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First Look: Messages for Mac
Messages beta is out today for Lion users. Once you install and launch it, you'll be asked to sign in with your Apple ID -- be sure to use the same one you use for Messages on your iOS device.
In my test drive, it's capable and fun to use... and weird. Basically this app is a mashup of Messages on iOS, iChat, and FaceTime. But since it's in beta, you might run into some strangeness. I sure did.
Bear in mind a few things: 1. It's beta. 2. I just got it a couple hours ago. I've tried to test as much as I can, but it's possible (probable?) I'm missing a few things or just doing things wrong. If you know better about any of the things I found weird, or you've run into weirdness of your own, please hit up the comments! We'll figure this out together.
Signing In
How it's done: You start with your Apple ID. Like in FaceTime, you can add more email addresses. If an email address you add isn't already associated with your Apple ID, you'll need to verify it.
Any weirdness? No. So far so good.
Adding IM accounts
How it's done: If you've been using iChat for IM, those accounts should already be added. Otherwise, go to Messages > Preferences > Accounts and add your AIM (including Mac.com and Me.com), Google Talk, Yahoo, and Jabber accounts. Bonjour is supported too.
Any weirdness? A little: Your buddy list, which is the handy unified buddy list that was added to iChat in version 4, isn't on by default. So you don't feel as dumb as I do searching for it, go to Window > Buddies, or press Command-1. Once the Buddies window is open and selected, you can play with the View menu options to change its look.
Sending a Message
How it works: Click the "write" button at the top left of the Messages window. Then fill out the To field. Typing a name results in an auto-complete feature that shows all the phone numbers and email addresses for that name, pulled from Address Book, and their IM accounts. Email addresses and phone numbers will be labeled "iMessage" and IM accounts will be labeled with that IM service. Or you can click the + button to add names from a pop-up list of Contacts (Address Book) or Buddies (your IM accounts' Buddies lists). If the Buddies window is open, just double-click a name to start an IM conversation.
Any weirdness? Yes. The Help menu (Help > Messages Help) says that if a phone number or email address hasn't been added to iMessages, it'll show up red when you select it. But that didn't reliably happen for me. I tried to send a message to Cody's work email, which didn't show up red, but the iMessage failed when it couldn't be delievered. When I selected my parents' land line, it did show up red, and attempting to message it immediately displayed a pop-up that iMessage wasn't available.
Receiving a message
I don't know how to take a screenshot of something that isn't happening... but I swear there were more iMessage messages in this chat than the three that randomly showed up on my iPhone.
How it works: If someone sends you an IM or iMessage and there isn't already a conversation going in the Messages window, you'll see a pop-up window with their message, and you have to click Accept to get into the chat (the other options are Decline and Block). If you don't have your Messages app open, you'll see unread messages appear as a badge icon in the Dock. Help claims that you'll receive iMessages on "all properly configured mobile devices with iOS 5.0 or later installed."
Any weirdness? Tons. iMessages sent by several friends seemed to always go to Messages on my Mac, if it was open of course, and as badge icons when it was closed. But only a few showed up on my phone, whether Messages on the Mac was open or not. Sometimes in a given Messages conversation on the Mac, some messages appeared on the iPhone and others didn't. Help > Messages Help has a list of suggestions under "Fix iMessage issues," but none of them helped me -- hopefully you'll have more luck. (And my iPhone has been dropping its network connection pretty often lately, so that might be why.) Also, if I sent an iMessage to a contact and they wrote back using a different email address as their "caller ID" (Messages > Preferences > Accounts > iMessage account's Caller ID drop-down), I got the reply in a pop-up window I had to accept, instead of in the chat window I had going.
File Transfers
How it works: You can drag and drop a file, image, video, and so on into the iMessage dialog and it'll be sent right along. The recipient can double-click it to Quick Look it (you can play videos and listen to audio files from that Quick Look window), and/or drag it to their Desktop to save it. I was able to send images to my phone by sending an iMessage to my phone number.
Any weirdness? Nope, this is straightforward and SUPER handy.
Audio and video chat
How it works: The Messages window has a video icon in the upper right. If you have an iMessage conversation selected and you click that icon, it'll show a list of that person's email addresses and phone numbers and offer to FaceTime them. FaceTime opens in the separate app. If you have an IM conversation going, clicking the video icon offers choices to video or audio chat in the normal iChat fashion. (The Buddies window also has video/audio icons by your IM contacts who are available to video/audio chat.) Right-click an IM contact's name for the screen sharing options.
Any weirdness? Not really. It's just a little confusing for me since the IM and iMessages chats are both in the same window, although each chat is labeled if you select it in the sidebar and scroll up to the top. One thing that would be cool is if a contact was offline, refused your video chat request, or didn't pick up your FaceTime call, if Messages let you record a quick video greeting to be delivered when they came back.
Other weirdness- I could see my IM contacts' profile pictures, but no profile pictures showed up on my iMessage chats. People I was iMessage-chatting with could see my profile picture, though. Weird!
- Address Book now has green dots by people's names (that's new, right?) if you can iMessage/IM them. If you click one of those green dots, the Messages window comes to the front and a New Message is created in the sidebar on the left, but their name isn't auto-populated in the To field. Weird!
- My iMessages pals reported that when they closed Messages on their Mac, unread iMessages I continued to send them showed up on their phones. But that didn't work for me reliably. Just one here or there, but not all. All unread messages did appear badged on the Messages Dock icon, though. Suuuper weird!
But so far, I still have to say that Messages is cool.
More cool things- It supports the Photo Booth-like video effects in IM video chats, same as iChat 4.
- You can change the look of the chat window by right-clicking it and selecting a new look (balloons, boxes, or compact), or going to View > Messages.
- I am an Emoji hater myself (I know, I know...lemme hear it), but the fact that you can send Emoji from the Mac to the phone (Edit > Special Characters) is pretty cool. Smileys show up on the phone as their text equivalents, though.
- I like having all the chats in one window, but if that gets confusing or annoying, you can double-click any chat in the sidebar to break it out into its own window.
And that's what I've noticed so far! What do you think: "Messages yay!" or "Messages, weird!"? What are the things that make YOU go "Hmmmm"?
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february 2012 by L33Fly

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