So Long iChat, Hello Messages

If you saw our post earlier, then you know that Apple dropped a bomb on us with a sneak preview of the upcoming Mountain Lion update to OS X. James touched briefly on the handful of new features that Apple announced, all of which are exciting and intend to bring an even more iOS-like experience to your Mac. However, because I’m particularly interested in communication, I’m going to go a little bit more in depth with one particular feature of OS X Mountain Lion: Messages.

Messages is the new Mac app that replaces iChat, and the beta is available for download today. I’ve been toying with it all morning, and I have to say that I’m very pleased with it. Hit the jump to see what it’s all about.

It’s All About The Unified Experience

I’ve been absolutely crazy about the things that Apple has done with iOS. I loved the announcement for iMessage, and I thought that the re-imagined FaceTime was great. What always concerned me, though, was the widening gap between the established methods of communicating on the Mac (iChat, and it’s A/V features) and the new technologies that were being implemented across the board. Sure, I downloaded the FaceTime app, but I didn’t see why I’d ever use it for Mac-to-Mac when I can make video calls in iChat. Similarly, having a messaging service that allowed iPhones and iPads to talk to each other, but left Macs out seemed to further widen that gap.

If the Messages beta has shown me one thing, it’s that this is what Apple has been moving toward since they began reinventing these services. It completely unifies the experience of communicating on an Apple product, beginning with the interface.

The Messages for Mac interface is, not surprisingly, almost identical to that of the iPad.

The Messages for Mac interface is, not surprisingly, almost identical to that of the iPad.

You can see straight away that the app was designed to mimic the feel of using Messages on the iPhone or, more specifically, the iPad. All the way down to the details, including adding recipients to a message, the service being used displayed in the input field, the blue dot next to an unread message, and even the “…” icon denoting that the other person is typing, Messages feels much more like using an iOS device than using iChat.

Simply choose someone from your Address Book to message.

Simply choose someone from your Address Book to message.

Messages also behaves in certain ways that make the communication experience more seamless between devices. Conversations are synced in full between devices, so that no matter where you are you can pick up where you left off. Chat windows support multimedia, as well.

Perhaps best of all, the unified feel of the Messages experience extends to FaceTime. Starting a video conversation with a friend is as easy as clicking the FaceTime icon and selecting a channel.

Select a video chat medium and begin FaceTiming.

Select a video chat medium and begin FaceTiming.

Now that FaceTime is the premier option for Mac-to-Mac, it’s nice to be able to use the same app, regardless of whether my friend is using his iPhone, iPad, or Mac.

Integrated Services

The biggest downfall, I think, when Apple released Messages for iPad was that it was only going to work with other iMessage users. I have a lot of friends who use Apple devices, but not all of them do.

Messages for Mac retains all of the functionality that iChat had, including AIM, Jabber, Bonjour, and Google Talk support. So now you can chat with your AIM friends, and your iMessage friends, in the same unified window. You can even seamlessly switch between communication channels.

Change chat channels mid conversation. "Why?" you ask? I say "Why not?"

Change chat channels mid conversation. "Why?" you ask? I say "Why not?"

One more thing I’d like to note here is that, as far as I can tell, the search bar in Messages’ combined window will actually search any of your saved iChat logs, and pull the results up in Messages format. As someone who enjoys having, and saving, in-depth conversations with people online, having this feature built in is exceptionally handy, allowing me to quickly reference anything from any conversation, without having to remember which day of the year that conversation took place.

Final Thoughts

Messages doesn’t perfectly meld all of my Apple devices together into a flawless communication and productivity fleet. Aside from certain identification issues, such as being able to bind my iPhone number to each of my devices, or to communicate with my AIM friends through Messages on my phone, I noticed that Twitter user @shawnblanc captured my biggest complaint quite nicely:

I think that Messages is a step in the right direction, and probably the most exciting of the upcoming apps that Apple could have chosen to release in beta today. It, and Mountain Lion in general, introduces some interesting (and for some, exciting) changes to OS X. Some of you, however, might still be harkening back to the days of System 6, and can take or leave all of this iOS business. Let us know what you think about this crash course between iOS and OS X!


Summary

Apple's new iChat replacement in Mountain Lion unifies communication between OS X and iOS devices. The beta is available for Lion starting today.

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  • Jeremy

    I don’t like that you can’t always view online buddies in AIM, Yahoo, etc without opening the separate window by right-clicking the icon in the dock and clicking “Buddies”. Should be integrated. Or at least an option to have it attached to the main UI.

    • http://twitter.com/@scottld3 Scott Danielson

      As a hotkey junkie, I typically use cmd+1 to show and hide my buddy list, but I agree: an optional UI attachment would be nice.

    • http://www.thomasharveydesign.co.uk Thomas Harvey

      Yeah, the lack of instant buddy list is my biggest gripe with Messages so far. It would also be useful if it told you which of your contacts actually has a iMessage (or AIM etc) rather than allowing you to see and click on any old phone number / email address.

  • http://appleuserpro.com TJ Draper

    Loving Messages, and love the article, but one quibble on using iChat for video.

    “Sure, I downloaded the FaceTime app, but I didn’t see why I’d ever use it for Mac-to-Mac when I can make video calls in iChat.”

    I have actually hardly ever been able to make video work with iChat. I have occasionally gotten it to work, but most of the time I get errors and am unable to connect. FaceTime has yet to fail for me.

    Also, a tip. I don’t know why this is not a default setting on iPhone, but it is possible to change iMessages on your iPhone to use your Apple ID. Go into ”iPhone Settings > Messages > Receive At“ and make sure your Apple ID is entered there. Then go into “Caller ID” and change it to your Apple ID. Only after doing this will you be able to receive your iMessages, via your Apple ID, at all your devices. It’s very un-Apple like and I hope they fix this in the future.

    • Poiboy

      Ahhh! Thank you so much! solved my problem :-)

  • http://www.logoblog.org Nora Reed

    This will be very cool for keep uninteresting chating, Goo to see the posting here:)

  • Klo

    Hi,

    Tested messages on IMac but I don’t see option to take chat in separate windows, like we did in iChat… That’s bad for me.

    • JB

      Double click on the person in the list and it’ll separate.

  • Danny Tam

    How are messages kept in sync? I just started a chat over Messages in OS X Lion to a recipient whom has iMessage and my log on my phone looks to be the same?

    • Danny Tam

      Sorry, I meant to say my log on the phone does not reflect any messages sent over Messages in OS X Lion.

      • Guillaume

        I have just figured it.

        First, you have to make sure that your iPhone send and receive messages using your Apple ID and not your phone number. By default, it should have been set to your phone number, unfortunately.

        On your iPhone, go to Settings > Messages > Reception > Login, follow the instructions on-screen and set it to your Apple ID (sorry if it’s not exactly the right path, my phone isn’t in English).

        Then you’ll have to delete your conversations on your Mac and your iPhone and you should be set!

  • Marcus

    iWork is 3 yrs old and Apple chooses to force feed us Mountain Lion. Mountain Lion consist of 2 apps where you can write yourself note/reminders, an app to help you watch T.V./Apple T.V., a button in your menu bar so you can share websites, an app to send texts and a twitter app… WOW mind blowing technology , NOT. Seems like Apple wants to establish itself as a social media company. NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX dumb down society with the crap they put out, looks like Apple wants to dumb down their users with this B.S. update. Apple has capitulated to the main stream, I guess using your Mac for real work is something Apple no longer believes in.

    • Matt D

      Um, what exactly are you wanting to see in a new version of iWork? In my opinion, they’ve pretty much nailed it with ’09. Add on the Resume and Autosave stuff that came with Lion, and now the iCloud doc syncing between Mountain Lion and iOS, and what more is there to really add?

      No point releasing a new version purely for the sake of getting upgrade sales. That sounds like a very MS Office way of doing things.

      • http://www.keynotethemepark.com/ John Driedger

        Ha, Keynote was “nailed” back in 09. You don’t do much high end presentation work do you? Can’t run sound over more than one slide. I could go on and on with a lot of very deep issues like you can’t have an object sit on top of a media placeholder on a Master Slide, or you can’t use the nifty frame edges of the placeholder to place video into (only images). But to go on and on would take a ton of time, suffice to say you are not very demanding in your expectations.

        • Austin Gibson

          Actually, you can. You’re just too stupid to know how. You click on Inspector and then click on the first tab and select the audio tab that pops up on that page.

  • http://www.qikkeronline.nl Michiel

    Very interesting move from Apple indeed. I just installed it and it works pretty nice already. Confinient to just use my keyboard to quickly send a message.

    Already, iMessage has replaced SMS on the iPhone, video calling is also going directly through voip. In only a matter of time Apple can just decide to implement voice-over-ip and make that the default setting. All in a unified setup with osx and ios. Leaving the telecom operators to become internet providers and nothing more..

  • Troy

    Still looking to find out if Messages will allow for multiple video chats. That was the killer feature in iChat. FaceTime only allows 1 to 1 video chat. Before I “update”, I want to make sure I’m not losing functionality. Anyone know if multiple video chats work in Messages?

    • JB

      Haven’t tried yet, but Messages doesn’t only use FaceTime for video. It still supports the protocols that iChat did (AIM, Jabber, etc.) so I’m assuming nothing has changed there.

  • http://ipadstory.net iPad Story

    I still waiting how to Prefer Alert on Mac only when we currently on it and disable alert on my others iDevice…

  • Dania G.

    I hate that you can’t disable the bloody chat logs! I use ichat at work, I don’t want people reading my conversations ._.

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