As real productivity nerds, my co-founders and I are on a quest to make our team wildly productive. We obsess and agonize over every productivity tool that we adopt. In this comprehensive guide we will share our views of Google Chat for Gmail.
Effective team communication is the #1 challenge facing business, bar none. Too much communication and nothing gets done, and too little communication and the wrong work is delivered. In truth, we are all guilty of bad and unreliable communication. However, the tools we use can really can make a big difference to the way that communication flows within our team.
Google’s newly released Google Chat for Gmail, and Google Workspace is Google's answer to collaboration in this remote working era. Google Chat is a complete overhaul of the old Google Hangouts product and it is something distinctly different and far better that its predecessor.
But is Google Chat worth switching to? Let’s explore it together and we’ll share our verdict of each feature along the way and also answer the question about whether Google Chat is better than Slack.
Here's a quick guide — we have also included some of the best hidden hacks that we've found to make your team more productive:
Google’s announcement of Google Workspace was very much anticipated. It delivers three exciting developments:
Google Chat has potentially brought Google back in line with modern collaboration tools, which is exciting for millions of teams that are Google and Gmail-based.
Like all of Google products, the interface is modern, clean and simple with very few unnecessary complexities or bells and whistles. But unlike before, Chat’s native home is within Gmail, but you can also download and install the standalone Google Chat app if you prefer.
Chat focuses on conversations between individuals and teams. You'll create Rooms that are focused on projects, topics or themes. Chat uses threads for communicating in group chats within rooms.
If you share a Google Doc in Chat, Chat will update its sharing settings to make sure everyone in your team can read it.
Verdict - We love the interface, particularly the way Google has weaved Chat and Meet into the native Gmail experience. Gmail therefore now offers 4 apps in one (Gmail, Chat, Rooms and Meet) which reduces app switching and it works well with Gmail add-ons like Sortd.
The Chat section is where 1-to-1 direct private conversations happen with individuals in the team. You can chat with people in your team or outside of your organization. It also offers read receipts and smart replies, which is a wonderfully satisfying new addition.
Verdict - Chat's direct messaging features are pretty standard but it sets itself apart from other tools as it offers external chat where you can chat with billions of Gmail users outside your business. Gmail is the only app with this type of scale and it brings a new dimension to inter-company communication.
Rooms are a fantastic hub to keep projects up to date and keep everyone on the same page. Rooms are very much like Slack channels or Whatsapp Groups, where you can keep similar topics of conversations together. Here you have threaded conversations as well as shared files and tasks to help you keep everyone on the same page. It also caters for external users and allows up to 8,000 members per room.
The most powerful and sometimes under appreciated feature of rooms are @mentions. @mentions are a direct way to notify people of something that needs their attention in Google Chat. You can mention people within your messages and have just the right person notified within a Room without disturbing anyone else.
To make Rooms a true remote working hub, teams create rooms like:
Verdict - Rooms brings a world of new possibilities to the Google Ecosystem and with @mentions it has really become the go-to app for teams. What drives our team crazy is that you can’t comment on a previous message in chat like you can do on many other tools like Slack and Whatsapp, but we hope Google will resolve this issue soon. It is not as well polished as Slack but it covers all the important bases.
To make Rooms even more useful, Google Chat allows you to add Tasks and Files into the Room. Tasks and Files exist within a sub-tab within the room. You can add simple tasks with an assignee and due date.
Verdict - Tasks are clearly the weakest part of the Google Chat offering although it might be sufficient for very basic needs. Even though tasks exist within Chat and Gmail, you can’t add actionable emails to the list, add notes or reference a task when you chat. This type of functionality has become common and popular with most modern tools. Teams will likely want to use an alternative Gmail-based task and email management add-on like Sortd to track work, manage tasks and assign emails to team members in Gmail.
When you download the Gmail app, you get access to all of the Chat features. The app is available on iOS and Android.
Verdict - Full marks to Google for their mobile app. It works great, it’s quick to use and efficient to work with. Knowing that you have just one go-to app for all your communication needs is extremely powerful.
Chat allows you to update your present and you customize notifications to minimize disruption.
You can also set which rooms you want to receive notifications on and which ones to mute.
Emojis bring life to your messages and are an important way of quickly expressing emotion alongside your messages … to make things more humorous or light-hearted. Sometimes all you need is a simple first pump to let your team know you are one the same page.
You can also hover over any message and react to anyone else's message with an emoji.
To search for any chat, you simply use Gmail’s primary search bar and then filter by chat messages on the top left. Search result can be grouped by Room.
Verdict - The power of Gmail’s new search is more profound than it seems. Before, our team regularly asked each other “Where did you send me the file … was it on email or chat?” and with this universal search, you can pick it up wherever it is.
Gmail and Google Chat offer a large selection of Add-ons and Bots to support team workflow.
With Bots, you can interact with some of your favorite apps right inside Chat (in Gmail). You can add bot to a room, or chat with them directly. There are a small number of bots at the moment but some include the ability to add Giphys, assign work, access files, schedule meetings and receive external alerts inside rooms.
With Gmail Add-ons and Chrome Extensions, you can totally customize your team Gmail experience and add add-ons to organize team email and customer service (using apps like Sortd), send mail merges (using apps like Mergo etc).
There are a number of hidden gems that are not obvious when you start using Chat.
The most useful hidden gem that our team uses multiple times a day is the ability to inject a Google Meet video call into any message you send out as you type. This gives your team time back and is a major saving of time when you quickly want to start a call.
Another handy feature is to send any actionable chat message to your email inbox using the “Forward to Inbox” button. Being that chat messages stream in endlessly, it allows you to push messages to your inbox and you can process it in your own time when processing your Inbox.
Our favorite feature is that Chat is deeply baked into the Gmail experience and that everything is centralized and organized into one app. Gmail-based teams will value this for the time saving benefits that it provides, its cohesion and the ease of use it delivers. This also resolves many of the team adoption challenges that teams face when taking on a new app. So if your team has bought into Gmail, it’s almost a no brainer.
Our second favorite feature is the fact that it helps not only with team collaboration but also inter-company collaboration. Gmail has 1.8 billion users which means that if you or your team are dealing with external partners, Google Chat will work out of the box with them too. That is a real game changer and products like Slack have nothing to compete with it. And the best part is that the external party doesn’t need to download yet another application (Slack, Messenger, Telegram, Zoom or Whatsapp) just for a quick chat.
Google Chat forms part of the Google Workspace subscription and is available on all the pricing plans of Google Workspace as follows:
Business Starter $6 USD | 30 GB storage per user | Video Meetings - 100 participants
Business Standard $12 | USD2 TB storage per user | Video Meetings - 150 participants
Business Plus $18 USD | 5 TB storage per user | Video Meetings - 250 participants
Enterprise Pricing not published | Unlimited| Video Meetings - 250 participants
Winning teams are built upon good communication, and are supported by the right tool that enhances collaboration.
In today’s remote working era, it’s hard not to consider switching over to Google Chat particularly when it’s built to answer many of the challenges that most teams are struggling with every day.
The holy grail for team productivity is one invisible tool that streamlines teamwork, communication and customer delivery without getting in anyone's way. Google Workspace and Google chat have certainly made great strides towards this vision and are built for teams who are serious about team collaboration.
Taking it one step further, there are certainly many merits for considering a switch over from even a refined product like Slack (yes, I dared to say it!).
While Chat may have some rough edges, if you consider it as one component in a greater Google Workspace experience, the total is greater than the sum of the individual parts, making Gmail into a powerful communications hub.
We hope that this guide has been helpful and we plan to write more content on Team Collaboration within Gmail. To learn more about other Google Workspace apps that can help your better collaborate, we have plenty of content for you:
Sortd is an all-in-one workspace for Gmail-based teams. It helps team to manage Sales, Service and Customer Support right from Gmail, and works alongside Google Chat. Sortd is a Google Launchpad backed company, trusted by 80,000+ users around the world.