Recently Google said goodbye to their chat system Google Talk and replaced it with Google Hangouts. If you aren't currently on Google+, and I know that is a lot of people, you probably don't know what Hangouts is. Google Hangouts is Google's voice/video/chat client and is very comparable to Skype and Apple's Facetime. This post will discuss some of those comparisons and why Hangouts should replace your current video/voice/chat client.
Google Hangouts works on any computer or mobile device you have. Whether you are chatting on your iPhone or sitting at your Windows PC you can talk and chat with anyone using Hangouts. We've started using it in our office to replace our instant messaging client and it has been a dream. Not only do you get messages while sitting at your machine but you can install the app on your mobile devices to get messages even when you are away from your desk. Some people might not like this, you don't need to install the app, but for walking around our campus it is nice to always stay connected.
We explored other options for replacing our instant messaging system, most people here were using Skype, and ran into a few issues that Hangouts solved. First, Skype does not send messages unless both users are online. So if I login to Skype and send a message to another person who is not online they may not see that message for days. This has caused a lot of headache and miscommunications in the past. Hangouts will send the message to their Gmail inbox if they are offline. The next time they login to their account they will see your message. Facetime is a great program but it's essentially video only and we wanted a chat client as well. There's always iMessage but the problem with both Facetime and iMessage is we need Apple devices, which a lot of people have, but not everyone. Hangouts fixes this with the universal compatibility I already talked about.
Hangouts is integrated into every Google product now. If you are using Google Apps for Business when you schedule a meeting you can set it to be a video meeting and Hangouts will handle the setup. When the meeting begins the users simply need to click on Join Video Call and Hangouts groups everyone together in the same Hangout and your meeting can begin.
You can also have video Hangouts, including screen sharing, with up to 15 people at the same time! That's amazing! Skype charges for anything more than two. We have been making video phone calls to each other a lot to talk around the office quickly and to share our screen and ideas.
Hangouts comes packaged with a lot of plugins you can use out of the box that make it even better. Google Drive allows you to open a document for all users in the Hangout to edit at the same time. YouTube lets the group watch YouTube videos together. You can even set a queue and everyone can add to it. When a video is playing everyone is muted so the Hangout can watch in peace but you can un-mute yourself if you want to talk. There is also an Effects plugin that lets you play silly sounds and put weird props on your head to make Hangouts just a little more fun.
I've used Google Hangouts for over a year and absolutely love it. In my last year of college it was a life saver for group projects because we could work on the same document at one time while all talking together. Screen sharing was great for pair-programming and helping each other debug and show off new features. Since we decided to try it out at work Hangouts became the go to service for chat. We have held several video meetings over Hangouts with both Europe and Asia and had no problems at all. To get the most out of Hangouts be sure to install the Chrome plugin. Seriously, if you aren't using Google Hangouts sign up for a Google+ account, even if you won't ever use it, just to use Google Hangouts.