Google Talk Beta
- Clutter-free, smooth integration with GMail, Extensive customization options, Simplicity
- Lacks advanced features, Needs improvement
If you rely on Gmail, and have built up a large address book, Google Talk lets you integrate text and voice messaging very easily. But if you want much more than that, look elsewhere. However, Google has the knack of improving beta software and coming up with winners, so watch this space.
Gloriously clutter-free, Google Talk's beta gives you text and voice messaging, smooth integration with Gmail, rudimentary customisation options... and that's about it. To try Google Talk you need an account with Gmail - or Google Mail as we are now supposed to refer to the webmail service. It's yet another potentially exciting service from the search giant that you can use in its beta form.
If you have an account, you can get rolling by inviting Gmail contacts of your choosing to download the free Google Talk app; these contacts are automatically moved into the program. Installing the IM (instant-messaging) application is quick and painless, and it starts up in just a few seconds. The first thing that struck us about Google Talk was its simplicity - a rare thing in the realm of IM applications. If you're used to working with a program that is laden with features and customisation options, you'll find Google Talk startlingly austere. It's truly bare-boned, with limited customisation settings.
Once we had Google Talk up and running, we actually warmed to the squeaky-clean environment. It's advert and pop-up free, includes lots of white space and contains no annoying clusters of icons to distract you from your messaging business. In fact, going from the likes of Yahoo Messenger to Google Talk is a bit like going from a noisy consumer electronics superstore to a quiet boutique up a side street.
We also liked being able to detach the messaging window from the contacts list and move both around. If you re-attach them by placing the messaging pane below the contacts window, the former automatically resizes itself to fit the latter's vertical profile.
If you leave Google Talk's Notifications settings at their default values, you'll receive an alert every time an email drops into your Gmail account. A small window pops up briefly, identifying the sender's name and the subject line. That's handy if you want to keep an eye out for something in particular. But if you get dozens of emails every hour you may want to turn off those signals.
In our voice chat tests, call quality sounded impressive - initially. Despite a faint hum in the background, our editor's voice and mine sounded crisp, and our sentences stayed intact. But further into the conversation things went downhill: it sounded as though we were both talking on mobile phones in a car wash. The slushing sound became so distracting that we simply hung up.
You might consider Google Talk somewhat exclusive, since you need to be part of the Gmail club to get it. But it's not a closed circuit; the Google Talk network is compatible with the XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol), which lets you send IMs to other XMPP-compliant programs, such as Gaim, Jabber and iChat. Your buddies will need to have Gmail and configure their IM program to work accordingly.
Perhaps the most glaring omission - given that this comes from Google, whose mission is 'to organise the world's information' - is the fact that the text IM messages are not logged, stored or indexed. So the only IM service that Google's desktop search can't index is Google's own. Not everyone searches their logs, but those of us that do will avoid Google Talk for instant messaging until this is put right.
The number of options is very small compared with open-source clients such as Gaim, or with Yahoo, Skype and AIM (or even MSN Messenger). It doesn't do video, it doesn't share images, it doesn't do voicemail. It doesn't offer encryption. It only does voice if you use the Google Talk client, which runs only on Windows - so there is no mobile Google Talk at present. That said, all is not lost on the video side. Google Talkers yearning for this feature can try a plug-in called Festoon by Santa Cruz Networks.
Editors Note: As of February 2006, Google launched Gmail Chat, which provides the functionality of Google Talk from your email interface. Using this application, it is possible to save and store conversations. In order to make voice calls however, you will still have to download Google Talk.
Join the PC World newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Samsung Galaxy S8 phone: full, in-depth review
- 2 Ryzen 5 vs Intel Core i5 CPU Australian review
- 3 Mass Effect Andromeda review: One for the fans
- 4 LG G6 phone: full, in-depth review
- 5 Samsung Galaxy A5 2017 phone: Full, in-depth review
Latest News Articles
- Drupal fixes critical access bypass vulnerability
- Hackers use old Stuxnet-related bug to carry out attacks
- Microsoft will cut services to standalone Office users so they’ll subscribe to Office 365
- Microsoft commits to a permament schedule for new Windows 10, Office updates
- OK Google, let's get personal
PCW Evaluation Team
A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.
I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!
For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.
- Samsung Galaxy S8 phone: full, in-depth review
- Ryzen 5 vs Intel Core i5 CPU Australian review
- Mass Effect Andromeda review: One for the fans
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
- CCSAP CRM Functional AnalystQLD
- FTJunior Business Analyst / Project Coordinator dual roleVIC
- TPService Desk OperatorQLD
- CCBusiness Specialist - Data ManagementNSW
- CCDevops Consultant - 12 month contractVIC
- CCOrganisational Change LeadNSW
- CCCitrix SpecialistVIC
- CCSAP CRM Functional AnalystNSW
- TPPMO LeadNSW
- TPAgile Project Manager. Lean ProductivityNSW
- FTSenior C# DeveloperNSW
- FTBusiness Development ManagerACT
- TPSenior Project Manager - Life InsuranceNSW
- CCProject ManagerNSW
- TPSenior Business Analyst - GISQLD
- CCProgram CoordinatorVIC
- FTSolutions Architect (Collaboration Technology) - Permanent - Sydney CBDNSW
- CCSystems Administrator - Cloud, Azure and LinuxQLD
- FTLooking for Information Security professional @ CanberraNSW
- TPIntergration SpecialistQLD
- FTSolution Architect - SecurityVIC
- CCIntegration ArchitectACT
- FTIT Helpdesk AnalystVIC
- TPSenior Test AnalystQLD