How to Start a Chat Session in Gmail

Use Google Chat to send instant messages right from your Gmail screen

What to Know

  • In a web browser, go to your Gmail inbox and select the Chat tab.
  • Select New Chat. Scroll down or use the search bar to look for someone, or select Start group conversation.
  • To open the conversation in a small window, select the Open in Pop-up icon in the upper-right corner.

This article explains how to start a chat session in Gmail Chat.

How to Start a Chat in Gmail

Follow these steps to initiate a Gmail Chat session.

  1. In a web browser, go to your Gmail inbox and select the Chat tab.

    The Chat tab highlighted in Gmail
  2. Select New Chat.

    New Chat highlighted in Gmail Chat
  3. Use the search bar to look for someone, or scroll down to look through your contacts. Select Start group conversation to message multiple people.

    Search bar and Start group conversation in Gmail Chat
  4. The chat window will open, and the person's name will appear in your list of conversations in the left sidebar. In the future, select the conversation to open the chat.

    Type your message into the text field and press Enter on your keyboard to send it. When your contact responds, their messages appear in the window as well, similar to a text conversation.

    Gmail saves your chat history by default, but you can manually turn off or turn on Gmail Chat history.

    A chat conversation highlighted in Gmail Chats
  5. Next to the text field, you'll see icons for formatting text, adding GIFs, and uploading files. Select the video camera icon to start a video chat.

    For more options, select the person's name at the top of the chat window to open a drop-down menu. For example, you can select Start a new chat to add more people to the conversation

    Start a new chat and chat tools highlighted in Gmail Chat
  6. To open the conversation in a small window so that you can continue chatting while you use Gmail, select the Open in Pop-up icon next to the conversation or in the upper-right corner.

    Open in a Pop-up icon highlighted in Gmail Chat
  7. In the small chat window, select the three-dot menu for chat options.

    Three dot menu highlighted in the Gmail Chat window
  • How do I turn off chat in Gmail?

    To turn off Gmail Chat, open Gmail in a browser and select the Settings Gear > See all settings > Chat and Meet. In the Chat section, select Off, then select Save Changes.

  • How do I hide my online status in Gmail?

    You can hide your online status in Gmail by turning off Gmail Chat. You'll appear offline to everyone else until you turn on Gmail Chat.

  • How do I delete my chat history in Gmail?

    In the chat window, select the person's name or the three-dot menu > Delete conversation to permanently delete the conversation. Select Turn off chat history to stop saving chats.

  • How do I download my Gmail Chat history?

    You can download your Gmail Chat history via IMAP. In Gmail, go to Settings > See all settings > Labels and check Show in IMAP. Save your changes, then set up Gmail via IMAP in your email program. Use your email program's export tools to download a copy of the Chats folder.

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