A User-Friendly Guide to Making Phone Calls in Gmail

Easily connect with contacts over VoIP

Women using tablet computer and cell phone in bedroom
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If you're one of the 1.2 billion people who use Google's Gmail to send and receive email, you're probably very familiar with Gmail's interface. Chances are good you use some of Google's other services, as well, including one of the internet behemoth's handiest free offerings, Google Voice

With a couple quick adjustments, you can use Google Voice to make and receive phone calls right from your Gmail screen instead of having to visit the Google Voice website. This lets you switch seamlessly and conveniently between email and phone, minimizing disruption and speeding the process. Reading an email that necessitates a phone call? You can dial it right from the same screen without losing your train of thought and while keeping important information in front of you.

Keep in mind that you can make and receive phone calls through Voice from your Gmail screen only when you're using a computer with a functioning microphone. (Of course, you can make calls from your smartphone using the Google Voice mobile app directly.)

How Google Voice Works

If you already use Google Voice, you already know that it uses your internet connection to place calls (a method called "voice over internet protocol" or VoIP). Using Google Voice through your Gmail interface does not let you call an email address; those involve two completely different communication media. What you're setting up here is simply an additional, more convenient way to access Google Voice from your Gmail interface.

How to Call Someone From Gmail

Three Google services combine to make this work. Follow these steps to place a phone call to just about any number right from your Gmail account page:

  1. Make sure you've installed the Google Hangouts plugin. (Hangouts is Google's free chat/instant messaging/video chat app.) If it's installed, you'll see the Hangouts window to the bottom left of your email folders.

    All new Gmail accounts come with Hangouts, so you probably have it already.

  2. Select either Make a call or the phone icon to bring up a window into which you can enter the phone number you want to call, or from which you can choose from your list of contacts.

    Call icon in Gmail Hangouts interface
  3. If the contact you want to call is in that list, hover your mouse over the contact and select the phone icon to the right. It should say Call (Name). The phone call will start immediately.

    Name, phone number field in Gmail Hangouts interface
  4. If the number is not already in your list of contacts, enter the phone number directly into the blank field at the top of the column and press Enter (or the phone icon that's now next to the number). The phone call will begin immediately.

    Call button in Gmail Hangouts interface

If the number is in a different country than what's indicated by the flag at the top of the column next to the text box, select the flag and pick the appropriate country from the dropdown list that appears. The proper country code will be automatically attached to the number.

You can mute the call and use keyboard buttons while on a call. Press the red Hang up button when you're ready to end the call.

You have to buy calling credits to place calls that aren't free.

How to Receive a Phone Call From Your Gmail Interface

A call to your Google Voice number will cause a ring notification to sound on your computer, as usual—but if you have the Hangouts plugin, you don't have to leave Gmail to answer it. Simply press Answer to pick up the call. (Alternatively, you can select Screen to send it to voicemail and Join if you decide to answer once you know who the caller is, or Ignore to end the alert and the call.)