Google Now is great, but it's not the only way to get useful information from Google on your smartphone. If you want Google Now-style data, but don't have a Jelly Bean (or rooted Ice Cream Sandwich phone), just fire up Google Talk on your smartphone and add [email protected] to your contact list. Ask Guru what you want to know, and get instant, useful replies.
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The Gmail team admits in a blog post that options for video, voice and group chat were "curiously tucked away" in the lower-left corner, so they've taken steps to fix it.
Linux only: It will only ever truly support Jabber/XMPP/Google Talk, but Synapse, a new alpha-level IM app, is a pretty—and pretty efficient—way to chat if you're all about open-source communication.
The developer of Synapse has a goal of spreading the love for XMPP, which is an open, extensible chat standard. That's great for the open-minded set, and users of Google Talk, which conforms to the standard, but is obviously a bit restricting, given the number of contacts one might have on "legacy" systems like AIM or MSN. There might be room in the future for server-side conversion of other protocols to XMPP, but for the time being, it's open-source or the road.
That said, even in a theoretically buggy alpha, Synapse looks great.
Today Google starts rolling out voice and video chat inside Gmail—which requires a free browser plug-in download, and, obviously, a webcam. Googler Justin Uberti explains:
Google just launched an iPhone-friendly interface for its web-based Google Talk client—point your mobile Safari to google.com/talk to see it in action. Firefox users, this also means, as the Digital Inspiration blog points out, you've got a friendly little GChat client you can keep loaded in your sidebar (create a bookmark, check "Load in sidebar"), but any browser can access the interface through talkgadget.google.com/talkgadget/m.
If you use Twitter in Australia, you know that you need to SMS a UK-based number to update (or tweet). That could work out to be expensive! I'm going to go through a few options which might work out cheaper for you. Today let's look at using Google Talk.To update Twitter via IM from your Gtalk account, you'll need to add Twitter as a contact.
Here's how - just add [email protected] as your contact in GTalk and then go to the Twitter home page to add IM as a method of updating. On the left hand side of the page you'll see a link to "add device" - hit that, then put in your IM account details. It will give you a password to send to twitter via IM to confirm. You can also send an IM saying "Help" if you want further information.
Now whenever you IM this new friend called Twitter, the message will automatically publish on your Twitter account. It seems to appear pretty quickly too.
Windows only: For some time now, Google Talk has been more appealing as a web app than in its rarely updated desktop version. That changes, somewhat, with the release of Google Talk Labs Edition for Windows. The desktop client, which looks a lot like its web counterpart, includes the same group chat, emoticons and tabbed talking as the web, and puts pop-up notifications for Google Calendar, Gmail and Orkut events in the corner of your screen—which is a nice, consolidated way of getting that Outlook-like functionality. The big trade-off, however, is the lack of voice calling or file transfer through the Labs Edition, so if those are regular features, you'll likely want to stick with whatever version you're using now. Google Talk Labs Edition is a free download for Windows systems only.
Windows only: Freeware instant messaging application Digsby, which boasts integration not only across chat networks but also with your email and social networking web sites, has come out of private beta and added a few more spicy features. Among them, Digsby has added Twitter support, inline spell checking, and audio/video chat with TokBox, the same service Meebo is using to add A/V chat to their service. Aside from the perks that come with most cross-service chat apps (i.e., seamless connections to different IM services from one place), Digsby goes the extra mile by updating real-time newsfeeds from Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. The app is still freeware, Windows only, though they're still promising Mac and Linux versions.
Google Talk has released a new chatback feature allowing people visiting your blog, online profile, or personal web page to chat directly with you via Google Talk. To use chatback on your web site or supported personal profile page, all you need is a Google Talk account and some web space where you can embed the chatback badge code. Any user who wants to chat with you through the chatback badge doesn't need a Google Talk account at all, so it's a great way to let friends, family, or readers of your blog, for example, contact you quickly and easily without needing to register for anything.Google Talk chatback
Gmail Chat has finally added the ability to mask your presence - the one feature which to my IM-phobic mind makes instant messaging bearable. The Google Operating System has written up the new feature, which allows you to set your status to "Invisible". This has obvious productivity benefits - you can check and see if your contacts are online, but won't be bothered by anyone trying to contact you.Note, however, that if you use other flavours of Google Talk (ie the gadget or desktop app) you won't be able to change your status to invisible because they don't support the new feature yet - it's been applied to Gmail Chat first. It's also only available for the new version of GMail (supported in IE7 and Firefox 2).
Earlier today we showed you how to set your Google Talk status to "idle", but if you don't to be pinged with "Are you there?" enquiries, the "Invisible" setting may be the way to go.
Windows only: Google Talk is, as weblog Digital Inspiration puts it, an extremely honest application, inasmuch as it will only display your status as idle when you truly are idle. But if you aren't keen on your IM buddies being aware of what you're doing, Google Talk's fidelity to the truth can be irritating. Freeware application gAlwaysIdle allows you to set your idle status on Google Talk, either to always idle or never idle. If you don't want to sign out of IM but you want to discourage random IMs, gAlwaysIdle may be a good solution. gAlwaysIdle (which we've mentioned once before in passing) is freeware, Windows only.gAlwaysIdle
Windows only: Newly released chat application Digsby consolidates instant messaging, email, text messaging, and social networking into one very slick chat application. As far as IM, Digsby covers all the major players, from AIM to Google Talk; it handles Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, or virtually any POP or IMAP account for email; and it supports updates of all the latest happenings on your Facebook or MySpace profile. As far as full-on consolidation of hot social web tools right now, the only thing really missing is Twitter integration. Currently Digsby is Windows only in private beta (use code lifehacker to sign up), but Mac and Linux versions are purportedly on the way. It's not open source like Pidgin or Adium (which it looks very much like), but the all-inclusive integration is probably enough to lure a lot of IM users to its warm embrace. Flip through the gallery (hit the jump for more) to get a closer look at everything Digsby's got to offer. galleryPost('Digsby', 2, '', 'grid');Digsby
Windows/Mac/Linux: Coccinella, a free Jabber chat client, is robust enough on its own instant messaging terms, with tabbed chat windows, foreign language support, and an easily theme-able interface. But what really sets it apart is its integration of a great whiteboard tool that's easily shared and forwarded between you and your chat partners. The whiteboard has the basic features of Microsoft Paint, but that's a step up from many black-and-white board tools we've seen. I couldn't get Coccinella working with my Google Talk/Gmail account during a quick setup test, but the features are likely there for integration. Coccinella is a free download for Windows, Mac, and Linux systems. For more whiteboard tools, check out the no-registration-required Scriblink or GE's instant online whiteboard.Coccinella
Shortly before Christmas, Google tweaked its Google Reader product so your shared items are automatically shared with your Google Talk contacts. CNET's News blog pointed out that Google had been spanked for this privacy faux pas, and the company's official blog has admitted the slip, saying "we underestimated the number of users who were using the Share button to send stories to a limited number of people". It's worth checking out Google's official post on the matter, as it runs you through how to selectively share items with your friends, how to tweak your "friends" list and how to clear your shared items list.
It's no secret that Google's desktop chat application, Google Talk, has been somewhat stagnant, particularly in comparison to the major jumps that have been taken with the web-based chat app. Web site MakeUseOf has rounded up three different Google Talk add-ons designed to add more functionality to Google's lagging chat application: gAlwaysIdle, GPlus, and Extended Talk. The first let's you set yourself as idle manually so you can avoid distractions when you need to get to work or set it to never switch to idle in those event when you don't want people to know you're away from your computer; GPlus adds tons of personalization features for the customization lover and local chat logging; and Extended Talk adds productivity features like text expansion for commonly used features (sort of like Texter). If you're a desktop Google Talk lover looking for a bit more control, these add-ons are a nice kick in GTalk' stagnant butt. With that in mind, I'm wondering:
Google has integrated translation tools into its Google Talk and GChat interfaces through the use of chat bots. To have a line translated from English to French, for instance, invite [email protected] to chat, then simply chat the line you want to see translated. The bots use Google Translate as their back end, which, as one Blogoscoped commenter notes, has quite a few languages in rough beta, so this tool should mainly be used for casual or on-point word or line translations. For more translation tools and tips, try Wendy's guide to translation sites.Merry Christmas, God Jul and 圣诞快乐