A long time ago I talked here about Google Voice, one of the new Google applications that allows you to have your own virtual phone number from which one can send and receive free text messages and it can be forwarded to your real cell phone if wanted.

Yesterday Google announced in their official blog that users will be able to call phones straight from Gmail’s chat and that, in case the user already has a Google voice account, calls will display the user’s number as the outbound caller ID and, if you decide so, you can receive calls made to this number right inside Gmail (see instructions).

Calls to the U.S. and Canada will be free for at least the rest of the year and calls to other countries will be billed at our very low rates. We worked hard to make these rates really cheap (see comparison table) with calls to the U.K., France, Germany, China, Japan—and many more countries—for as little as $0.02 per minute.

Dialing a phone number works just like a normal phone. Just click “Call phone” at the top of your chat list and dial a number or enter a contact’s name.

We’re rolling out this feature to U.S. based Gmail users over the next few days, so you’ll be ready to get started once “Call Phones” shows up in your chat list (you will need to install the voice and video plug-in if you haven’t already). If you’re not a U.S. based user—or if you’re using Google Apps for your school or business—then you won’t see it quite yet. We’re working on making this available more broadly—so stay tuned!

More information.