Google+ Hangouts FAQ

Want to know how to use Google Hangouts? Below follow the most frequently asked questions about Google Hangouts. 

What are Google Hangouts?

Depending who you speak to, Google Hangouts are instant messaging made much better, or video conferencing with bells on. 

Launched in May 2013 to update Google’s existing instant messaging tools, Hangouts offer you the chance to communicate instantaneously by video or text with people located anywhere in the world.




What do they offer? 

Google Hangouts can be used in two forms. An instant messaging service allows up to 100 people within the same conversation. You can send documents and there are a whole load of catchy emoticons available to help bring your words to life. 

But the feature that really catches the eye is the video call function. Using this you can speak directly to any Google + user who has a camera set up for their device. 

Another type is Hangouts on air which enables you to record and broadcast on YouTube and Google Plus.

What can I use them for? 

Anything you can put your imagination to. It’s a great way to connect with people no matter where they are in the world. These could be old friends, family or work colleagues. 

You can use them to spread good news. Let’s say a member of your family has given birth. They can send an update which will appear on your desktop. They can invite people to a Google Hangout where anyone in the family can see the new arrival in glorious colour. 

Teachers love it as a way of providing virtual lessons, and businesses are increasingly using it for video conferences. The chance to share Google Docs online makes it much easier to collaborate with different stakeholders in multiple locations. 


How much does it cost? 

That’s the best bit – all this comes free of charge.


Doesn't Skype do all this? 

Yes it does, but once you get beyond three people in a call you have to start paying. Google Hangouts can have ten people on a video call free of charge. 


Is there anything I need to use it? 

To use Google Hangouts, you need is a Google Plus account. Log onto http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/ and follow the login steps. You will also need a camera on your device and a microphone in order to make video calls. Most modern day devices have these fitted as standard, but you can also go out and buy them separately. 


How can I start a Hangout?

There are several options for creating a hangout. These are: 

From the homepage

You'll find the hangouts tab on the right hand side of the homepage. If you select this you'll see a list of your contacts, recent emails you've sent and any past hangouts. 

To restart a current hangout click simply click and start typing. To start a new one, click the 'new hangout tab'. This will create a drop down of all the contacts in your circles. To contact any of these simply click on their name. Alternatively, start typing in the box. 

If the contact is online you'll see a green line underscoring their name. If they are offline they will receive a message next time they log on.  

Once you click on someone's name this box will appear. This allows you to choose how you would like to communicate with people. You can start typing to send a message, click the video camera for a video call, and add more people into the hangout by clicking the human with a plus sign icon. 



Can I send images?

Yes you can. Click the camera icon in the bottom right corner of the hangout box. This will allow you to upload imagines into your text. 



Clicking the smiley face, on the other hand will allow you to add a range of emoticons, to really bring the conversation to life. These are similar to the ones you'll find with other platforms, but Google Plus has decided to go super size on these. There is an enormous range to choose from. 



Can I use multiple devices?

Yes you can as long as you have the capacity for it on each device. Download the hangout plugin onto your desktop and the app onto your smartphone or tablet. This means that if you’re heading out, you can simply close down your computer than switch onto a mobile device while still remaining part of that hangout. 



How do I make video calls? 

In the hangout box, select the video camera icon in the top left corner. This will tell the contact that you wish to start a video call. If your contact is online they will receive a notification that you are calling and if they are offline they will be told that they've missed a call from you. 

 

An alternative option is to start a new video hangout. This can be done at the bottom of the 'Hangouts' tab from your homepage. 


What's the quality like?

The quality of the video is pretty good but will depend on the quality of the equipment you're using and the broadband speed. If you have the right equipment on your device you can receive what's called HD Hangouts. These provide video in 720p HD and require an 720p HD camera on your computer, a CPU with at least four logic cores and a broadband speed of at least 1.2mbps (although Google recommends at least 1.5mbps). The person you're calling will also need to be able to send HD.


Can I make a start a hangout from a profile?

Yes. Indeed this is just one of many ways in which you can start. If you're in a profile, click on the speechmark icon underneath the contact's name. This is the universal icon for hangouts. This will instantly open a hangouts tab which will appear on the right hand side of your screen. You can then start communicating by video and text as described above. 



Can I view old hangouts?

Yes. Hangouts should be saved an be available to view in the right hand Hangout tab. You can also archive a current hangout by clicking the settings tab in an active hangout. This means you can retrieve it at any time. Equally, you can also free up space by deleting the hangout.  


I'd like to block a user, can I do this?

Yes you can. The settings tab allows you to block a user. If you do this they will not be able to connect with you even if you are in the same hangout together.


Can I schedule a hangout for later?

Of course. You can organise a future hangout and decide who would you like to invite to the call. To do this follow these simple steps. 

1. Click on the 'home' tab on the left hand side. 

2. From the drop down menu select 'Events'

3. Once in events, select, plan a hangout. This will open the tab on the right. 

This box give you a space to give the event a title and to schedule a time. You can also provide a brief description which could be useful if you want to spark greater interest. 

At the bottom is an option for inviting friends. You can either type in the names of people you want to invite or browse your circles list using the button on the right. 

The Events Options tab at the top right allows you to set rules for anyone joining the hangout. It allows you to decide whether to show the guest list, allow guests to invite other friends and upload their own pictures. 

Finally, click the invite tab at the bottom left and your guests can receive invitations to take part.




 


Why might I want to schedule a hangout?

People schedule hangouts for many reasons. It can be a video conferencing tool for offices, teachers often use it to aid remote learning with different groups of pupils. You can also use it to invite your friends to join a discussion at a later date. 

In short this is for any sort of event where you want to invite a number of known friends from within your circles to join. 



What are live hangouts?

Live hangouts are public hangouts which can be broadcast live. This means you can create a hangout which anyone can join. You can see all the live hangouts taking place right now, by clicking on the home tab and selecting the 'Hangouts' option from the drop down. 


How can I join a live hangout?

Very simply. Go to 'Hangouts on air'. You'll see a list of all the public hangouts taking place right now. 

If the hangout is scheduled for later it will give a time and a date for when it begins. If it has already finished you may be able to watch it back. 

To join a current live hangout simply click on play. This will take you to a live video call. You might want to introduce yourself quickly while you take time to get up to speed with the progress of the conversation. Equally you can also view recorded hangouts by selecting play. This will play the hangout back via Youtube.





What can live hangouts be used for?

These are often used for discussion forums or the media. For example, a famous industry figure might take part in a hangout to take questions from the public. Again, it can be used for almost anything. 


How can I start my own live hangout?

To start your own hangout select 'Hangouts on Air'. This will show call the current hangouts taking place. 

Select 'start a hangout on air'. This will open a tab much like the one on the right. 

You can do the following:

Give the hangout a name: Try to make it appealing and interesting. More people will join this way. 

Add a description: Be informative and interesting. The more people know what it's about the more likely they will be to join. 

Decide when it starts: For instance, would you like to begin the hangout now or later. 

Decide the audience: If you decide to make it public anyone will be able to join. Alternatively, you can browse people from your circles who you would like to invite to the hangout.

Share: Once you're ready, click share and you'll be live.