How to avoid friends and family when using Google Hangouts

first_imgIn many ways, Google’s move from their standalone chat service to the integrated communications platform we now know as Hangouts was a step forward for everyone. In the attempt to create a better chat experience, Google added a feature that has made it increasingly difficult to dodge friends and family. We’ve all seen it, the little shaded avatar that shows how much of the conversation the other person has seen, making it seem impossible to ignore messages without letting the other person know.The read receipt, which was once the bane of email, has crossed over to instant messaging, and we’re fighting back. As it turns out, there are still a few ways you can dodge friends and family on Google Hangouts without them knowing you’ve read what they have sent you.Hangouts on the PCWe’ll need to break this down by device type, so let’s start out with the easiest version of Hangouts for dodging people. Desktop Hangouts exists in two different standalone locations: using just the browser, you can access Hangouts from Gmail and Google+ independently.If you’re using Chrome, you can install the Hangouts extension and bind these experiences together in a single UI that resembles a standalone IM client. If you double click on a user in Gmail or Google+, it will open a new chat windows on your desktop. This is an important distinction from the embedded browser version, which reports back to Google Hangouts when you give click either service and rats you out. The standalone design in the Chrome extension has an entirely different behavior set, and can be exploited for our (completely innocent) purposes.With Hangouts enabled as a Chrome extension, when you get a new message it pops up in a new IM window on your desktop with a color to indicate that it is unread. Like the browser version, at this point you can see the whole message and the end user is not aware that you have read it. You can now also click the top of this window and drag it to another part of the screen, and the user on the other end remains unaware that you’ve seen the message! In this format, it’s not until you click in the actual text area or message area that the user is informed that you have read the message.Hangouts on Android and iOSYour smartphone is probably the most important place to know how to dodge coworkers, friends, and family. Maybe you’ve gone off to a mid-morning movie or are performing the delicate balance of ditching work and family at the same time. You need to know if anything important has happened that would cause you to go back to your normal life, but you don’t want anyone else to know that you’re trying to avoid everyone. Almost every Android user is a Google Hangouts user, and iOS users have been able to take advantage of the newly forged service, so with devices in every shape and size it’s important to know what the best way to dodge everyone would be.Unfortunately, in the Android version of Hangouts there’s no way to see an entire conversation view without revealing on that you’ve seen the message. As soon as you go to the conversation, or if you already have the conversation open, your participation in the conversation has been announced. Instead, you have the ability to catch the first two lines of the message sent to you via the notification tray. If you’re in Hangouts, but not in that conversation, you can see this same preview. What makes the notification tray special is how the information is displayed. The advent of expandable notifications in Android means you actually get more from the conversation at a glance here than you would if you went to the actual app.If you’re on an iPhone or iPad, the results are similar. The notification shade in iOS 7 will show you the latest message, and the app itself will not report that you have read the message unless you open the conversation. This gives you the ability to see a snippet of the conversation, and in this case significantly less of the conversation than Android, but it’s better than not seeing the message at all or getting caught.Pro level: Searching through GmailSo maybe you can’t install the Chrome extension and you need to see the whole message from whoever you are hiding from at the time. Much like Google Talk, Hangouts saves all of your conversations to Gmail with the name of the person you are talking to. The only time this isn’t true is when the Hangout history disabled. Since this is enabled by default, there should be no problems accessing the information.In your Gmail, search for hangout followed by the first and last name of the person you want to check in on. The chances are good that Google will auto-complete for you, in case you have trouble spelling complicated last names. Once you’ve got the list of conversations in your search results, check the most recent message and scroll all the way down to the bottom. Here you’ll be able to see the whole message without tipping off the sender that you’ve see what has been sent.For bonus points, you can create a filter in Gmail that treats these entries like they are new emails, so they arrive in your inbox for examination. This is particularly useful if you have one or two people in particular that you need to dodge on a regular basis.last_img read more