Social from the Start
One of Gwibber's most useful features is its support for multiple streams. With it, you can provide quick access to different themes of messages you want to see. This most typically includes searches for all messages, including particular search terms. It's incredibly handy if you want to see what the microblogging world is saying about something you care about, such as your name, product, project or service.
Setting up a new stream is simple. In Gwibber, click Gwibber→New Stream, and a new pane appears to the right of your existing streams (you may need to move the scroll bar to see the new view). In the new stream to the left is a down arrow, click it and a window pops up where you can select what will go in the stream. At the top are general categories of information common to all networks, such as Messages, Replies and Images. Underneath them are each of the different networks and the different types of information specific to those networks. This makes it simple to have a stream that shows only your Twitter replies, for example.
At the bottom of the list of content types is a Search option. Clicking takes you back to the main Gwibber window, and a text box appears where you can enter a search term. Add something and click the Search button, and a new stream to the right appears showing all messages across your networks with that search in them.
One of the key enhancements that Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx brought was the ability to tweet directly from your desktop without even needing to access the Gwibber window. With your broadcast accounts all set up, you can tweet by clicking your user name (you also can press Super-S) on the panel and typing your tweet into the text entry box in the menu (Figure 4). This makes tweeting from Ubuntu a snap; one click, and your thoughts are broadcast instantly!
Another key component in building social features into the Ubuntu desktop is Empathy—a multiprotocol, extensible and powerful chat client. With Empathy, you can chat to your friends across a range of different networks all in the same place. Empathy supports Facebook Chat, Google Talk, Jabber, AIM, gadugadu, GroupWise, ICQ, IRC, MSN, mxit, MySpace, qq, sametime, silc, SIP, Yahoo!, Yahoo! Japan, zephyr and people who are nearby to you on your local network. Empathy brings all of these different networks together into one window, providing a single consistent user interface for all of your friends.
To get started with Empathy, first you need to set up your various chat accounts. Click your user name in the panel and then click Chat Accounts. A window that looks very similar to the Gwibber account setup window appears. This interface is almost identical; click the Add button, select an account type and add your account details. With each of your accounts set up, you now can fire up Empathy by clicking the messaging menu and clicking Chat.
Empathy provides a simple interface for accessing all your chat contacts in one place (Figure 5). For all contacts in your list, the icon on the left side indicates their availability. Green means they are available, orange means they are away from their keyboard, and red means they are busy. To add a contact to your list, click Chat→Add Contact, select the appropriate network, and then add their credentials. They appear on your contact list when they approve your request.
To send an instant message to one of your contacts, double-click his or her name in Empathy and a new window appears where you can chat. Within the chat window, you should know about a few useful functions. First, if you want to find out a little more information about the contact, click Contact→Information. Next, you may want to send that person a file, which you can do by clicking Contact→Send file. Finally, if you ever want to look at previous conversations with your contacts, click Contact→Previous Conversations. This opens up a new window with a calendar and a list of contacts, and you can click a contact and skip through the calendar to browse logs of your discussions.
Earlier, I discussed how you can see someone's availability, so I also should explain how to set yours. There are two ways to indicate if you are available, away, busy or invisible (this is when you can see your contacts, but they can't see you). First, in the Empathy contacts window, use the drop-down box at the top of the window. Second, you can go to the Me Menu (the panel menu with your user name) and select one of the options there.