How to Start a Chat Session in Gmail

Send instant messages right from your Gmail screen

Birds communicating with online messaging

Roy Scott / Getty Images

In addition to the email format Gmail is known for, the application includes a small, unobtrusive chat box so you can communicate instantly via chat, voice, or video without having to jump to another program. Google calls this feature Google Hangouts.

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

Start a Chat in Gmail

Follow these steps to initiate a chat session.

  1. In the lower-left part of the Gmail screen, you'll see a list of your contacts. Hover your cursor over the person you want to message and, in the dialog box that appears, select the Send message (quote bubble) icon.

    Gmail with contact dialog box displayed
  2. A new chat box appears in the bottom-right corner of Gmail. Type your message into the text field and press Enter on your keyboard to send it. Your message appears in the message window. When your contact responds, their messages appear in the window as well, similar to a text conversation.

    Gmail with messaging window displayed
  3. Use the controls to pop the window out (arrow), start a video call (video camera), or create a group hangout (person with plus-sign). When finished, close the window by selecting X.