At A Glance
The new Google Talk Beta doesnt do much, but what it does, it does well. Googles long-awaited communication client offers instant messaging and Voice over IP—nothing more. You wont find video conferencing, file-transfer utilities, games, search boxes, stock tickers, or any of the myriad other tools available with its three primary competitors: America Onlines AIM client, Microsofts MSN Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger. But if youre merely interested in sending instant messages and making the occasional online voice call, Google Talk is as slick, simple, and easy to use as any other Google app.
Available as a free download to anyone already using Gmail, Googles online e-mail client, Google Talk offers an interface much like any other IM client. As it launches, a small window appears in the corner of your desktop, and from there you can build a list of contacts. In order to add someone to what is commonly known as your “buddy list,” you must first send them an invitation. You can do so simply clicking on the clients Add friend button and keying in their Google ID, or you can select names from your existing Gmail contact list.
If you invite people who havent installed Google Talk, your invitation shows up as a message in their e-mail inboxes. If theyre not already Gmail members, accepting the invite gets them a new Gmail account, as well.
Otherwise, the invite automatically appears in the Google Talk client. In this case, the invitations arent as obvious as wed like them to be—some of us failed to realize wed received an invitation until we were told it was waiting for us—but friends and colleagues can accept these invitations with no more than a mouse click. Once they do, youre ready to chat.