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Google launches a much better Hangouts app for your desktop

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It borrows ideas from Facebook, but that's a good thing

Using Hangouts on the desktop is about to get way better. Today Google revealed a new Hangouts Chrome App for Chrome OS and Windows that always keeps conversations quickly accessible alongside whatever else you're working on or doing on a PC or Chromebook. If that sounds a lot like Facebook Messenger's Chat Heads, it's because that's pretty much exactly what this is: Chat Heads on the desktop — but with Hangouts instead of your Facebook conversations. Google is promising a "streamlined" design that won't get in the way or prove bothersome when you're trying to get work done; it's also possible to toggle off the persistent view entirely by the sounds of it.

There's no need to have a browser window open, but you'll need Chrome running somewhere in the background to use the new Hangouts Chrome App. "You’ll get all your messages as long as you have the app running, and your chats will sync across Hangouts on all your devices," says Google. And of course there's voice calling (and full Google Voice integration) built in. It sounds like a nice improvement for Windows and Chromebook users; hopefully we'll see something similar on Mac at some point.

Update 6:20PM: The article has been updated to reflect that the new Hangouts Chrome App is not completely standalone.