Book Excerpt: JDS Instant Messenger (IM)

This excerpt from Exploring the JDS Linux Desktop teaches you how to instant message friends and colleagues from your desktop system.
IM Basics

Here we cover the basic tools for using JDS's Instant Messenger.

Sign on

Once your Screen Name and Password are entered into the Login window correctly, click the "Sign on" button. Your Buddy List appears on your desktop, and you are logged into Instant Messenger.

If you are on a network behind a firewall, such as a company's local area network, it may be difficult for you to sign on to Instant Messenger. In such circumstances, consult your system administrator, who may be able to configure a proxy.

Note that upon each subsequent occasion when you open Instant Messenger, your default Screen Name and Password is entered and all you need to do is click "Sign on." Even this step can be bypassed, as we see in the next section.

When you first open the program and see Buddy List, the main window is blank. The Buddy List, shown in Figure 4, already contains one Group called "OSSI & OGIP." Later, we discuss how to manage Buddies and Groups.

Figure 4. Buddy List


You can save a keystroke by setting up Auto-login, if you want Instant Messenger to automatically log you in when you first open it. In Buddy List, go to Tools > Accounts to open the Accounts window. There, the Auto-login column is second from the right. You can check the box of the account or accounts for which you want to establish auto-login.

Auto-login saves a few extra mouse-clicks at the start of each IM session and is especially useful if you have a single, default, IM account that you use all the time; it's also useful to signal to your Buddies that you're available for "IM-ing."

Keep in mind that auto-login has its drawbacks. Logging into your IM account always signals to other "IM-ers"--those who have your Screen Name entered into their Buddy Lists--that you are at your workstation and available to chat. In many cases, such as when you are very busy, you may not want to signal to others that you are available, since an instant message from them might be distracting. At times like this, you may want to open your Instant Messenger program to see who among your Buddies is online, but you would like to stay "offline" to them. In this case, auto-login would add mouse-clicks to your workflow. So, your "Auto-login" settings are worth some consideration and should optimally be based on what you prefer to do most of the time.

Begin to chat

If you know someone's Screen Name on the instant messaging service that you signed up with, you can begin chatting immediately. (It's probably more efficient to add them into your Buddy List immediately, especially if you will be chatting with them in future. See the section "Adding buddies.")

At the bottom of the open Buddy List window on your desktop, click the IM button on the extreme left. The New Message window opens (Figure 5) and prompts you for a Screen Name. Enter the other party's Screen Name and click OK.

Figure 5. The New Message Window

This opens a Conversation window, shown in Figure 6, and you're ready to begin an instant messaging session.

Figure 6. The Conversation Window

See in Figure 7 how the window is labeled gpbazzini. That is the Screen Name of the person with whom you are about to chat. Note also the tab at the upper left of the upper panel, which is also labeled with the other chat party's Screen Name. When you are holding multiple chat sessions at the same time, the tabs come in handy, allowing you to move easily among the different conversations. Opening a single chat session with multiple parties is a different capability (discussed later in the section, "Multiparty chat.")

Type text into the bottom window (where the cursor sits when the window first opens) and press Enter. Each time you press the Enter key, the latest message you typed is transmitted to the IM session partner's Conversation window, assuming she is logged on to the instant messenger service on her workstation. Her replies will come right back in sequence into your Conversation window.

The Buddy List

In the context of instant messaging, a "buddy" is someone with whom you regularly want to chat. A buddy could be a spouse at their workplace, a sibling, a best friend, an acquaintance, or a work colleague. Often one's Buddy List includes many, if not all, of those kinds of people. Later, we'll show how to organize buddies into groups.

The Buddy List is critical to productive chat. Without it, you would need to remember all friends' or colleagues' Screen Names, which would add many unnecessary key-strokes and likely make you quickly lose interest in IM.

The Buddy List is also the departure point for making most adjustments to your account, preference, and privacy settings in your JDS Instant Messenger program.

Adding buddies

To add a Buddy, go to your Buddy List window (Figure 4) and select Buddies > Add a Buddy. This opens the Add Buddy window (Figure 7), where you can enter the Screen Name and Alias of your Buddy.

Figure 7. The Add Buddy Window

The Alias is your label for that Buddy as it is later listed visibly in your Buddy List. For example, in Figure 8, the alias Tom represents Tom Adelstein, the coauthor of this book, whose Screen Name is not as easy for Sam to mentally associate with him. The longer your Buddy List, the more important it is to create easy Aliases.

Figure 8. The Buddy List with Groups Displayed

The Alias feature is useful because it is often not easy to recognize someone by his or her Screen Name. For example, with the hypothetical Screen Name Moochy007, it is easy to forget the real person behind it. On the other hand, some people are impossible to forget.

Begin to chat with buddies

To start a chat session with someone in your Buddy List, go to the Buddy List and double-click the Alias of the Buddy with whom you'd like to chat. This action calls up a Conversation window, ready for your input. Type in your message, then press Enter, to transmit. Away you go.

Add a group

As said earlier, you can find your buddies more easily if you organize them into groups. To add a new group to your Buddy List, go to your Buddy List and select Buddies > Add a Group. This opens the Add Group window into which you can enter the name you make up, then press the Add button. Use a naming scheme that helps you quickly identify the different Groups that you establish over time in your Buddy List. Figure 8 shows a Group called "OSSI & OGIP."

The Conversation window

When you or one of your correspondents starts an instant messaging session, as we have shown, a Conversation window is active. Your keyboard entries appear in the lower window as you type. When you press Enter after typing, your input is sent to your partner. It also appears in your upper window after a parenthetical time-stamp, followed by your Screen Name, both of these in a color that distinguishes your own contributions to the conversation from your partner's.

The Conversation window also offers tabs representing the different chat conversations that are open simultaneously. Each tab is labeled with the other party's Screen Name. You can maintain multiple chat sessions with different people, while using the tabs to navigate from one to another. The people on the respective other ends do not know you are chatting with others.

If you have multiple instant messaging accounts and are logged on to more than one at once, the Conversation window menu offers a useful Send As feature, which permits you to change the account that you send a message from. You could change Screen Names in mid-chat, but this may only achieve confusion. It is more likely you will start multiple sessions using different services.



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JDS now supports all protocols

tadelste's picture

In the download section of you will find the most current updates to gaim which supports protocols originally missed in the first versions of JDS, when the product was release in 2003.

You can also find 200 or so updates and additional software in that repository.