Using Gmail Chat and Shortcuts

Gmail is a free email account provided through Google that was created to “change the way email works.” It has a virtually limitless online storage, and provides you with a place to assemble and store all of your messages in one neat place all for free. With an easy to use interface that includes many important features, such as email address auto-completion, a spell-checker, keyboard shortcuts, and pages that update instantly, it’s no wonder the Gmail is the most used email service provider.

I’m sure most of us already know how to send an email, however, there is so much more to Gmail than just that. But not to worry, the lynda.com course entitled Gmail Essential Training  has nine chapters worth of videos to help you use Gmail to its fullest potential. Today we will focus on two of those chapters and get just a glimpse into some of the features and possibilities that are available through Gmail. 

The sixth chapter of the Gmail course, Using Chat, contains six videos for a total of 12 minutes and 56 seconds. In the first video, Introducing Google Chat, we’re presented with an overview of a fun new way to communicate through Gmail that a lot of us probably didn’t even know existed. Have you ever been on your computer and needed to get in contact with someone right that instant without having to go through the tedious process of continuously sending emails back and forth? If so, then this is perfect for you. You can now chat with other Google users right from Gmail.

Chat Icon

Press this to start chatting

The first step in creating a chat with someone is to make sure they are in your Google Contacts. This prevents random, unwanted people from finding your email address and being able to chat with you. If you do not know how to add someone to your Google Contacts, you can find that information in the previous chapter entitled, Working With Contacts. Once a person has been added to your contacts you are now free to chat with them. You can begin by first clicking the little chat icon that appears at the bottom right of your screen.

Invite to chat

Click here to invite someone to chat.

Clicking on the icon will bring up a new chat window. The next step is to type their email into the box in the lefthand corner, and once their email comes up, press on the button that says “Invite to chat”, or click on the little chat icon in the bottom right-hand corner. Your invite will then be successfully sent and you will know when they have accepted your chat when you see their availability change.

Green online icon

This icon lets you know someone is online.

Now typing

You can see when the other user is typing back

The little green dot next to their name means that the person in now online and you can go ahead and start chatting. To do this, double-click on their name and a new chat window will pop up in the right-hand corner. You can double-click more users and initiate as many chats, with as many people as you would like. One cool feature in Google chat is that it will tell you when the other user is typing back. This prevents you from wondering if the user has received your message or not. Gmail also gives you the option to video chat with each other if you would like. Both parties are not required to have a webcam, so one-way video chats are totally an option. To learn more about Google video chatting, watch the  three-minute video under this chapter entitled, Initiating a Video Chat. 

Chapter 8 of the Gmail Essential Training course, Using Shortcuts, contains three short videos for a total of 7 minutes, that present an overview of several of the keyboard shortcuts available through Gmail, to help you use your email more efficiently. Today we will be learning about only the most basic of these shortcuts, but a complete list of all the shortcuts available can be found at the following link, Google Keyboard Shortcuts.

More Keyboard Shortcuts

Go here to find more keyboard shortcuts.

Keyboard shortcuts on

How to enable keyboard shortcuts.

The first step in using shortcuts is to make sure that they are turned on. To do this, go to the gear icon on the top right-hand side and click settings. You then want to scroll in the general tab until you find the section called Keyboard Shortcuts. From here, click Keyboard Shortcuts on, and then scroll all the way down to save your changes. You are now ready to start using shortcuts. The first thing to remember is in order to navigate anywhere in Gmail, you must first press and hold down the G key along with any other key. For example, if you want to go to your starred messages, you hold down the G key and then press S at the same time. To get back to your inbox from here you press G while also holding the I key. If you press G and then D, it will take you to your drafts. To learn more about how to organize, or search your mail, check out Laura H’s post, Gmail-Organizing and Searching Mails.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Google chat or the keyboard shortcuts. Have you ever used any of these shortcuts before? If so, which one/ones do you find to be the most useful? Do you think you will use them or Google chat in the future? You should try and practice using these new tools the next time you are in Gmail. As you begin to use them more and more they will become more familiar to you, and you will become, as Jess Stratton puts it, somewhat of a “Gmail ninja.”

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14 Responses to Using Gmail Chat and Shortcuts

  1. B. Taylor says:

    I am a big fan of keyboard shortcuts, but I confess to not having explored the ones I can use in Gmail – something I definitely will do. As for chatting, I wonder what you all think about this since I’m guessing texting (SMS messages) is your usual way of chatting these days. I found it interesting that you can actually combine the two – see Google Chat help on SMS in Gmail.

  2. Sara R. says:

    Sydney, I had no idea that chat existed on gmail as well. I should have put two and two together, given that I wrote my post on Google Presentations and a chat feature is available in that program, but, I had not. I believe that it is incredibly convenient that chat is included in this program, so that you are able to communicate with friend or colleagues instantly without having multiple windows open or having to constantly check your cell phone. Great post!

    • Maria H. says:

      I have used the chat feature on Gmail a couple of times while working on group projects, Sara. It is extremely convenient to be able to discuss what needs to go on the presentation or document without actually writing on what you’re working on or having to use text messaging. Everyone should use this great tool! Good job, Sydney!

  3. Mary F. says:

    I had heard of being able to chat on Gmail before but I wasn’t entirely sure how to do it. This post was very helpful in letting me explore how to do it. I even asked around to some people I know and found out my older sister actually does use it. I’ll be using that in the future to contact people through Gmail that I want a response from more immediately, as long as their online of course. What I had no idea about was all the shortcuts that exist on Gmail. These might take me awhile to get used to but will be very helpful in the future when I want to do things quickly. Thanks so much!!

  4. Steph G. says:

    I use Gmail all the time, and it never occurs to me to use the chat feature! Now that I know how to use it, I think I will because I bet it is a lot faster than waiting for someone to answer your emails, as long as they’re online. It is so convenient to have chat because I am sure it saves a lot of time and energy as opposed to emailing everything. Awesome job!

  5. Winna P. says:

    Such a great job! I personally love the chat feature on Gmail. My family and I use it pretty frequently to communicate. My sister and both my parents work during the day time so when I am in class it’s a better way to communicate than via text. It allows them to check their email and get work done all while chatting me using the feature- it’s so awesome!

  6. Katie H. says:

    Great post Sydney! I never knew that there was a chat feature on Gmail until we practiced using it during CIS. I think it is an amazing feature to use during group projects so everyone can communicate faster than emailing about all of the details and everyone can work on the project at the same time. I know that I will definitely use this tool because it is very convenient and allows people to use the tools on Google while communicating at the same time. Thanks for the information!

  7. Alexia M. says:

    Sydney, I thought your post was very well written and informative about the features of gmail. I knew that there was a chat that you could use, because I would always see when people were online. I believe I used it one time as a joke, but I have never really used it for more productive purposes. I don’t really think I will use Google chat in the future, mainly because it is just as easy for me to use facebook chat or texting to contact people. I never knew that there were shortcuts, however. I will definitely have to look into those and start trying to use them!

  8. Victoria B. says:

    I love Gmail but one feature I have never fully utilized is the chat system. I remember using it to talk to my friends in middle school back before I had a cellphone. Since I didn’t really like IM or AOL this was my preferred chat system! Since then, I haven’t really used it. I was interested in reading about the keyboard shortcuts. Gmail can sometimes be annoying to navigate so the keyboard shortcuts will be very helpful! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Angie E. says:

    Great post Sydney! I have never used the Google chat or keyboard shortcuts so thanks for telling me all about them. I know I can use the keyboard shortcuts to reduce the time I spend checking email. I also can’t wait to try out Google chat. I’m on my way to becoming a Gmail ninja!

  10. Tabitha C. says:

    I also have never used Google Chat. Do you know if you are able to “chat” someone even when they are not online, and they will receive it in a message later? (I ask that because that’s what you can do on Facebook and the two seem to be very similar.) Also, the one way video chat is an interesting idea. I can imagine it would be helpful if one person was studying abroad and wanted to show what everything looked like, but the person at home had nothing new to show. Still seems like it’d be a little bit weird though, haha! Anyways, great post!

  11. Anna B. says:

    Hey Sydney! This post is so detailed and great! I have never used chat or shortcuts in Gmail before, so this is all new information to me! I think both of these features are so helpful, especially (like you said) when someone else is available to chat instead of sending constant emails back and forth cluttering up your inbox! As a teacher I know that chat would be a great tool for teachers to have continuously up to ask questions or bounce ideas off each other when you cannot all meet together. The shortcuts are helpful to anyone, not just teachers, by making traveling through your email so much faster! Great job and thanks for the information!

  12. Chelsea S. says:

    This is wonderful! Thank you so much, Sydney! I have neither used Gmail chat before nor shortcuts simply because I haven’t found the need to. I usually will call someone or contact through Facebook usually if I need to talk to them at that minute, but Gmail chat would prevent me from opening up new tabs. Like Anna said, shortcuts aren’t just good for teachers, but for anyone!

  13. Laura H. says:

    This definitely goes right along with my blog post, but I loved learning about enabling and using keyboard shortcuts! They make life so much easier once you get the hang of them. And I have honestly never used the chat portion of google, so I might have to give it a try sometime!

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