Use Google Hangouts for Group Video Calls

Who remembers the opening to the old Brady Bunch TV show? Head shots of all six children, Mom, Dad and Alice appear to be seeing each other, interacting and reacting.

You can have your own Brady-esque video get-together thanks to Google. Yes, Google again. Love it or hate it, Google continues to innovate and provide great online tools.

If you’ve ever used Skype or FaceTime to video chat with a faraway friend or loved one, you know it is much more satisfying than just a phone call. It doesn’t replace being together, but it’s the next best thing with today’s technology. As long as you have a high speed internet connection and a device with a video camera, you can connect with others all over the world for free.

Google’s video chatting product is called Hangouts and it lets you have a live video call with up to ten people, for free (Skype’s isn’t). Video chatting through Google isn’t new, but you may not have tried Google Hangouts with its impressive capabilities.

What can you do with Google Hangouts? You can let others see what’s on your computer screen. For example, you can pull up a photo saved in your computer and show it to others on the video call. You can help someone having a computer problem by remotely accessing their computer, with their permission. You can snap photos in your video call or watch Youtube videos together. Best of all, you can see your loved ones, live. Imagine having a virtual family get-together once a week!

What does it take to use Google Hangouts? You need to join Google+ with a free Gmail address. You don’t have to use it as your email address, but it is required as your username for Google+. If you don’t have a Gmail address, go to https://accounts.google.com/SignUp to create a Gmail address and Google+ account. Click here for my how-to article for getting a Gmail address.

Once you have a Gmail address, you just need to join Google+ and download the Hangouts app for your computer. Go to http://plus.google.com and click on Sign In. You will either need to sign in with your Gmail address and Gmail password or you will already be signed in.

Download and Install Google Hangouts

Now go to http://www.google.com/tools/dlpage/hangoutplugin and click on Download Plugin. The Hangouts plugin will download to your computer. You will need to find that newly downloaded file called Google Voice and Video.pkg (it’s in the Downloads folder for many computers). Double click on that file name and an Install box will pop up. Click Continue and then Install. Enter your computer’s password, if required, and Install Software.

To download Google Hangouts on your iPhone or iPad, touch the App store icon on each device. In the search bar at the top, search for Hangouts. Download Hangouts by Google, Inc. You will also need to download Google+ from the App store.

Schedule a Google Hangout with Others

From your computer:

  • Go to http://plus.google.com and sign in if you are not already signed in.
  • Move your mouse over the Home button on the left.
  • Click on Events.
  • Click on Plan a Hangout on the right.
  • Give your hangout a title, set the date and time and invite people by entering contact names, email addresses or Google+ circles.
  • Click on Invite.

From your iPhone/iPad:

  • Touch  .
  • Sign in with your Gmail account if needed.
  • Touch the three horizontal lines in the left corner.
  • Touch Events.
  • Touch “+” in the right corner.
  • Enter a title, select a date and time.
  • Touch Invite people to select from your contacts or circles and touch the  when finished.
  • Touch Create.

Once you create a future hangout as an event, Google will invite your contacts, usually by email but sometimes through Google+. It all depends upon their own settings. Therefore, I always send my own email to those I’ve invited.

Join a Scheduled Google Hangout

When it’s time for joining a scheduled Google Hangout from your computer:

  • Go back to http://plus.google.com.
  • Click on Home in the left sidebar and then Events.
  • Under Your events, click on Join Hangout.

To join a scheduled Hangout from an iPhone or iPad:

  • Touch .
  • If you don’t see your Hangout event listed, touch the three horizontal lines in the left corner.
  • Touch Events.
  • Touch the Event you want to join and then touch Join the Google+ Hangout.
  • Touch Join.

I encourage you to give this a try with a few family members or friends. Expect a few glitches as you get to know Google Hangouts. That’s completely normal. But once you have the hang of it, you will love the ability to virtually gather your loved ones together!