Workspace customers have had access to Google Chat since last year, and it finally became available for personal users earlier this month. There were some noticeable UI differences between personal and business accounts using Chat, but that won't be the case for much longer. Starting Wednesday, an updated version of Chat is available to Workspace users that looks and acts a lot more like what personal accounts are currently using.
Many of the changes will look familiar to anyone who checked out Google Chat on their personal accounts. Still, if you're only using Chat with a Workspace account, this should feel like a big update. The sidebar along the left side of the web page has been cleaned up and reorganized, with pinned messages moved into the Chat tab. Google has relocated the search bar to the top of the page — mirroring most of its other apps — and the standard quick-access side panel has been added to the right. Chat for Workspace users now redirects to a Gmail URL instead of a dedicated URL, though chat.google.com will still take you where you need to be. Finally, you can now minimize conversations into a pop-up view, just like old-school Hangouts.
Left: Old interface. Right: New interface.
That's not to say Google hasn't kept at least one feature designed explicitly for Workspace users. You'll find tabs for Files and Tasks along the top of a chat window, allowing you to view shared documents and to-do lists within a chatroom quickly. It wouldn't be a messaging product from Google if it weren't split in at least two directions, but this seems to be one of the few significant differences remaining between business and personal accounts.
These updates should begin to appear for Workspace and G Suite users on Wednesday, though it may take several weeks to hit every account. This new look for Chat also requires your domain to be using Gmail. If your Workspace has Gmail disabled, you won't see any changes for at least a few months.
The interface isn't the only thing changing in Google Chat. Starting today, users now have additional control over how often notifications appear in both Chat and Gmail. Selecting "Notify always" will ping you for every single message sent, regardless of context. "Notify less" delivers notifications for DMs, mentions, and threads you've followed (with the option to be notified when new threads are created). Turning off notifications mutes Chat, though a badge will appear if you're mentioned within a thread. Changing your notification settings affects both the web and mobile.