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Using Google Hangouts in Chrome Just Got Seriously Cool


Using Google Hangouts on your desktop, laptop and Chromebook just got seriously cool, with the release of a brand new Chrome App for Windows and Chrome OS.

Google is billing the release as offering a “native app experience”. It features Facebook Messenger-style “floating heads (or ‘always on top avatars’, if you prefer Google speak), auto-minimising chats that get out of your way and terse previews for unread messages on hover.

Avatars for active conversations sit on screen and can be freely repositioned.  While the overall look and feel differs from OS to OS (only truly looks as it should on Chrome OS, no surprise) the overall experience is roughly the same.

You can see an overview of the new app in the video below.

Since being rebranded as Hangouts Google has been proactive in offering a number of ways to use it. This latest offering is arguably the most innovative and also the most user friendly.

While some may be quick to dismiss the new app as a pale imitation of Facebook Messenger on mobile, they’d be naively glossing over the benefits. In just 30 minutes of use, I honestly can’t imagine going back to any other way. I can see my active chats whatever I’m doing, reply, and then resume the task at hand — I don’t even have to hit a minimise button.

linux mac new hangouts

Sadly, it’s not all roses just yet. There are no sound notifications for new alerts, the badge doesn’t seem to increment past ‘2’, and if you’re using it on Mac or Linux be aware that it’s currently unsupported and looks a little…let’s just say less than polished.

On Chrome OS there’s also a slight performance hit. Each active chat window runs as a “web view” activity. On my ageing Samsung Chromebook each web view eats through RAM and CPU cycles like it’s no ones business — so do keep that in mind.

But whatever I have to say about it, going hands on for yourself is what truly counts. You can install the new Hangouts app right this cotton-picking minute from the Chrome Web Store.

New Hangouts App on Chrome Web Store

  • moe

    I feel chrome users are easily impressed..

    • Alucard291

      just the majority of those visiting this website tbh :)

      I don’t really like it right now. “Could use some work” is the verdict.

  • Christopher Woodhouse

    It is substantially better than using the extension inside the browser. I also adore the way conversations are separated. I do wish that it was easier to use for SMS (it’s not that difficult to copy and paste phone#s from Google Contacts, but having it built in would be over the top cool).

    • Mobile_Dom

      substantially better in every way except one.

      the fact you need to have the “base” green bubble open at all times, closing that closes the app and you dont receive notifications, for this reason ive got the extension installed as well, it’s always there, its always on, i dont need to activate it everytime i turn my PC/Chrombook on, thats important for an IM app such as hangouts, Instant Messages cant be instant if the person didnt receive it because they forgot to open the app.

      • pixelstuff

        Agreed. They need to allow the app to be minimized to the task bar (or system tray), and also not always float above all other windows. If using Photoshop or an app with tools all around the edges the Hangouts app is in the way and can only be closed completely down to get it out of the way.

        • Richard Myerscough

          It can be minimised to the app tray – you just click the icon in the app tray and the green bubble disappears but the app stays open. Want it back on screen again? Just click the icon in the app tray and it’s back.

          • pixelstuff

            That doesn’t happen on Windows.

          • Richard Myerscough

            Ah, right. That’s a pity.

  • I like the way my Chromebook does it: sat in the notification tray until needed. The only problem with that was it was hard to see new messages. However, on other operating systems Hangouts is just a mess. On my Linux laptop is crashes or does weird things all the time, and on Mac OS X my boyfriend quit using Chrome (and thus Hangouts) because it was making his laptop take off. Moved to Facebook Messenger and I’m quite happy. More of my friends use it, too. Can’t see myself switching back, even though I’m a big Google fan.

  • Darren White

    I’m confused! I already have Hangouts Call on my Chromebook, I have the Hangouts extension in Chrome and now there is a Hangouts app. Plus I have Hangouts on my Nexus 5. What do / don’t I need?

    • Tomáš Frühauf

      I think the new APP and the APP on phone can handle all :)

      • Darren White

        Thanks Tomáš, I think that’s what I’ll do.

    • vacuumation

      The ‘Hangouts Call’ app is for video chats.

      But yeah, not sure why there are now 3 separate apps for Hangouts on Chrome OS. That said, it’s certainly a BIG upgrade over Google Voice. So I’m thankful for Hangouts.

  • Just tried it on Chromium 38 on ArchLinux. Everything works great — even video calls. No weird plugins required!

  • Frederic MANSON

    At least, a Chrome OS app which is a true app!!!! I mean: you open it and the Hangouts icon can be dragged all over your desktop. That’s a great step to AT LEAST to really use the desktop like all other OS desktops. Next????

    • vacuumation

      For that reason I’ve changed many of my Chromebooks apps to ‘Open as new window’, which gives them more of a stand-alone application feel. I can then resize accordingly.

  • Nate

    Can’t use it in incognito mode. :(

  • mac os — commonnnnnnnnnn google

    • djr

      Mac you have Messages.

  • Anfridil

    would love to have it on mac.

  • Quinten Kilborn

    I’d just like to say your writing style is excellent, haha

  • OverlyEquipped

    If you decied to drag a separate user from the row instead of dragging from the Hangouts icon, it won’t work. Funny enough you can take there icon image and plop it on your desktop or in a browser. I don’t think this was thought out well. :p

  • Mina Michael

    Even if it’s an imitation, so what!? Facebook did it lots of times before and in stronger ways!

    • I wish this app still had the option to use the icons in the taskbar, since that was the “native” way to have small windows open – in a panel. The Facebook “chat heads”-esque idea doesn’t seem as efficient in my opinion.

      • Mina Michael

        yeah I don’t like it much either

  • Sean

    It does not like dual monitors. I have it on my Pixel extended to a display. One on the extended display, it will not move. Quite annoying. It moves fine on the single display.

    • Sean

      I figured it out, A little icon pops up that you have to click on. Would rather just a long press but at least I can move it.

  • Does this succeed both the Hangouts extension & Hangouts call app?

  • viciouzex

    It’s really neat. Intrusive always on top of window. Hard to scroll if you have to scroll manually. It gets in the way. Other than that, it’s a nice looking plugin.

    • dain42

      Yeah, the “always on top” thing really kills it for me. I want messaging clients to be able to be backgrounded. Looks like I’ll be sticking with Pidgin for now.

      • João Victor Schiavo

        You can disable the “always on top”.

  • Todor Velichkov
    • karLcx

      correct me if i’m wrong but one is the old hangouts app, one is the new one as described in this article…

      • pixelstuff

        You are correct, and they can actually run side by side.

      • Todor Velichkov

        this is madness

        • Anton Voloshin

          One is an extension, the other is an app.

          • daniel brenha

            They should just make the older one an app or allow for this new one to be able to live on the taskbar. Completely unnecessary to have 2.

        • THIS IS SPARTA!

  • Steve Beaulac

    Still very early and bug, the fonts are not rendering correctly on my pixel.

  • Andrew Lin

    Doesn’t work with Hidpi or any kind of chrome scaling

  • Mikko Kumara

    Did I just read “On my ageing Samsung Chromebook” …? Oh dear, I thought these Chromebooks were always supposed to feel like “brand new”.

    • The ARM ones are the exceptions. They have been “meh” since the beginning.

      Edit: Mine is slow, but it has not gotten “slower” since I bought it, it’s just consistently slow.

    • Rich

      It feels aged compared to the newer generation of faster chromebooks, namely the Haswell chromebooks.

  • dirtmound

    I hate chat heads. The idea of that mess spreading to other systems annoys me.

    • TrollBeast

      Then don’t use them.

      • Doug Turner

        If only it were that easy. Google forces you to.

  • vacuumation

    Functionally speaking, how is this any different from the Hangouts extension for Chrome?

    • daniel brenha

      The only difference for me (from the extension) is it’s more annoying, I dislike this ¨bubbles trend¨ a lot, but it lets it start when starting chromeos, which is great, I don’t always have the browser window open.
      Also, you can draw on the extension and you could for a long time, the pencil icon next to the photo icon where you input text.

      • vacuumation

        Yeah, it’s day 1 of having this ‘bubble’ app installed for me and I already went ahead and disabled the option to have it launch automatically upon startup. The option to use Hangouts without having to open the browser would be great if there were more ways to use this Chromebook beyond browsing. But hopefully we’ll evolve to that point soon.

        • Walker Hymes

          How do you disable it from opening on start-up??? Ive looked everywhere and cant find a setting for that!

          • Did you ever get an answer to this question? If so please share! Thanks.

  • Ólafur Guðmundsson

    Chrome is the new IE?

    • Miakoda Combies

      No, IE sucks and always has sucked. Chrome is awesome

      • Ólafur Guðmundsson

        Meaning “Works only/best on Chrome”. Stuff should work cross all major browsers. Using open standards.

        • Austin Hutchins

          It’s kind of hard to run a CHROME app on something else.

          • BlackC#Bro

            Thus validating his entire point?

      • Ignorant Apple Loser

        chrome sucks…microsoft is kicking ass….the new spartan browser will blow away chrome as it has already beaten apple

        • Mathias Cronqvist

          Yes, because Apple was such a frontrunner in this. Safari sucks so hard.

  • Vincent Pascal Stavleu

    Am I the only one who gets an error when trying to download it?

    • vloz

      Try to uninstall/re-install sometimes it works…
      A lot of linux users are getting this message continuously since chrome 36, unfortunately, there is no fix for the moment, you can downgrade to chrome 35, install your app, but once chrome updated you wont be able to install new apps anymore:

  • Zer0

    LOL this thing is a copy of facebook Messenger

    • Boothy

      I knew there was a reason I didn’t like it………..

  • A quick note: you can set the app to not run on top. Head to settings and uncheck the “always run on top” option.

  • Nice

  • Bruce Turner

    As nice as it is, it still takes too long to answer a call to your Google Voice number. It’s still much quicker answering GV calls using the old Google chat interface in Gmail. By the time you’re able to answer a GV call, at least 3 – 4 rings take place and people will hang up. Google is aware and hopefully answering GV calls will improve in speed.

  • Boothy

    I’m guessing this means the extension is on the way out?
    Be nice if the shelf icon was on the right, like the old extension, and the rest of the panels (really nice feature).

  • > “Since being rebranded as Hangouts”
    Google didn’t rebrand Gtalk to Hangout. They’re different services, differente protocols, and different limitations. Most notably, Hangout users can’t talk to non-gmail users, while gtalk was just another XMPP server.

  • Sándor Nagy

    Is it possible to remove the white background on ubuntu, or just make it invisible?::S:S:S:S looks creepy

    • Dustin Lussier

      I’m having the same issue. I read that in windows you have to enable a certain theme to get the white box to go away. Not sure how to do this in the linux.

  • SHunter

    I prefer the extension over this “App”

  • vacuumation
  • Bent

    This is an another awsome Hangouts feature! For me Whatsapp get’s more and more replaced by Google Hangouts, it’s free, it’s multiplatform (with Desktop Version!) and it’s even more secure.

  • Rosalina Rodriguez

    I love hangout, it keep me in touch with my daughters and grandson but since I updated my ipad to ios8 i can’t no longer see the image more than few second. Can some one please help me with.

  • oneleft1

    Seriously bad on a Mac. Yes, I use Apple’s hardware but all Google services so am not interested in Mac’s message thingy.

  • Abhishek Indoria

    Doesn’t work on Chromebook 2. :(

    • Trey Guinn

      yeah im having trouble with it on my samsung chromebook 2 13 in

  • Eldaria

    Tried it on Linux on my work computer, and well switched back to the old one, not so much for odd layout of floating heads, but because on my work computer my default browser is Firefox, and I use chrome and hangouts for private stuff to keep things separate. And in the old one if someone sends you a link it will launch in Chrome, but in the new one it will launch in the default browser, in my case Firefox.

  • Bryan

    Seriously cool? You’re kidding right? It’s seriously awful (on Windows). The icon that’s on the desktop should be a standard taskbar icon. Massive backwards step in terms of UI. I love google products, but as soon as I find a new IM platform that I like, I’m migrating away from hangouts.

  • Rick N

    Google hangout insanely consume RAM, i have 8GB RAM and it’s still not enough, i checked it on task manager (i’m using 64 bit) my PC become laggy even i use high spec, please fix google team
    Ps: i think it’s not good idea to put all apps INSIDE chrome browser

  • Frank

    Seriously cool? A tiny little window to conduct your sms and voicemail? No Thanks.

  • Travis Robison

    seriously terrible!!!!!! Hate it so so so much. Make a freaking desktop app.

  • Bob Schoenecker

    I called in to a Maestro conference, entered the PIN, was connected, listened to the current speaker but hangouts just kept ringing as if no connection was made and finally cut off the conference. It said it was waiting for another caller implying that I was initiating a group call. I just want to be able to use it as a telephone. Any ideas?

  • Richard Holliday

    They HAD a fine desktop app, which they’re retiring on February 16th. Now I have to sign into Chrome to use this POS.

  • samuel sugi

    This is BS….
    How to resize this window BS, I must go to option? Why not just give resize option like normal window (drag and drop)? Why I must click small icon to drag the UI? Just give the drag drop option man.

  • shantanu

    absolutely awful. I have stopped using talk after this new avatar of chrome hangout. WHY on earth google did this? they dont want people to use this product on windows machine, I guesss.

  • Simon William Kitt

    utter crap all the big guns.

    Apple, Google, Android, Samsung etc

    are so totally opposed to working with each other they make it hard for every one
    to connect with each other fully.

    sick of this ultra competitive attitude they should all be forced by a regulator
    to make all there communications apps universal regardless of platform

    Can’t use face time to video call any of my non apple mates

    hangouts is crap on OS X

    Skype not nearly as many people use it as they claim only 3 of my 473 contacts!

    Video, Voice Chat, Messages

    to any one on your contacts NOT A LOT TO ASK FOR DAMN IT!!!

    simple stuff then there are potentially brilliant apps that could tie it all together
    like flamingo.

    They all mostly refuse to play ball with third party developers flamingo getting
    no where with google

    So tiring grow up com corps!

    • Simon William Kitt

      Communications should not have room for competition ego.

      Something needs to change here!

  • Tyler Collins


  • NonGMO

    please tell me how can i install these cool avatars from hangouts on my nexus 6P … i just love them .. can anyone tell me where are they located on my computer ..( using macosx) or can i install them from google play