How Google Talk Works

Google Talk Basics

Google Talk users can make PC-to-PC phone calls.
Google Talk users can make PC-to-PC phone calls.
© Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images

Using Google Talk is easy. There are two ways to get started: register and download Google Talk, if you have a PC, or connect on the Web by launching Google Talk Gadget. Either way, you're ready to start instant messaging. And that's not hard to do, either.

We'll talk more about Google Talk Gadget on the next page, but here's how to download Google Talk messaging:

  • Go to Google Talk and click on "Download Google Talk."
  • Set up a Google account with a user name and password.
  • Follow the prompts to download the software. (Google Talk will start up automatically with your Windows applications.)
  • Sign in, invite friends to talk and chat. If you use Gmail, those contacts will be included automatically on your Google Talk Friends list. You can talk to them as soon as they also install Google Talk, and you can add more friends to your list.

[source: Google Talk Help Center]

Google Talk won't give you access to RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds and 200 plug-ins, like Yahoo Messenger, or let you have a live video chat, like Windows Live Messenger. But you'll still be able to do plenty with Google Talk besides just chat. Here are more of its features:

  • Send unlimited file transfers to your contacts. Files can be Word documents, spreadsheets, photos, music, video or more -- without restrictions on file type, size or bandwidth. Google Talk shows estimated completion times for longer downloads. You can chat while a file is downloading, but remember that longer files may cost you more in Internet use time.
  • Make free PC-to-PC voice calls to anyone who is online and has Google Talk. Note, though, that you'll need an Internet connection, a microphone and a speaker and that, while making the call is free, your Internet service provider will charge for the time used. To make a call, find the person on your friends' list, click the phone icon next to the name, wait for the person to answer and start talking.
  • Send and receive voice mails with friends who aren't online. If someone doesn't pick up your Google Talk call, you'll be sent to voice mail, where you can leave a message of up to 10 minutes. The message goes to the person's e-mail account as an MP3 file titled "Voicemail from …". Your contact can download it or simply click "Play" in Gmail. You also can use "Send Voicemail" in the friends list to send a voice message without calling.
  • Receive notifications on your desktop of new messages in your Gmail box. A notification window and a snippet of the message will appear above the Google Talk icon each time someone sends you a new message.

Google Talk via download, called Google Talk Client, offers a lot more features, including bots to translate messages between English and 13 other languages. For more about the bots and other features, or for help, check the Google Talk Client section of Google's Help Center.

If you're a Mac user or want to access your Google Talk account from somewhere other than your own computer, you need Google Talk Gadget. Let's look at what it can do next .