(Cross-posted on the Gmail Blog)

For those of you who have taken the plunge and are using desktop Hangouts in Gmail, Google+, and the Chrome extension, we've heard loud and clear that you miss the ability to make calls from Gmail, so today, we're happy to announce it's back - and better than before! Even better: calls to the US and Canada are now free from all countries where Hangouts calling is available. And international rates remain super, super low.

Today's launch also improves the desktop calling experience in a number of ways. For example: you can add multiple phone numbers and video participants to the same call; and you can play sound effects (like applause or laughter) with the Google Effects app.

To make a call from Hangouts, just look for the new phone icon in Gmail, or for the new "Call a phone" menu item in Google+ and the Chrome extension. And of course: if you haven't yet tried Hangouts in Gmail, you can always click your profile photo in the chat list and select "Try the new Hangouts."

Making calls from Hangouts is rolling out over the next couple of days. As we’ve said before: Hangouts is designed to be the future of Google Voice, and making and receiving calls is just the beginning. So stay tuned for future updates.