Love Google? You might be ditching Slack for Hangouts Chat soon

Google Hangouts Chat is getting the Slack treatment, just days before Microsoft Teams finally debuts.

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Credit: Google

In the Google ecosystem, there’s only a small amount of overhead.

Google Docs loads quickly, and it’s a click away from Gmail. When you need a file, it’s easy to grab one on Google Drive. For business users, this has proved to be an efficient workflow suite. I use it on a daily basis, and the one thing that always impresses me is how quickly and efficiently it all works.

Now, Google is releasing a powerful new app called Hangouts Chat, which is similar to Slack, Convo, and Microsoft Teams (which debuts next week). It’s available as part of the G Suite platform (formerly known as Google for Work) through a gradual roll-out, although you can apply to test it as an early adopter right away. Like Microsoft Teams and the way it runs within Office 365, Chat is intended to run within the “Google world” so you can quickly share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, swap files, start a video call, and arrange meetings.

Other than being able to do all of this within G Suite, which makes it all seamless and easy, Google has added a few interesting tricks. One is that there’s a bot, which you tag using @meet, that can look for discussions about meetings using pattern recognition and machine learning. If you are talking with the team about a meeting on Friday, the bot can arrange the meeting.

Another feature I like is that files are authenticated for a project automatically. In one of my roles working with some volunteers, we use Slack to exchange Word documents that originate in Google Docs. in a few cases, we share a link but find out that someone doesn’t have rights to it. The same thing happens on SharePoint quite a bit, another platform we use. If you’re in a collaborative environment, and you’re working on a Google Doc file, there’s no reason to have to jump over another hurdle and worrying about who has access to a file.

Google has also released another new component called Google Meet. This is the audio and video conferencing side of Hangouts, meant for a larger company. They’ve really stripped down the interface to the bare elements, which is a major plus. In most remote meetings, you don’t need any complex tools or options -- you just need to see the person talking.

There are a couple of important things to note about Hangouts Chat, though.

With Microsoft Teams, I like how Skype is so tightly integrated that you can pop over to a phone call quickly -- and that video chat app is the most popular one around.

Slack also has a huge footprint and loyal users. It’s also lightweight -- you can run it on your phone or a tablet, switch over to a browser, and have it work smoothly without any issues. There are way more bots available for Slack, including one I’m testing now that lets you build a bracket for March Madness. It’s also really smooth when you want to invite a user to the party, simply by sending a link. Hangouts Chat runs within G Suite, which means it’s not intended for anyone who happens to drop by your office. They need to be a G Suite user for your own firm.

That said, Hangouts Chat looks clean, easy to use, and runs within a known framework. I’m expecting a lot of Slack users to think seriously about the benefits of switching.

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