How to enable Google's unified Gmail interface

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Google has made the integrated interface of Chat, Rooms and Meet available to free account holders. Jack Wallen shows you how to enable this much-improved UI and feature group.

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Image: iStock/Jelena Danilovic

Recently, Google announced it was launching the unified Gmail interface and Chat for everyone (not just those who pay for Google Workspace). Don't get too excited, as this isn't going to give every user on the free service access to all of the goodies found in Workspace. However, the change does clean up the Gmail interface quite a bit and allows users to work with the superior Chat service. And if you depend on Google Hangouts, the migration to Chat is seamless and you won't miss a beat.

Along with the migration from Hangouts to Chat, free users will also find this integrated experience makes it possible to create chat rooms, make video calls, and use the sleeker Gmail interface. In other words, this is a migration you want to make.

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I know, I know...change is hard. But this time around you should definitely want to take the time to get used to a new interface. Effectively, what you'll find is a segmented sidebar (on the left) where you can interact with Gmail, Chat, Rooms (group chat) and Meet (video calls) (Figure A). 

Figure A

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The new Gmail sidebar is more inclusive and easier to use. 

How do you enable this new Gmail interface? It's quite simple. Let me show you how.

What you'll need

The only thing you'll need to enable this new interface is a Google account. This account doesn't have to be a paid Workspaces account, so if you're working with the free version, you're good to go.

How to enable the new interface

Open Gmail in your browser, click the gear icon and then click See All Settings (Figure B).

Figure B

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Gaining access to all settings for your account. 

In the resulting window, click the Chat And Meet tab. In that tab, click to enable Google Chat (Figure C).

Figure C

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Enabling the new Gmail integrated interface.

Finally, click Save Changes. Gmail should automatically restart and reveal the new integrated left sidebar. Congratulations, you now have access to the much-improved Chat tool, as well as the other options Google has made available to the free version of their cloud-based tools.

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