How to Use Gmail to Send Instant Messages

Staying in touch with friends is easy, fun, and free with Hangouts

Hangouts on a MacBook Pro laptop on a table

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If you have Gmail open, don't switch to another application to have an instant message exchange. Instead, access Hangouts, Google's instant chat application, from Gmail. Before you send instant messages using Gmail, you'll need a Google account, which, in addition to Gmail and Hangouts, gives you access to YouTube, Google Docs, Google Drive, and more.

Send Instant Messages From Gmail

Your Gmail screen displays information for your contacts at the bottom of the left pane. Here's how to send instant messages from Gmail using this contact list.

  1. Log onto your Gmail account and open Hangouts.

  2. In the contact list, hover over the name of the person you want to message. A box appears, with four icons: Send email, Schedule event, Send message, and Start video call.

  3. Select Send message.

    Send message button for Hangouts in Gmail
  4. A chat box with the person's name at the top appears. If you've chatted with them before you'll see your previous conversations.

  5. In the Send a message text box, enter a message.

    New message box in Hangouts
  6. When the other person types a message in return, you'll see an ellipsis icon next to their name. When they send a return message, you'll see it in the chat box.

    Return message in Hangouts via Gmail
  7. Message back and forth as you would with any other messaging application.

  8. When you're done, in the upper-right corner of the chat box, select X.

Tips for Instant Messaging Within Gmail

When you're in a Hangout with another person, you can do more than send text messages back and forth. Here's how to find these extra features.

  1. In the chat box, select the Video call icon to start a video chat session. 

    Video camera chat icon
  2. Select the Create a group Hangout icon to start a group Hangout with the person on your screen.

    Create group button in Hangouts via Gmail
  3. Select the Options (gear) icon to manage chat conversations.

    Options screen for Google Hangouts within Gmail

    The following Options are available:

    • Notifications: Select to receive chat notifications.
    • Conversation history: Select to show your conversation history with this contact.
    • Archive conversation: Select if you're done with the conversation and want to keep a record of it.
    • Delete conversation: Select if you want to delete this conversation from the archive.
    • Block (contact name): Select if you want this contact to not be able to message with you again.
  4. Select the Pop-out icon to view the Hangout in a separate window.