While not everybody has embraced Google’s Hangouts messaging platform and there is even some speculation that it will be out of commission before long, there’s no question that, for the moment, it’s a fairly popular and feature-rich messenger on desktop and mobile. With two different interfaces that share conversations and some features, it can be a bit daunting to learn everything there is to know about Hangouts, especially since new features and Easter eggs seem to come out of the woodwork. If you’d like a few helpful pointers that will bring out some of Hangouts’ potential and teach you to use it effectively, read on. We have tips covering the desktop and mobile versions.
On the desktop front, the doodle feature may be worth a mention. Simply hover your mouse over the picture icon and a pencil will appear to its left. Click that and you can draw whatever you wish and send it to whoever you’re chatting with. This feature does not seem to be present in the mobile version of Hangouts, unfortunately. You can also enable a Facebook Messenger Chat Heads-esque feature on the desktop version of Hangouts by downloading the Chrome extension and clicking on “Enable Transparent UI” in the options. You can also make these bubbles stay on top of all other applications by clicking “Always On Top”, a handy feature for chatting on the job or while playing full-screen games and media. Desktop users can also use keyboard shortcuts for formatting; specifically, CTRL+I, CTRL+B and CTRL+U. The relevant commands on Mac OS work the same way. This is another feature mobile users don’t have. In both mobile and desktop, you can go to the menu, then click on “Status” to add a 140 character flavor text to your presence. Another cross-platform feature is notification muting. By clicking on the menu for a message or the overall app, it can be done for all notifications or on a per-conversation basis, depending on what device you’re using.
If you have chat history enabled, a search in your Gmail window for “in:chats” followed by what you want to search for will yield any past messages bearing the term. Another tweak from your settings menu, “Customize invite settings”, can make it easier or harder for people to reach you on Hangouts. A fairly cool mobile-only feature allows you to share your location by tapping the GPS icon or a prompt that comes up when a contact asks where you are. Mobile users can also go in the menu for an individual chat and, under “People and Options”, choose the calling and messaging ringtone for people involved in that chat. As a nice Easter egg, typing “/bikeshed” and hitting enter or sending will change the message window’s color at random, while typing “/me” will allow you to self-reference for things like roleplays, sarcasm and other such circumstances. Lastly, My Little Pony fans or those who simply need a lift in their day should try typing “/ponies”.