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05 November 2014 @ 01:09 pm
Google Hangouts App Rant  
I have just been informed that Google Talk is going to be disabled at some unspecified point. I'm sure no one here is interested in my rant about how much the "replacement" Hangouts app sucks.

Dear, Google Chrome App Developers, the new Hangout app for Chrome is the ugliest, most inconvenient thing i've seen in a long time. I was informed this morning via an auto-message in Google Chat that it was being discontinued and told me i should switch to the Hangouts app, link provided. I went ahead and gave it a shot, but was both disappointed and frustrated by what i found.

The old Google Chat app was a nice simple self-contained program that would hang out in the notification area and do exactly what i wanted, let me chat with people without having to interact with a browser at all.

Disabling it to force me to "upgrade" to the Google Chrome Hangouts app does not improve anything! It is not convenient for me to have to open a browser and sign in before i start IMing with people. I suppose if the intent was to force me to sign in to Chrome so you could gather more marketing data on me then mission accomplished! But if that's the case then it smacks of the arrogant strong-arm tactics used by Microsoft back in their most monopolistic days in the 90s.

On top of that the Hangout app is just poorly designed. The Google chat app at least looked somewhat like a regular window, but when i open Hangouts it's one of those bright colored "windows" with no borders or title bar. Maybe some people like that, but i went to some lengths to configure Windows with the Classic view, and ignoring the OS's style to shoehorn in your own design aesthetic just makes it clash with everything else on the screen.

Starting Hangouts pops up a large square icon that just hangs out on the side of my screen taking up space and floating on top of everything else, rather than a small out of the way icon in the notification area.

If i minimize that icon, by the inconvenient method of mousing over it to bring up the "x" button, clicking on the "x" button, and then telling the pop-up dialog that i want to minimize it rather than quit, it goes away. However if i then open a Chrome window from the taskbar and then minimize it again the icon pops back up! The only way to get the icon to minimize and _stay_ minimized is to stop using Chrome!

Oh yeah, and the whole time the ugly icon is taking up space on my desktop there's _also_ a taskbar button for it! We've gone from one tiny notification area icon for Google Chat when it was minimized to a large ugly floating desktop icon that i can't permanently hide _and_ an extra taskbar button!

As far as actually using it goes, the lack of a title bar turns out not to be only an aesthetic mistake, there's also no way to quickly move the Hangouts window. When you click on the floating icon to open the window the icon sticks around attached to the side of the window, and in order to move the window you have to mouse over the icon to get the little d-pad button to appear so you can click on it to drag the icon around and take the window with it.

When i start a chat with someone the big ugly icon expands and becomes a vertical bar with an extra button/icon for each chat you have open. So now you have a tall vertical thing floating on top of all your other windows, which is difficult to minimize and reappears every time you open and re-minimize a Chrome window. And the buttons/icons for your chats are the profile pictures of the people you're chatting with, so anyone who wanders by your desk can see how many chats you have open and who you're talking to.

If you open a chat window and then click on some other window the chat window disappears again. You can't work on something else while keeping an eye on the chat window. Incredibly inconvenient.

You _can_ split a chat window off of the floating icon by clicking the little up-left arrow in the (non-drag-able) title bar, which has some pros and cons.

Pros: It becomes a separate window which you can drag around. You can minimize that separate chat window easily without having to mouse over anything to get hidden buttons to appear. And when you split it off the icon for that chat disappears from the floating icon bar, so if you split them all off it goes back to a single icon/button which is only a little ugly and obtrusive, and doesn't display anything obvious about who you're chatting with.

Cons: Once split off the chat windows float on top of everything else, even if you switch to another task. REALLY INCREDIBLY INCONVENIENT.

There's also a pretty significant bug.

Open a chat with person A. Split it off. A separate window for person A appears. Now open a chat with person B. Split it off. A separate window for person B appears. Now open a chat with person C. Split it off. It just disappears. Now open a chat with person D. Split it off. The chat window for person D disappears but a separate window for person C appears. There is a taskbar icon for the theoretical window for person D, but clicking on it does nothing. If you grab one of the previous split-off windows and merge it back to the floating icon and then split it off again it will disappear and the window for person D will appear in exchange. If you close all the other windows you'll still have that virtual taskbar item remaining but no way to get access to it without opening up a new chat which you can sacrifice to free the hidden one from its purgatory.

And finally, just to add insult to injury, so far i have not been able to find any way to turn off the graphical smileys and change them back to plain text.

Oh, and one other little thing, the googletalk process uses 23k of memory. Starting Hangouts by itself after closing Chrome starts four chrome.exe processes, using a total of 269k.

There is a _different_ Hangouts program, an "extension" rather than an "app". However that one automatically logs in as the Gmail account i'm using in the browser, and i haven't found any way to change it short of signing out of Gmail. When i'm at work i use Chrome for my "personal" Gmail/G+ account, while Firefox is signed into my "professional" Gmail account.
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Usquebausqueba on November 6th, 2014 07:12 am (UTC)
I like Hangouts on my phone but hate it on the desktop/laptop.
DonAithnendonaithnen on November 7th, 2014 09:52 pm (UTC)
On the phone it hasn't really changed at all from the old gtalk app. I guess one of the advantages of apps on a mobile environment is that they're more limited in what UI gimmicks they can try to pull off and that everything is already encapsulated so apps can't really interfere with each other that much.
Kirin: Skuld-computerkirinn on November 6th, 2014 08:16 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I pretty much only use Hangouts via the phone app - that browser app does sound pretty hideous. But then, I mostly only use hangouts for one particular group chat, not all my person-to-person messaging needs.