Learn How to Chat With Friends and Contacts in Gmail

Send Instant Messages via Gmail

Chatting online
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Gmail is known for email, but the website interface can also be used to chat with other Gmail users. Chatting in Gmail provides a clutterless area to write back and forth in a snappy little chat box without ever leaving your email.

This functionality used to be called Google Chats, but it was discontinued in 2017. There is, however, still a way to access chats from Gmail, and it works by connecting directly to Google Hangouts.

There are two ways to do this. One is to use Google Hangouts to chat with someone so that the message begins, and then you can return to Gmail to continue the conversation. Or, you can enable a special Google Hangouts chat box on the right side of your Gmail page to start messages without ever leaving Gmail.

How to Start a Chat in Gmail

The easiest way to start chatting with individuals or groups in Gmail is to enable the Right-side chat Gmail Lab:

  1. From Gmail, use the settings/gear icon at the top right of the page to open a new menu. Choose Settings when you see it.
  2. Go to the Labs tab at the top of the "Settings" page.
  3. Search for Chat in the "Search for a lab:" text box.
  4. When you see Right-side chat, mark the Enable option on the right.
  5. Click or tap the Save Changes button to save and return to your email.
  6. You should see a few new buttons on the bottom right-hand side of Gmail. These are used to access Google Hangout chats in Gmail.
  7. Click the middle button and then the Start a new one link in the area above the menu buttons.
  8. Type the name, email address, or phone number of the person you want to chat with, and then select it when you see the entry in the list.
  9. A new chat box will appear at the bottom of Gmail, which is where you can send text messages, share images, add other people to the thread, read old messages, start video calls, etc.

The other way to chat in Gmail without enabling the "Right-side chat" Google Lab is to start the conversation in Google Hangouts and then return to Gmail's "Chats" window:

  1. Open Google Hangouts and start the message there.
  2. Return to Gmail and open the Chats window, which is accessible from the left-hand side of Gmail. It might be hidden inside the "More" menu, so be sure to expand that menu if you don't immediately see it.
  3. Open the conversation you started.
  4. Click or tap Open Hangout.
  5. Use the pop-up chat window to send and receive texts right from your Gmail account.

Note: If chatting isn't working in Gmail, make sure chat is enabled in your settings. You can enable chat in Gmail through this link, or open the settings and go to the Chat tab.

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