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Google Chat is getting a new look and these changes to notifications

Google is making Chat's user interface more consistent with the experience in Gmail.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Google has started rolling out a new user interface for its Chat app on the web and introduced shortcuts on the side panel for quick access to Calendar, Keep, Tasks and Maps.

Google is alerting Chat users to expect a slightly different look to the app in the browser in coming days. It's not a huge visual revamp, but the presence or availability button has moved from the left top to the right top side of the screen, near the settings icon. Also, Google has added a panel on the right, like in Gmail and Docs, with shortcuts to Calendar, Keep, Tasks and Maps. 

The Search box has moved from the top of the left panel to a central position at the top of the screen. This box can be used to search for content across all rooms and direct messages. To search within a room or a direct message, there's a search icon at the top right coroner of the room or direct message. 

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Google has added a feature to toggle between a full screen view and pop-up view for rooms and direct messages. This aims to better support multi-tasking between conversations. 

Additionally, there's an integration with Google Meet to enable calling directly from Chat. This comes as Google removes the ability to make call phones from Hangouts. Google also plans to begin migrating Hangouts users to Google Chat in the first half of 2021. 

The UI changes, which start rolling out March 24, will happen automatically for users on chat.google.com and the Chat progressive web app (PWA).  

This week Google also enabled more options for controlling the frequency of push notifications in the Chat app and Chat in Gmail on both desktop and mobile.

Users can choose between "Notify always", "Notify less" and "Notifications off". For "Notify less", Chat delivers notifications and badges for direct mentions, @all mentions, and followed threads. There's also an option to be notified about new threads in threaded rooms. With notifications off, users will still see a badge for when they're directly mentioned in a chat. 

"These additional notification settings give you more control over the amount of notifications you'll receive based on your level of engagement or involvement in specific conversations," Google explains. 

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The options are designed to help users stay abreast of conversations they need to know about, while also avoiding notification fatigue. 

The new user interface and the notification controls are available to Google Workspace customers, as well as G Suite Basic and Business customers. 

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