Chatology: The iMessage Companion Serious Chatters Need

iMessage is a great idea. It makes SMS and MMS a thing of the past, between iPhones at any rate, and is as fast and full-featured a one-to-one chat system as you could want. With the Messages app on the Mac and iPad as well, it’s the best of old-school chat and SMS, rolled into one.

At least, it’s supposed to be, theoretically. In real world usage, though, iMessage doesn’t always work perfect. It works best between iPhones, in my use at least, but can often get things messed up when syncing to the Mac. Then, Messages.app itself on OS X is a rather anemic messaging program, despite including support Jabber and other chat services that were traditionally included in iChat. It works for chatting, but if you need to dig deep into your chat archives to find a file someone sent you, you’re going to have a tough time.

That’s why the folks at Flexibits — the people behind my favorite calendar app, Fantastical — made Chatology. It’s the companion app for Messages.app that can make iMessage a power-user tool.

Supercharged Search for Your Chats

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Messages.app works fine for having conversations between Macs (regardless of its issues with syncing chats you had on your iPhone while your Mac was asleep), and if you use it with your teammates at work or just with your family to share pictures and special moments, you’ve likely got quite the backlog of old chats. Chatology can distill all those records down to find the exact messages you’re looking for, letting you search through your chat text or sort through chats by their date and time.

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Essentially, it gives you a nice way to sort through your Messages archive, which are actually stored in your /Library/Messages/Archive/ folder, organized by date and conversation. Chatology takes those archives and lets you search through all of them lightening-fast while maintaining the separation between conversations that makes things make more sense. You can search through everything, drill down into chats that happened Today, this week, this month, or in the past year, or view just specific conversations on a certain day.

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Just looking for images or the site your colleague shared? You can filter and see just images or links contained in the chats. Unfortunately, though, there’s no way to isolate other attachments in the chats, and there’s also no way to bulk-export the images in chats. You can drag-and-drop images out of Chatology, see where they are in the chat context, or see them in Quick Look, but there’s no way to save all of the images at one time. Let’s hope this part gets improvement going forward, as it could be a seriously powerful feature for those who want a way to archive all the pictures their friends have shared in iMessage.

Just Replace Message.app’s Search Already

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But the best part of Chatology is how nicely it integrates with Messages. If you leave it enabled in the settings, Chatology will automatically open with your curser in its search box when you press CMD+F in Messages.app. That makes it a no-brainer to use Chatology as your only way to ever search for your messages. And it’s a rather ingenious integration into one of the default OS X apps that doesn’t even have any options for extendability.

Once you find what you’re looking for, you can export the conversation as a plain text file, select text and share or save it with your OS X services, or open the original chat conversation in Finder. From there, if you open the chat log file, you’ll be able to see the conversation back in Messages — otherwise, there’s no way to jump back in Messages to the spot you’re looking at in Chatology.

An App for a Purpose

Chatology isn’t for everyone. If you don’t go digging through your chat archives on a regular basis, and just use it for casual chit-chat, then you might not get much out of it. But if you collaborate with your team in Messages, share lots of pictures with your family, and more, you’ll likely have already wished Messages.app had a better search tool. Chatology is exactly what you need.

One of our goals at Flexibits is solving problems to help reduce or eliminate frustration.

The Flexibits Team

That’s why the Flexibits team made Chatology. They found that Messages search was buggy at best, so they decided to fix the problem with their own app, one that works with Messages so well you could almost be tricked into thinking that it’s built-in. And the Flexibits team isn’t stopping there: they’ve still got a replacement for your Mac’s Contacts app coming out soon, but just wanted to hurry and get Chatology out since it was so useful for their own team.

If you’ve ever had trouble finding an old message in Messages, download the free 14-day Chatology trial and see if it hits the spot for your messaging search needs. If it makes your chats and collaboration more productive, its $19 price won’t seem that bad at all.


Summary

A superpowered search tool for your iMessages and chats, Chatology is the tool serious Messages powerusers need. It still needs bulk image export, and perhaps a way to find other attachments, but it lives up to its claims as the best Messages search engine.

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