Google Chat: This new feature makes tracking tasks easier

New Google Chat shortcut may provide context for tasks, but the app is still not popular with Hangouts fans.

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Google has added new task-related functionality to Google Chat, the would-be Slack rival and replacement for Hangouts.

Google Chat is the new default chat app for Workspace customers and is gradually replacing Classic Hangouts -- which has been in use since 2013 -- throughout this year, with forced upgrades currently underway.

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The new feature lets users hover over a task in the browser or a mobile app to discover where and when a task was created within the flow of a chat. 

"We hope this feature makes it easier to surface context for your tasks, and re-engage your stakeholders with updates, questions or further collaboration," Google notes in a Workspace blogpost.   

It's not clear whether the feature will significantly change the lukewarm response Chat has received so far. It currently rates 2.5 out of 5 stars on Google Play, with many users posting reviews about longing for Hangouts, which has prompted dozens of apologies from Google.

"As usual, [Google] is replacing a product that works well with something inferior. Painfully sterile UI that makes it difficult to distinguish senders. Photo sharing is clunky. Video chatting is confusing at best, requiring you to install a separate app," wrote Chat user Danielle Price earlier this month.

Google's blog post announcing the new feature explains that when viewing tasks on a mobile device, a chat icon is displayed in the top right-hand corner. 

The feature will be enabled by default for all users, and admins don't have a choice to control the feature, which is available to all Workspace and G Suite customers.

Google is still allowing admins to opt-out of the migration from classic Hangouts to Chat, but is phasing out that option and will make the upgrade mandatory in late 2021.

The reason for the surge in bad reviews was because in August, Google started moving organisations with the "Chat and classic Hangouts" to "Chat preferred" unless admins explicitly opted out. The upgrade began on August 16.

Unlike Hangouts, Chat doesn't yet support direct calling. Google says direct calling should roll out to Chat in Q3 2021.