Many of us think it’s rather handy to have the instant messaging (IM) feature in our Gmail. If we have a quick question for someone we can send an instant message, knowing it will pop right up on the recipient’s screen. This eliminates our wait for that person to read their email and get back to us.
Have you noticed that there are four different color dots that can appear next to someone’s name in the chat area? Green means the person is online (their Gmail page is open) and available to chat. Orange means the person is idle. Their Gmail page is open, but they may have it minimized or have other things open that they are working on. They haven’t looked at their email for some time. Red means do not disturb, and gray means they are not online in their Gmail at that point in time.
If you would like to be able to keep your Gmail open, but not IM with someone, set your status to do not disturb. To do this, click on the arrow next to your name in the chat area. From the list that pops up, select busy (with the red dot next to it). Don’t forget to change it back to available when you’re ready to IM again.
You can set custom messages for both available and busy chat statuses. Click on the arrow next to your name. Select either the green or red custom message option, depending on whether or not you want to receive IMs, and type a brief message in the box. There’s no save button, just click outside the box and your message will remain in place until you change it or select the generic available or busy option.
If you prefer to keep your email open, but not appear online in the chat area, you can do that. Click on the arrow next to your name in the chat area, select the option for invisible. You’ll be in “stealth mode,” still see who is online, and even IM if you want, but no one knows you’re online.
You can also completely sign out of chat, but keep your Gmail open. To do that, click on the arrow next to your name. Select the option to sign out of chat. Just remember that if you do this, and want to send a quick IM to someone, you can’t. You must first click the option to sign into chat.
Don’t forget that your IMs are archived in Gmail. You can find them by clicking on the link for “More” in the left email navigation area, and selecting the option for chat. From there you can click to read a chat, delete it, label/star it, and more.