Book Excerpt: JDS Instant Messenger (IM)
The Conversation window lets you change the size and the color of your message text, as well as providing the usual bold and italic forms. Font customization features are accessed among the buttons that are between the upper and lower panes within the Conversation window.
The Conversation window offers buttons permitting you to insert image files and hyperlinks to web content you want to refer to in a message. There is also a button to insert a variety of smiley faces to liven up your IM communications. The insert buttons are located between the upper and lower panes, at the right.
What's that little keyboard icon in the top right?
This mysterious icon, which comes and goes, is one of the most interesting and useful design features of Instant Messenger. The little keyboard icon is like a busy signal. When it appears, it signals that the person with whom you are chatting is typing on his keyboard.
In a conversation, it is often polite to wait until the other party is finished talking before one speaks; otherwise you interrupt, which may be considered rude. So too in instant messaging and chat: if you see the other party is typing, you may do well to wait until they have sent their message to respond.
Instant Messenger permits chat with many participants at the same time. A host, the person who first creates a multi-party chat session, invites other individuals to join it. The host must first go to her Buddy List and select Buddies > Join a Chat. This opens the Join Chat window where the host:
Selects which of her accounts to join
Enters a name for the multi-party chat session
Sets the Exchange number (4 is the default)
Instant Messenger offers numerous features and configuration preferences. In this section, we highlight just a few interesting ones. As always, you can gain a lot by spending a few minutes exploring the application's settings, buttons, and menu items to learn about features that may enhance your own ways of working and playing.
Chat between IM and cell phone
Instant Messenger allows you to send text messages to SMS-enabled cellular phones. Moreover, the recipient's text message replies appear on your desktop, like a standard instant messaging session.
At your Buddy List, click the IM button, at the bottom left of the window, to open the New Message window. (See Figure 5.) In the Screen name line, enter +1, followed by the cell phone number to which you intend to send the text message, and click OK. (See Figure 9.)
This opens a new Conversation window, where you can chat with the holder of the cellular telephone. They can reply as they would in a conventional text conversation.
For this feature to work, it is necessary that the cell phones with which you want to communicate have SMS text-messaging features that are accessible and enabled by their cell phone service provider. Check with your telecoms provider to confirm the service. Additionally, messaging services are not uniformly established yet and certain countries may not accommodate IM-to-cell connections for various reasons.
If you are able to connect, though, this is an exciting feature.
Disable (or enable) sounds
If you have been using instant messaging, you know that there are sounds associated with a message received and with other messaging events.
There are occasions--such as when you are using IM as a back-channel on a multi-member conference call--when you should disable sounds on your desktop, so everyone on the call is spared hearing the Message Received beeps going off in the background. If everyone kept sounds enabled, imagine the flurry of beeps that would be audible on the call, when the opposing party, in a heavy negotiation, finally announces the details of something important, like pricing.
To disable sounds when receiving a message, go from your Buddy List to Tools > Preferences > Sounds > Sound Events and uncheck the box next to Message Received. This stops your machine from beeping upon each incoming instant message.
Other sound events you can control from this window include:
Buddy logs in
Buddy logs out
Message received begins conversation
Person enters chat
Person leaves chat
You talk in chat
Others talk in chat
Someone says your name in chat
Here, you can make permanent changes or restore the default settings.
Managing "Away Messages"
You can send an Away Message if you leave your desk for a few minutes. This is a polite way to tell your Buddies that you are not available, especially if you leave during a chat session.
The system defaults to automatically sending an Away Message if you do not touch the keyboard for one minute. The system's default Away Message reads, "Slightly less boring default." You can change this default message and adjust the time period to your preference via Buddy List; go to Tools > Preferences and click on Away/Idle. This window also lets you deactivate the Auto-away feature, so it stops sending Away Messages automatically. If you do that, the only way to send an Away Message is manually via Tools > Away, where you can choose an appropriate message (or the default) from the drop-down box.
To edit, to add new, or to erase unwanted Away Messages, go from your Buddy List via Tools > Preferences to Away Messages, where the tasks are self-explanatory. You can also add or remove Away Messages more directly from Buddy List via Tools > Away > New Away Message or Tools > Away > Remove Away Message, where the actions should also be intuitive.