Google Hangouts is a communication platform developed for multiple devices. It comes with integrated instant messaging, video calls, texts, and VOIP solutions.
Also see our article How To Record Google Hangout Conversations
At the moment, Hangouts is being redeveloped into two different platforms. Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat will be replacing the existing platform in the near future.
The goal is to separate video calls from instant messaging and to add some new and interesting features to both communication platforms. Both platforms should end up using less resources and have better defined interfaces.
Hangouts can make use of your microphone and camera for a video call. For that, you have to know how to enable them. It’s not a given that access will be enabled by default.
It also requires that you have the Hangouts plugin installed. This is especially important if you don’t have a Gmail email address.
Here is how you can start a conversation from various browsers and devices, starting with the most commonly used device around the world, the personal computer.
Camera and Microphone Settings
If you’re using Hangouts for the first time, you may need to allow access to your camera and microphone.
- Open Hangouts by using Google. Alternatively, you can start a hangout by clicking one of your friends from the list and initiating a video call with them.
- Once you click on the Video Call circle, you should be prompted to allow access to your microphone and camera. This setting should remain as default from now on.
Firefox doesn’t always allow video calls. To be sure that you don’t encounter this issue, you have to download Firefox ESR.
- Open https://hangouts.google.com/
- Click on the Video call button
- Locate and click the Block content button
- Choose between Allow Now or Allow and Remember. Unlike Chrome, Firefox won’t automatically allow the plugin to take control of your future video calls.
- Refresh the video call window
To start a Hangouts conversation in Safari, you have to be aware of a few settings. Yet, the initial steps should be familiar.
- Open the https://hangouts.google.com/ page
- Download the plugin by clicking the Download button
- Install the plugin
- Enter https://hangouts.google.com/ again or just refresh the current tab
- Click on the Video Call button and select the Trust option
- Refresh the call window
- Click on the Preferences button on your Safari browser
- Scroll down to the Security tab and choose Plug-in Settings
- Locate the Hangouts plugin
- Set it to on
Depending on what version you’re running, it is possible that the Hangouts plugin is actually Google Talk Plugin or Google Talk Plugin Video Renderer.
Note that not all browsers have the same steps, although the differences between them and Chrome are not that difficult to spot.
You should also note that it’s not necessary to allow a microphone or a camera. You can still call someone and just listen or watch them with everything turned off on your end.
Opening Hangouts from Gmail
When you log into your email account, you have the option of signing into your Hangouts account.
- Click the Sign In button on the left sidebar. It should be right under your email folders.
- Click on one of your contacts and open up a chat box.
- Locate the video camera button on the upper right corner of your chat box
- Click and place a call
- You can also enable or disable your camera and microphone from the video call window by clicking on the appropriate button
You can also add more people to the video call from just one chat box.
- Click the icon with a + sign located in the upper left corner next to the video call button
- Add up to 25 people from your list and place a call
- First, you have to download the Hangouts app onto your device.
- Open the App and locate the Compose button at the bottom right of your screen
- Tap for a New Video Call
- Select the people that you want to invite by typing their names
- Tap Video Call to initiate a conversation
- Tap End to finish the call
iPhone and iPad
This process is somewhat similar to using an Android device.
- Install and open the Hangouts app
- Locate the Contacts button at the bottom of the screen
- Type a name and then tap on the one you want from the list of results
- Tap on Video Call to initiate a conversation
- As an alternative, from an iPad you can swipe the screen from right to left to start a video call. But you still have to open a Hangouts conversation first
- Tap End Call to finish. Swiping doesn’t work for closing conversations
A Final Word
You don’t always have to use Google Hangouts for video calls. From your Gmail account, you can click the contact name to open up a chat box in the bottom right side of the screen. From there you can just use Hangouts for instant messaging.
Of course, you always have the option to change the conversation into a video call as explained in the steps above. Note that a separate window will appear so you are free to keep sifting through emails while you’re in a video call with someone.