.