Learn How to Chat With Friends and Contacts in Gmail

Send instant messages right from your Gmail screen

Chatting online
Ian Hooton/Laptop use/Getty Images

Gmail provides a small, unobtrusive chat box in its interface so you can communicate instantly via chat, voice, and video without ever leaving your email. Google calls this feature Google Hangouts (or Google Hangouts Conversations).

Hangouts also offers a standalone mobile app so you can chat with contacts without opening Gmail.

How to Start a Chat in Gmail

Initiating a conversation in Hangouts is simple.

  1. Click or tap the conversation bubble icon in the lower left corner of Gmail's interface.

    You also can make a phone call simply by clicking the phone icon next to the conversation bubble. This brings up a keypad on which you can enter a phone number. Alternatively, start typing a name from your contacts list in the space provided; a drop-down list will appear with likely matches. Select the one you want to call.

    Hangouts in Gmail's main screen
  2. To begin a new chat, select Start a new one.

    Alternatively, you can pick up where you left off in an earlier conversation. Simply select the chat and contact in the list below your username.

  3. A new chat box will appear at the bottom of Gmail. In this box, you can send text messages, share images, add other people to the thread, read old messages, start video calls, etc.

If you don't see Hangouts in Gmail, check that chat is enabled in Settings > Chat. If it's not, select the Enabled radio button and save.