updated 03:15 pm EDT, Wed July 2, 2008
Messenger for Mac
Instant messaging can be a great way to communicate with friends and co-workers in real-time. While most Mac users rely on iChat, which comes with every Mac, many PC users rely on Windows Live Messenger (formerly called MSN Messenger). Not only does Live Messenger connect to Yahoo's messaging network, it's also the default network for Xbox 360 users. If you want to chat with users on any of the above networks, Microsoft's Messenger for Mac 7.01 might be of interest.
Like most IM clients, Messenger revolves around text chat. What makes this program unique however is its catering to corporate users. When matched with Office Communications Server 2007, the program restricts talk to co-workers and authorized Messenger, Yahoo and AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) users, as well as iChat users with an AOL e-mail account. Essentially, a company can manipulate IM networks so that employees don't contact strangers and/or risk a malware infection.
Besides corporate accounts, the program also naturally lets you create personal ones. Unlike the former though, which can chat with AIM users, personal accounts can only chat with users on Live Messenger or Yahoo Messenger.
Mainly in corporate settings, you may want to chat with the person down the hall or in another department, but you may not know that person's nickname. To solve this problem, the program uses Apple's Bonjour technology, typically used to find printers hooked up to a network.
With Bonjour, your Mac detects other computers on the same LAN. Turn it on and your contact list displays anyone nearby, allowing you to send a message to them and save their e-mail addresses for later chat sessions.
Another way to search for people to chat with is through a corporate address book, called the Global Address List (GAL). In searching through GAL you type part of the person's name, which prompts the software to display all the matching names as you go. The more characters you type, the more accurate the search becomes.
Personal accounts can use the program for ordinary text chatting, but corporate accounts are enabled for text, audio, and video communication. Both personal and corporate accounts can send files thankfully, and use emoticons to add a tiny bit of emotion to an otherwise series of characters.
Text chat is as colorful here as it is in other instant messaging clients, with each person represented by avatar, which is displayed on the side so you can quickly identify everyone you may be talking to. Like most clients, the program can save your conversations in a file, so you can review them later at your convenience.
The program is a Universal Binary, so it should run well on both older PowerPC Macs and the modern Intel ones. Even better, you only need Mac OS X 10.4.9 or greater to run it.
While MfM mimics most of the features available on the Windows version, it lacks two important featuers, those being screen sharing and the ability to share folders for the sake of file-swapping. In addition, the Mac version also lacks a handful of trivial options, such as the ability to play games or display some specific emoticons.
It's mainly the limitation of text-only chat for personal accounts, though, that leaves Messenger for Mac best suited as a corporate IM tool paired with Office Communications Server. For personal use, you'll probably find iChat more versatile, but for business use, Messenger for Mac can be a far superior alternative.