What Do the Gmail Chat Symbols Mean?

By Naomi Bolton

The Gmail chat feature enables you to communicate with other users on your contact list via chat from the Gmail browser page. When you initiate a chat with one of your contacts by selecting his name from the list on the left, the Gmail page chat window opens. The symbols displayed in this chat window denote the online status of your contact as well as the actions that you can perform during the chat.

Online Status Symbols

The online status of a contact is displayed next to his name at the top of the chat window. A green circle indicates that the user is signed into chat and available, while a red circle indicates that he is busy and might not want to be disturbed. An orange circle is displayed if the person is signed in to chat but not active, which could mean that he is away from the computer. If your contact is not signed into Gmail chat, a gray circle is displayed next to his name.

Device Symbols

Gmail chat also uses symbols to give you more information about the nature of your contact. For example, if a camera symbol appears next to your contact's name, it indicates that you can communicate with him via video chat. If a small robot is displayed next to a name, it means that contact is using an Android device.

Communication Method Symbols

Displayed directly below the name of your contact in the chat window are the symbols that allow you to choose how you want to communicate. The camera symbol is used to initiate a video chat with your contact, while the phone symbol is used to make a voice call. To add more of your contacts to the conversation and initiate a group chat, select the symbol depicting a person with a "+" next to him. Selecting the "More" button with the down-arrow symbol next to it opens a drop-down list of more chat options, such as blocking a contact or going off the record. Chatting off the record prevents the contents of the chat window from being saved in your Gmail chat history or the Gmail chat history of the other person taking part in the chat; however, third-party programs or a simple cut-and-paste can still save chat transcripts.

Emoticon Symbols

The smiling face symbol inside the Gmail chat text input box opens a fly-out window where you can select an animated emoticon to insert in your chat. The emoticons are separated into four different categories: from left to right, they're regular, round, rectangular and colored rectangular. The emoticons are the same as what can be achieved with text entry and serve as shortcuts for the most commonly used emoticons. Rectangular emoticons are used by default for text entry emoticons unless a different category is selected from the fly-out window first.