There are time when just text communication is not sufficient. Of course, nothing can replace a good email, but voice and video communication are also very powerful. Some time back, Google allowed you to make voice calls to other Google users, and to other phones within the US and Canada, for free, from within your Gmail inbox in your browser. We used to call that Gmail calling. Gmail calling has now evolved into Gmail voice and video calling, with added video capability.
You need a number of simple things to get started with Gmail voice and video chat:
- A Google email account. There are big chances you have an account with the most popular email service. If you don’t, you can have one in a couple of minutes by registering at gmail.com.
- The Gmail voice and video plugin. This is a small add-on for your browser. Sounds geeky, but it is now. From your browser, just go to this link and click on “Install voice and video chat” download and install the plug-in. There is nothing else you should do. Note that you can have this plug-in only for Windows XP with SP3 or a later version of Windows, for MacOS X 10.5 or later and on any recent Linux distribution. The plugin is about 2 MB, which is quite light.
- A web cam for video calling and audio devices. You can use your system speaker and microphone but a headset is preferable for better quality.
Using Gmail Voice and Video
To use this feature, log in your Gmail account. On the lower left side of the browser window, you will find a list of your contacts. If you don’t, which may happen if you are a new user, look for the small icons that make you think of voice and video, like the square bubble and camera. There is a box in which it is written search people. Use it to search any Google contact you have. Once you get the person you want to talk to, click on their name. In fact, by just hovering with your mouse cursor on the name or address gives you a window with options.
But on clicking, a small window pops up within your browser window and settles itself neatly on the lower right corner, discretely without disruption anything of your view. A prompt is ready for instant text messaging. If you want to make a phone call, click on the phone icon and the call will be initiated. For a video call, obviously click on the camera icon. You can also add other participants to this call by clicking the third button. Note that conferencing is allowed only for voice calls as video calls are only one to one. You can click on the pop-up icon, represented by an arrow pointing north-east, to make the window larger and possibly take a full browser size.
You can start a hangout with any of your Google contacts using your Google+ accounts, which you get automatically if you have a Gmail account. The hangout, as the name suggests, is a communication array with many communication modes you can use to contact the buddy you selected. You can text, chat and make video calls. You can name the hangout and even have options to tweak.
You also have in the interface a means to dial and make calls to landline and mobile phones anywhere in the world. Calls to the US and Canada are free from anywhere in the world, while for any other destination, you pay using your Google Voice credit at cheap VoIP rates.
Have a look there at the other Google chat tools.