Google Chat is finally becoming a little more like Slack

Google has announced a series of major upgrades for its messaging service Chat, which has long been one of the weakest elements of its productivity and collaboration suite.

The headline changes revolve around the Google Chat group messaging feature, which will now be called Spaces rather than Rooms.

The rebranded group chat system will soon offer crucial functionality that has been missing until now, such as in-line replies and native content search, bringing Chat closer in line with services like Slack and Teams.

Once the upgrades have taken effect, users will also be able to set custom activity statuses, pin messages, see presence indicators and view assigned tasks from within Google Chat.

According to Google, Spaces will also integrate closely with other Workspace services, such as Calendar, Drive and Docs. For example, customers will be able to edit and discuss a document side-by-side and Chat will also draw down activity statuses from co-workers' calendars.

“Google Chat has been an essential part of work during the last year, serving as a bridge for separated colleagues to collaborate in real time,” wrote Google in a blog post. “We hope these innovations will give distributed teams for shared spaces, making collaboration easier.”

Google Chat interface

Beyond new group chat functionality, Google also offered a first glimpse of a new-look interface designed to help users better organize their day and balance different modes of working.

The new interface seats crucial collaboration apps - such as Gmail, Chat and Meet - in a left-hand sidebar for easy access. Via Spaces, users can also work on documents and other files from this view.

“This will make staying on top of and navigating to important conversations and critical notifications easier, eliminating the need to switch between various applications,” Google explained.

The new group chat functionality and user interface will begin to roll out to paying Workspace customers from today. The new features will be pushed out in increments, although administrators can apply for early access.

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