Google Talk is undoubtedly my favorite chat client because it is a wonderful little application that offers all of the right features. Well, it doesn’t quite offer everything because a lot of people would like to see the application interact with other messenger services, such as AIM. I, however, have somehow managed to convert a large majority of my friends to using Google Talk so the interoperability isn’t necessary for me.
The first thing I want to mention is that Google offers a survey that asks you what features you would like to see the most in an upcoming release of Google Talk. It looks like the survey has gotten some new options such as Google Calendar integration and a built-in spellchecker since the last time I mentioned it. I’m actually surprised that there hasn’t been another release in nearly 6 months which is when they added the file sharing option. At the time, it was the most requested feature. Once file sharing was introduced, they said: "Now, we’re off to the next version. I can’t tell you what your #2 and 3 suggestions were, but I do know that they’re on the way." I have copied what options are currently available on the survey, and I put an asterisk (*) next to the survey items that were available when the Google employee said they were working on the #2 and #3 feature:
*Rich text for outgoing chats
*Additional smilies or emoticons
Appear invisible or offline
Offline message delivery (already implemented)
*Mac or Linux versions
*Call and message encryption
*Calls to regular phone numbers
Google Calendar & Personalized Homepage integration
Sign in to multiple accounts simultaneously on the same computer
My guess is that they are working on video conferencing and calling landline phones as the #2 and #3 features, but some of the new options look appetizing as well. Post which features you think will make the cut on the next release in the comments below.
Alright, now we’ll move onto what you came for. The other day I was thinking to myself that other messenger clients have all kinds of add-ons and themes available to do more with the application. I knew there had to be a way to do similar stuff with Google Talk, but I just had to find the right place.
The best site that I found was CustomizeTalk.com which has everything from skins, themes, tweaks, and tricks. The first thing that I’m going to point out is Extended Talk Beta (download mirror) pictured to the right. It adds a few features to Google Talk that are kinda nice such as making windows transparent. The software actually has its own file transfer utility built-in because the last time it was updated was before Google released that feature themselves. There is only one bug that I did mange to notice: the button on the chat screen overlaps with the "Send Voicemail" button since that wasn’t there when this program was developed. If you can cope with that little flaw then you’ll probably enjoy the rest of the things this offers:
- Dynamic statuses
- Send custom images (or emoticons)
- Graphical smilies
- /slash commands
- Floating desktop contacts
- Boss protection
- Font color and chat window color (visible locally)
- Fast text input (example: automatically insert IP address)
- Change your text while typing (example: to 1337)
- Text recall
- Underline text (visible locally)
- Bold and italic hotkey
- Run at startup
One of the other cool things about that little add-on is that it is a completely separate program that integrates itself into Google Talk. That means you can close that program or uninstall it and your Google Talk will be back to normal.
The other thing that I wanted to point out was using skins with Google Talk. Google has a nice variety of different skins for your chat conversations but none of them really seem to grab me. Then I found one that looked really great and is far better than any that Google offers themselves.
The theme I’m talking about is called Digital Ecstacy (download mirror) and is one of the 8 conversation window themes that they have available. They even have one that mimicks the Blue Screen of Death, (BSoD) but I thought the Digital Ecstacy one looked nice. It has a smaller avatar than normal for the person that your chatting with, which is nice to have. Normally, I choose themes that don’t have an avatar at all because of the amount of room they take up, but this one is well done.
All you have to do to install that theme is download the file and install it. During the installation process it will add the necessary files to your Google Talk profile so that you can go to the Settings and select the new theme. You should probably restart Google Talk before applying the theme because none of the theme’s images would show up until you do. Now that I have this classy look, it will be hard for me to go back to anything else.
So, those are two ways that answered my own question of how I can do more with Google Talk. I knew there had to be things available, but I just never went looking for them. You might even be content with the way Google Talk is right now, and in that case these things might not be for you. I’m not sure if I’ll keep using the Extended Talk add-on but the theme is definitely a keeper!