It seems like the instant messaging platform Slack has been taking companies by storm. As a G Suite user you now have access to Google’s version for free.

With Hangouts Chat you can:

  • Chat directly with a co-worker or communicate with your entire team at once from your computer or phone.
  • Create rooms with specific attendees
  • Search conversations
  • Speak with “bots” to do things like get people’s schedules
  • Share files through chat

Hangouts Chat functions much like other group chat tools such as Slack, which aim to reduce reliance on email and make it easier to communicate and share information with colleagues. Features include threaded conversations, searchable chats and an array of app integrations and chat bots.

Just like Slack, Hangouts Chat features virtual rooms for different parts of a company’s team or to organize people around a specific project or task. Each room can hold up to 8,000 people, and Chat works with 28 different languages total. Naturally, it has direct messaging and threaded conversations as well as apps for iOS, Android, macOS and Windows; there’s also a web interface, of course.

Hangouts Chat includes a total of 25 bots that interface with other G Suite apps — you can talk with @Drive to get updates on shared files, or use @Meet to check people’s calendars and schedule meetings. Many of those bots are also built by third-party companies to interface with their own services, like Xero accounting or Jira and Trello for project management.

As for files, Google Docs will now feature the same “quick access” feature that predicts what files you might want to access in Drive. When you’re working on a specific document, clicking the “explore” section will reveal related files that Google thinks might be useful. It’s not clear yet how this will play into Hangouts Chat specifically, but give the tight ties between all of Google’s various services it seems likely that these suggestions might be accessible right through the chat interface.

To start using Hangouts Chat on the web, go to https://chat.google.com. To download the app on your desktop or mobile device, go to https://get.google.com/chat.

 

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