Getting Started With Google Chat


For several years, classic Google Hangouts had been a part of Google at U-M and integrated with Google Mail. Google Chat is the updated, team-based experience that has replaced classic Hangouts at U-M, including within Gmail.

Google Chat facilitates both direct messaging and team-based collaboration within U-M Google. Google Chat lets any U-M Google user chat with individuals, send group messages, and collaborate with teams. You can use Google Chat on the web, desktop app, mobile devices, and in Gmail. This document provides an overview of the current features, functionality, and limitations of Google Chat to help you get started.

Note: Google Chat is a Google Workspace for Education core service. It is free, covered under U-M's agreement with Google, and can be used for certain kinds of sensitive data.

Common Terminology

There are many terms Google uses to distinguish conversation types in Chat.

  • One-to-one (1:1) direct messages: Messages between only two people in Chat.
  • Group conversations: Messages with more than two people. (Google uses the terms "group chat" and "group conversation" interchangeably. "Legacy group chats" were group conversations created before December 2020 in Chat.)
  • Spaces: Previously called "rooms," spaces are a central place where people can share files, assign tasks, and stay connected.


  • U-M Google and Google Chat are not HIPAA-compliant. If you are affiliated with Michigan Medicine, refer to the U-M HITS site for approved communications software.
  • You cannot include external users in group conversations. However, you can add external users to spaces and direct messages.
  • You cannot convert existing internal Chat spaces to external spaces. Spaces must be created as external.
  • You need to use a 64-bit version of your preferred web browser to download the desktop app.
  • Only one account can sign in at a time when using Google Chat via the desktop app.
  • Google Chat spaces can no longer be organized by conversation topic, only in-line threading. Beginning September 30, 2023, Google will begin upgrading the format of all Google Chat spaces organized by conversation topic to in-line threaded spaces in batches over the course of several months. Learn more about in-line threaded Chat spaces.

Classic Hangouts transition to Google Chat

Classic Google Hangouts officially retired on November 1, 2022. There were several efforts made by Google to transition Hangouts data to Chat, and you can find that information below.

  • Almost all message history from classic Hangouts is available in Chat.
  • If a space originated in classic Hangouts as a named group conversation, the person who started the conversation was automatically assigned the Space Manager role in Chat.
  • Phone/voice calls in classic Hangouts are no longer a feature in Google Chat. You cannot make (one-click) phone/voice calls in Chat.

Note: In Google Meet, you can add someone via their phone number to the session, but this is not the same functionality as classic Hangouts phone/voice calls.

  • Google Meet is now the default videoconferencing option in Google Chat.

External Users

External users outside of U-M are allowed in U-M Google Chat direct messages and spaces. They cannot be added to group conversations.

To use Google Chat with people outside the University of Michigan, they will need to have a Google account. These users will have an "External" badge in Chat, so you will always know whether you're sharing information with the right people.

Additionally, you will need to designate a space as "External" when you create it. You will not be able to change this setting after the space is created. This means you won't be able to add external users to any spaces that have already been created, as those will remain "internal." To designate a room as "External" when creating it, check the box next to "Allow people outside your organization to join" under Advanced.

Group Chats vs. Spaces

Google Chat offers group conversations (for smaller, private conversations) and spaces (for larger, team-based work). Group conversations and spaces have different features and capabilities. For example, you can invite MCommunity groups to spaces, but you cannot invite MCommunity groups to group conversations. For more information and help determining which option is best for your needs, refer to About spaces and group conversations.

Spaces can be set as discoverable via search by anyone at U-M in Google Chat if desired. When creating a space or editing a current space, set Space access to "University of Michigan." You can also create a space where only Space Managers can post by checking the box next to "Only space managers can post" under Advanced. (You can't change this setting on existing spaces.)

Use MCommunity Groups in Spaces

By default, you can add people to a space one at a time. However, if you would like to add users in bulk, you can create an MCommunity Group and then invite that group to your space.

Important: Within the MCommunity settings for your group, you must have "Restrict who can send messages to this group" set to "Anyone." Otherwise, none of the MCommunity group members will receive an invite to the space.

Note: The instructions below are for using Chat in Gmail to invite a group to an existing space. You can also choose to use instead.

To invite a group to an existing space from Chat in Gmail:

  1. Click Spaces from the left sidebar and select the space to which you'd like to add the group from the list on the left.
  2. Click the space name and select Manage members from the drop-down menu.
  3. Click the Add button in the top right corner.
  4. Enter the name of your MCommunity group in the "Search for people or groups" field and select it from the list.
  5. Click Add.

Once invited, individual members of the MCommunity group can join your space. Google Chat will notify members via email that they have been invited to your space and can click Open in Google Chat to accept.

‚ÄčImportant: You can use MCommunity groups to invite people into a space, but they are not synced with Google Chat. If you remove someone from the MCommunity group, you must manually remove them from the Chat space. The same goes for individuals you add to the MCommunity group - they must be manually added to the space.


Apps are a unique way for users to connect to services integrated with Google Chat. You can talk to apps and command them to perform various tasks.

The following apps have been approved for use in U-M Google Chat:

You can use the Google Drive app to get notifications in Google Chat about activity in Drive.

  • Meet (i.e., Google Meet)

You can use the Meet app in Google Chat to schedule, modify, and cancel meetings or to look up your schedule.

Additional Resources

Last Updated: 
Thursday, September 21, 2023