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I've seen in the documentation that you can get pretty custom in creating your own chat lightning component. But this seems a bit excessive. There is standard component called Embedded Service Chat

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and by dragging it in your community builder, displays as a widget

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Does anyone know of an easy way that when the user clicks the chat button, it opens in a new window? I'd like to make the chat persistent and this appears to be the only way.

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By design, components are not allowed to access "the Window". For that reason, you'll not be able to get one to open in a new Window. What you will be able to do though is allow the user to press a pop-out button on the component so it pops-out into it's own Window.

By design, you won't be able to cause that functionality to occur automatically. It will require action on the part of your community users to make that happen. I don't know if this particular component allows that behavior or not, but it's something I know one can program into components that are activated from the Utility Bar.

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