First Look: Microsoft Messenger for Mac

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.

The program lets you create separate corporate and personal accounts

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.

Built-in emoticons let you spice up your text chats

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 identifies users by icons during a text chat

You can save your text as a file for later review

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.

  1. dliup 07/02, 03:34pm

    Actually ADIUM might be of interest.

  1. Horsepoo!!! 07/02, 03:44pm

    Or last? My last look happened years ago.

  1. dagamer34 07/02, 03:46pm

    Most people rely on Adium. I'd completel ditch iChat if Adium could do video conferencing natively.

  1. karmatose 07/02, 04:38pm

    No video, no switchie... And until there is video, I'll continue to use AdiumX

  1. Herod 07/02, 04:47pm

    no thanks MS

  1. FastAMX79 07/02, 05:38pm

    MS still makes a Mac Client? Last time I used MS Messenger was back during the OS9 days... And here we are, still no video support.

    s**** MS.

  1. Serenak 07/02, 05:38pm

    is pants... always has been hobbled and probably deliberately in my view...

    Yahoo can manage Video (but no sound IIRC) but that may have changed, Skype can do AV, and guess what if you HAVE to deal with MSN/Live Messenger junkies get aMSN for free - strange how a small (possible lone) developer can make a FREE Messenger clone for Mac that has more features than the MS version itself....

    Oh and my IM tool of choice is Proteus... no bells, no whistles and no bleeding green duck!!! - UK readers who remember "Orville" will know why I hate that damn icon...

    But TBH there are so many tools out there and all of them are better than the sad "official" MfM effort - even Mercury

    So sorry MS - you lose again - Zune anyone?

  1. robmorton 07/02, 07:39pm

    "What makes this program unique however is its catering to corporate users. "

    So, Office Communication Server 2007 can talk with MS Messenger 7. If you have an older version of the server, just use MS Messenger 6. Great. If you want to upgrade, just upgrade the back end and every client at the same time. How tough could it be with thousands of machines?

  1. ApeInTheShell 07/02, 09:04pm

    Microsoft has released version 7 of their Windows Live Messenger for Mac. There have been little improvements since the last version. The best advice for the average user would be to uncheck this from your Microsoft Office installation. MacNN gives this a 0 out of 5.

  1. manleycreative 07/03, 11:08am

    Double blechk!

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