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Video chatting with family: How to use FaceTime, Skype, or Google Hangouts to keep in touch

Christopher Breen | Jan. 2, 2015
You can't always be with the ones you love, particularly over the holidays. Thankfully, free video chat services get us closer than a quick phone call.

Once everyone has their Google+ account, you can start a conversation in a couple of different ways. If you have an iOS device, download the free Hangout app from the App Store. Launch the app, sign in with your Google email address and password, and add your contacts. Then tap the Hangouts button, tap the New Hangouts button, and start choosing contacts for the hangout. Unlike with Skype you can host a group video chat on an iOS device.

On a Mac you use a web browser. The interface is similar in that you click on a Start a Video Hangout link at the bottom-right of the window. If this is your first time using Google Hangout you'll be prompted to install the Google Voice and Video plugin. Do so and then allow the plugin to do its job (you should see a sheet that asks you to trust the plugin).

Start a video chat and then click the Invite People button that appears. In the Send Invite As field enter the email addresses of those you want to chat with. They'll receive your invitation and, by clicking a link, can join the chat. Alternatively you can copy the permanent link provided to you and then text that to your friends and family.

The advantage Google Hangout has is that most people have a Gmail account, it supports group chatting, and it can run from a web browser, which means that as long as your loved ones are planted in front of a computer with a webcam, they needn't download, install, and configure an app.

A time of togetherness
Hanging out virtually isn't the same experience as being together in person. Sometimes it's unavoidable and undesirable. In other cases, it's entirely avoidable but you've discovered that too much togetherness leads to inharmonious holidays. Regardless of why you've chosen this path, it's one that can lead to a richer experience and can encourage similar interactions throughout the year.


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