5 tips for managing Google Chat on your computer

5 tips for managing Google Chat on your computer

For people using Gmail or Google Workspace, there is no better chat tool than Google Chat. You can use Chat alongside Gmail on Android, iPhone, iPad, and the web. Or, if you prefer, you can also install the separate Google Chat app on Android and Apple mobile devices.

However, Google Chat on the Web now offers more features than ever, including the ability to automatically start chat when you log into your Windows, macOS, or Linux system. Of course, you can set your own status and adjust notifications. For teams, Chat Spaces (formerly Rooms) help people find files and track activity within Chat.

For all of the examples below, I recommend that you use Chat on a computer with the Chrome browser installed. Also make sure you’re signed in to Chat with your Google account. Also, keep in mind that a workspace administrator can manage the operation of certain Chat features. Check with your administrator if you have questions about your work or school Workspace account.

How to install Google Chat as a PWA

You can install Google Chat as a progressive web app, which allows Chat to function more like a standard installed app on a Windows, macOS, Linux, or Chrome OS system. To do this, go to Google Chat. If this is your first time accessing this site, the system may display a message with the offer “Try the Google Chat desktop app” along with an install button ( Figure A , to the left). Otherwise, after the site is fully loaded, a computer icon may appear (to the left of the bookmark star / read later): Select the icon, then choose Install ( Figure A To the right).

Figure A

Two screens: (left) the prompt "Try the Chat desktop app" with an Install button and (on the right) the computer icon selected in the omnibox, with "Install app?" prompt and the Install button.

The first time you log into Google Chat in Chrome, the system may ask you to install the desktop app (left). Or you can do it later (right).

How to start chat on login

Once the Chat Progressive Web App is installed, set it to launch on login. Open Chrome, go to chrome: // apps to view installed PWAs. In the Chat app, right-click (Note: on macOS, ctrl-click) to access the options, then select “Launch app on login”, as shown in Figure B . Now when you start your computer and log in, Chat also starts automatically.

How to change the chat status

Chat offers three predefined status options: Automatic, Do Not Disturb, and Set Away ( Figure C ). The latter two allow you to indicate your desire not to be disturbed (Do Not Disturb) or signal that you may not even be online (Set as Away). Automatic adjusts your status based on your activity. If you are active in Chat, set your status to Available. If not, it indicates that you are absent.

Figure C

Screenshot with the three Chat options (Automatic, Do Not Disturb and Set as Away) displayed.

Google Chat offers three predefined status options: Automatic, Do Not Disturb, and Set as Away.

You can also select the “Add a status” menu option to set your chat status ( Figure D) . When you select this option, four additional options are displayed: Be Right Back (30 minutes), Commute (one hour), On Sick (today) and Vacation (this week). Or add your status in the text box above. Importantly, feel free to select the emoji indicator in the box and choose the emoji that best represents what you want to convey to your Chat colleagues. Then choose when to clear that state (30 minutes, 1 hour, 4 hours, Today, This week or a custom time) and select Done.

Figure D

Three cropped screens: (left) Status menu selected, arrow pointing "Add a state"(center) Screen with 4 additional options (Be Right Back-30 minutes, Commute-1 hour, Sick Out-Today, On Vacation-This week) and empty box for selecting status and emoji, (right) Entry state manual "Busy writing" with the hand with the pencil emoji selected, with the status Erase after 4 hours selected.

You can add your chat status and emojis, as well as set the duration of that status indicator.

How to manage notifications

To get chat notifications in Chrome, first check that you have allowed notifications from Google Chat. Go to Google Chat in Chrome, select the lock icon (to the left of the site name), then make sure notifications are set to Allow, as shown in Figure E. (If the Notifications option doesn’t appear, select Site Settings, then review the list of options shown.)

Figure E

Screenshot of the lock icon (to the left of the URL in the omnibox), with the Notification option displayed and Allow selected.

Chrome will need permission to allow notifications for the Google Chat site.

Later, within Google Chat you can adjust the settings for all notifications or for individual chats and spaces. To access the general chat notification settings, select the sprocket (top right). From there, you can choose whether or not to allow chat notifications, as well as select a different notification sound (as shown in the Figure F ). Make your changes, then scroll to the bottom of the settings box and select Done.

Figure F

Options displayed include the Allow Chat Notifications checkbox, a notification sound drop-down menu (with various sounds to choose from), and the option for email notifications.

In Web Chat, select the sprocket (top right) to access the Chat Notification options.

To adjust notifications for individual, group or space chats, select the chat from the left side of the screen. Then, select the name of the person, group or space in the upper left area, below the search box ( Figure G , To the right). This allows you to access different settings, which may vary according to the nature of the group and the roles of the people involved. Alternatively, you can select the three vertical dots to the right of a chat to adjust notifications ( Figure G to the left).

Figure G

Two Screens: Shows the individual chat selection option (left) to enable / disable notifications and how to access the longer list of options, which also includes notification settings (right).

Adjust notifications for chats and spaces (formerly Rooms) by selecting the menu with three vertical dots to the right of a chat, then choosing Notifications (left), or selecting the name of a chat or space while it is active, then selecting Notifications (To the right ).

Notification options vary. The simplest are “Turn off notifications” or “Turn on notifications”. For some internal groups, the system offers three notification options (shown in Figure H ): “Always notify” (all messages), “Notify less” (only @mentions or when someone starts a new thread in a space) or “Notifications Off”, which prevents all notifications unless you or @all be specifically @mentioned.

Figure H

Screenshot with three options: "Always notify (for all new messages)", "Notify less (only for @mentions)" and "Notifications off (if you are @mentioned you will still see a notification dot)".

Notification options may vary based on the nature of the group and members.

How to turn a group chat into a space

Spaces are useful when you frequently work with a variety of people on tasks and files. If you are constantly chatting with a group of people, the system may display a message to encourage you to turn your chat into a space. You are free to ignore the request and continue chatting. But if you choose to convert from a standard chat to a space, chat participants will have the ability to assign tasks to people, as well as the ability to more easily access all shared files within the group, as shown in the Figure I. . (Note: Spaces in Google Chat were originally called Rooms.)

Figure I.

Screenshot of the title of a selected chat, with menu option "Turn this chat into a room" circled in red.

Turn a chat into a space (formerly a virtual room) to more easily find files and track activities.

To switch from a chat to a space, select the chat title (in the upper left area, under the chat icon and the search box), then choose “Turn this chat into a space” from the menu options , as shown in Figure J . The system will ask you to name the space and (optionally) select an emoji for the space. Alternatively, you can create a new space and invite people to join.

Figure J

Screenshot of an example chat space, with the selected timesheet and an activity, "Create a sample business for Google Spaces" with an expiration date (September 21) and an assigned person (the author).

Unlike a standard group chat, a space (formerly a Room) provides three tabs: Chat, Files, and Activities.

What’s your experience with Google Chat?

If you use Google Chat, have you installed the PWA and set up Chat to start automatically? Do you rely on Chat’s automatic status settings or do you prefer to set your own custom status? Do you leave all notifications on or turn off most notifications? And, if you work with a team of people, what do you think about Spaces (ex Rooms)? Let me know how you use Google Chat, with a comment below or on Twitter (@awolber).

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