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on Thu 22 Jul 2010 (20:04 GMT) (23940 views)
eBuddy and Meebo produce some of the finest examples of instant messaging applications for the iPhone. Feature rich, highly-polished design and an user-friendly interface are at the core of these products. Microsoft may be late to the game, but that doesn’t stop it providing solid competition. The main difference? Windows Live Messenger for the iPhone is very specific in its features and is designed for users of the desktop client. So let's take a look at what the app has to offer.
The social pane, introduced in Windows Live Messenger 2011 also makes an appearance in Messenger for the iPhone, delivering updates about your friends from various social networking websites. The feature is nearly identical to its desktop counterpart and so if this has become an essential part of your IM experience, I would recommend this iPhone app above any other web messenger straightaway. However, if you're like me and don't find the content relevant, you may just skip this part of the application altogether.
Your Messenger buddies are organized much the same way as Windows Live Messenger itself. A list of contacts, the way you like systematized will be right at your fingertips, along with an individual personal message, display picture and status. Adding a new contact is a simple operation. This highlights what is great about the app: Microsoft are not attempting to offer a watered down substitute - this truly is Windows Live Messenger in your pocket.
The contact list will feel familar
Chatting can be summed up in three words: straightforward, clean and modern. There is no cluster of buttons to search through - each message is color coded, the conversation layout varies on who is speaking, while switching between the QWERTY keyboard and emoticon panel is nothing short of design genius. This is a true example of where less is more.
Chatting has never been simpler with this well designed user interface
Push notifications are a significant plus, as is being able to manage your logins from multiple locations. A list of active conversations makes it easier to shift through friends with whom you are talking, while simultaneously displaying their current status.
Windows Live Messenger specific features
- The social pane to show what your contacts are saying on other social networking services
- Photo sharing to swap your favorite photos and images with your friends
- Organizing your contacts how you wish - via their display name, your personal name, groups and the favorites section
- The ability to nudge your buddies
To sum up ...
Windows Live Messenger for the iPhone is a masterpiece as far as its development team should be concerned. It is lightweight yet feature rich, which is exactly the point of having IM on the go! I honestly hope they never add another feature, as the app provides everything I need (and a little more) in Messenger. Microsoft has hit the right target demographic as I expect the average age of its mobile users is higher than those who use its desktop equivalent (I don't need skins or scripts here, thank you very much).
I rarely give Microsoft great credit for Windows Live Messenger, but for once I'm happy to provide some positive criticism. So if you are an iPhone owner and Windows Live Messenger is the only IM client you use then by all means download Messenger for the iPhone.
So, what's your opinion?
View Windows Live Messenger for the iPhone at the Apple App Store
on Tue 23 Mar 2010 (19:30 GMT) (45556 views)
The initial flow of reactions came from the Messenger Plus! forums, where users started to discuss the leak and post screenshots. Unfortunately most feedback was on the negative side. Commenting on the new social networking features, one regular member said:
It's OK. Not liking the social mode much yet, although maybe once it'll allow me to connect to Facebook and Twitter properly it may be better ...
I liked the look of the emoticons from the preview screenshot, but after using them I dislike them.
Another user enjoyed how Windows 7 compatiablity was complete:
Only thing I remotely like is the Win 7 integration which it all finally seems to be working right ... It's no great improvement to WLM 2009 I reckon. If they want Windows Live Messenger to become a "social networking hub" then they need to implement different steps. The social stream has the potential to work but the split screen contact list alongside the stream does not work well, the text is bulky and large, doesn't work well without images.
MenthiX, scripts and skins database manager for Messenger Plus! had a more positive view:
I don't think the leaked build is a good version to base our opinion of Live Messenger 2010 on. The leaked build is still a very early version with a lot of missing features and bugs. I don't recommend people install it other than on virtual machines. We already saw screenshots of newer builds over a month ago which are more polished, these just aren't available to the public yet.
As far as the new features go: I think they are heading in the right direction by making Messenger more social. While I'm not a huge fan of the social networks, it is the global trend and Messenger is currently loosing users to Facebook and Twitter. People are already creating scripts to sync their personal messages with their social networks, what Microsoft is trying to do in Messenger 2010 seems like a natural step. And for those who don't like it there is a single option which will turn the contactlist back to what we are used to from Messenger 2009 and you'll never have to see the social stream again. Both type of users can be happy. But the interface needs more polishing, especially the social mode looks bloated. Fonts are oversized and there is just too much going on. A giant square ad isn't helping either ...
All together, when the polish up the interface and make it look cleaner I think Messenger 2010 can be a nice new version. Hopefully we'll get to see improved builds soon."
Our admin Chris seemed to think the application needed a face lift:
The idea behind it is good, connecting everyone to their social networks they are apart of, but they need to rethink the design, its 2010 - which in my opinion is all about clean, simple user interfaces.
When asked about the leak, Jonathan Kay, a Microsoft Most Valued Professional and Messenger enthusiast told Messenger Stuff:
Well I don't think it's really a big deal, we'd all seen the leaked screenshots anyway so any "damage" was already done. As most of the new social functionality doesn't seem to be working, we can't even really see what that's completely all about. I don't think there's much incentive for anyone to actually use it right now either.
Perhaps more interesting is how one of the exclusive testers of the leaked build, Nigel Ansell, detailed on his Facebook profile an estimated timeline for Wave 4 product releases:
- 28 April VIP testers will get access to latest builds
- 18 May WL2010 M3 RTW
- 3 June Complete Public disclosure
- 7 June Public Beta Day
- 7 June iPhone main languages Messenger
- 25 August iPhone additional languages Messenger + PUBLIC RTW
I can agree with most of the reactions within the community. I'm not a a fan of the new social panel, nor do I believe Microsoft has revolutionised its IM client enough to compete with new social networking challenges. Overall, considering this build was never meant to see the light of day, Microsoft are making features that users have been asking for, even if they may not yet be fully ready.
on Sat 06 Feb 2010 (17:06 GMT) (19434 views)
Wait a minute, but surely skinning now has more depth and a smaller learning curve thanks to Messenger Plus! Live? While this is true the issue today is the end a thriving community to extrapolate anything from the available modern resources.
Looking back to MSN Messenger 7.5
For me MSN Messenger was the golden era of skin development. Granted there were significantly fewer releases, it is difficult to argue the quality of most end products were nothing short of spectacular. One could argue MSN Messenger was unattractive and users wanted something different, encouraging skinners? I disagree, looking at designs of the past there was just a different caliber of designer.
Pictured above: A small selection of excellent MSN Messenger skins
Back then skinning was more complicated. All resources were individually modified, there were custom installers created and many tutorials were constructed on editing individual build's UIFiles. The talent out there was uncanny. Names such as Terill, the unknown, ipab, Stian, Matti and Rolando may not ring any bells for some, but these individuals were the core of the community. I apologise if I left anyone from that list, including Willz (but your relevance lasts until today).
The issues with Windows Live Messenger
Perhaps the turning point was when the first builds of Windows Live Messenger leaked. The new UI system of .rle files meant skinning images became impossible. For months there were several solutions being developed to allow images to be successfully edited again. In this time many skinners, including myself moved onto other projects. The prospect of designing skins seemed too much effort. Many of the skinners listed above never created anything for Windows Live Messenger. The dedicated forums to Messenger skinning went down.
With Windows Live Messenger came a significant hurdle for skin developers
There is a further argument that with Windows Live Messenger's new UI, the program became attractive enough not to encourage users to seek skins. I no long use skins as I'm perfectly satisfied with the current default design. I however, expect fall into the minority of users.
Are skins still popular?
Messenger Plus! Live has done much to revive the skinning community, allowing a new generation of designers to take the baton before it was dropped. Nevertheless its forums have become rather lifeless in recent months and skins for Windows Live Messenger 2009 have been few and far between. The Messenger Plus! Community has been commenting on the situation:
Most skinners, specially the good ones like Willz, are extremely busy with their personal lifes. And, unfortunately, there aren't that many people interested in making skins, only in requesting/using them.
The decline of IM in itself fails to attract new developers, and although the skinning platform is now more open, there is a lack of talent willing to exploit it. Windows Live Messenger 2009 has been the worse major Messenger build in terms of skinning developers and much of this boils down to the lack of designers who know what they are doing (excluding Willz).
Willz, a monopoly developer of the current skins has stated:
It happened with the transition to MSN Messenger to Windows Live Messenger. There were at least 7 people making skins at that time and then all of a sudden they all disappeared leaving about 3.
Its the same thing now, it's just up to someone new to come in a keep things going. Really a person can only skin for so long before their personal lives become more involved and it becomes time to move on.
Ultimately its up to the new people to carry things onto 2010.
MenthiX, moderator of the Messenger Plus! Skins database commented:
Looking at the raw stats it doesn't look so bad. Still millions of people using Plus!, number of active users fairly steady, certainly when you take into account the long time since the last major Plus! release (which always gives a nice boost). People are still downloading skins.
Messenger Plus! Live has created more resources for skinners, including shaping of windows
Currently Messenger skinning is in decline. There are fewer developers and many (not all) of the ones present lack the eye for good UI design. The once glory days of the MSN Messenger era appear to be over, but hopefully with Windows Live Messenger 2010 and a more open skinning platform there will be some talented individuals attracted to the application. Thus in answer to the original question, no skinning is not dead and skins are still popular, however the current health of the community has left current developments on the whole rather motionless.
on Sun 27 Sep 2009 (19:32 GMT) (33781 views)
Personally, I think this skin several flaws as it places too much emphasis on Leopard's style wallpaper, rather than the clean, slate feel of other Apple products e.g. iTunes. What makes this interesting is that others don't seem to agree and it has become one of the most popular skins created for MSN/ Windows Live Messenger. The skin has had over 1 million downloads despite still being in its beta stage.
If this skin looks appealing to you, then I recommend giving it ago as it is one of the fastest growing skins I've seen in terms of popularity for MSN/ Windows Live Messenger and its creator, coolzee deserves great credit for that achievement.
Download Snow Leopard skin for Windows Live Messenger 2009 (requires Messenger Plus! Live)
on Fri 21 Aug 2009 (14:56 GMT) (17197 views)
Microsoft have not confirmed what the update provides, but one can assume it is security or integration with Windows Live Movie Maker related. The release does not fix the large personal message bug we talked about earlier in the week. Jonathan-Kay has provided a msi file for each installer over at his blog.
This release does not appear to conflict with add-ons such as Messenger Plus! Live and Willz has confirmed skins are unaffected.
Download Windows Live Messenger
on Wed 01 Jul 2009 (12:44 GMT) (3066 views)
Windows 7 has presented issues for Messenger in general
The contest is the same click an individual pixel to win a prize, a highly popular and successful idea where some fantastic prizes including high resolution monitors and top end consoles were up for grabs. There will also be a twist this year in order to draw more users into using Messenger Plus!. More information will be posted when Patchou officially announces the start of the contest sometime next week.
The contest proved to be very popular two years ago with 2,242,758 players
This will be the last major update before Messenger Plus! Live 5.0 is released, which is now under development. Patchou has been very secretive on its upcoming features, but a flood of suggestions has gone his way and some interesting hints have been noted by testers. Much of this will depend however, on what Windows Live Messenger 2010 has up its sleeve.
Download Messenger Plus! Live 4.82.368
See the announcement Patchou made to the Messenger Plus! forums
Read the entire changelog for Messenger Plus! Live 4.82.368
on Fri 05 Jun 2009 (19:44 GMT) (4086 views)
Fuse is something I have been working on and off for the past few months. Messenger 9's layout is difficult to manipulate when it comes to taking down the extra space Microsoft added in.
With every skin I made, I learnt a bit more on how to get around some of these sizing restrictions to condense the space down. So after a lot of coding I was able to construct a skin which significantly brings down the minimum window size you can have when using Messenger.
Fuse features a highly compressed chat window and contact list design. It took a lot of experimentation and a mixture of code from different skins to be able to come to the final product (kinda how it got it's name, it's a fusion of all the layout compression I have done.)
Fuse features the standard options you guys have been used to in my skins recently and also uses some of the extra registry entries you see in Phunk'n as a little bonus. But yeah I recommend people check out this skin because it really does grow on you (like how it colorizes and if you combine it with the right scene it looks really nice).
Fuse is a simple, chrome effect skin using lots of gradients rather than textures. The colour schemes complement each other well and on the whole is generally pleasant to use. There is nothing too extreme, the the clear spaces make the task of typing less distracting. Overall Fuse is a wonderfully designed project by Willz and like all his skins I would highly recommend using it.
Download Fuse from the Messenger Plus! skins database
on Tue 26 May 2009 (16:28 GMT) (3440 views)
It would be honest to say the software has had it's problems in the past and as such user's opinions may have been tainted, mine included. However at each major release I give the program another test run for fairness sake.
And that part of the story is no different for me this time around. I downloaded the public release and gave it a spin.
MessengerDiscovery 2 software and website sports a brand new interface that compliments the default style of Windows Live Messenger 2009, the new interface was designed in part by Will ' Willz' Ingles, known for an impressive collection of skins for rival add-on Messenger Plus. In fact rival seems the wrong word to use when describing MD2's relationship with Messenger Plus! Live as the software works flawlessly alongside MP!L almost as perfect partners.
MD2 isn't heavy on resources, only taking 17MB of RAM usage and 0 CPU, The features I've tried all work and look fantastic. I've not uninstalled the software after a few runs, it's not causing me any hassle.
I also love the new Phishing Filter Protection, an new and original feature, almost worth the download alone.
I'm actually recommending MD2 to people now, with added plugin support and toast skins you can still customize and enhance your messenger experience, even furthering the existing functions of MD2
The only downside I have experienced is very minor, and that occasionally at startup MD2 will report that it is failing to load (although it has) however I can see this issue being solved fairly quickly by a update build.
So if you're looking for something new to play with or have had a bad experience with MessengerDiscovery in the past try giving the new version a go I'm sure you'll be pleased at how it has evolved.
on Sun 26 Apr 2009 (23:10 GMT) (3071 views)
mynetx: Skins - good word. Is customizing the Messenger interface fun for you? Or a serious business? Or in between?
Will: Well a bit of both really. Originally I started skinning as a hobby so that I could help improve my abilities as a multimedia designer. I was hoping that by working with an established user interface I would be able to gain a deeper understanding as to how the user interprets UI’s.
I never really expected to be doing it for that much mainly because I didn’t think that audience was big enough at the time. But it seems that has changed in recent times so now I do treat it more seriously.
But yeah for the most part there is still the original sense of fun which attracted me to doing it in the first place.
View the rest of the interview at Mynetx's blog
on Thu 12 Mar 2009 (19:06 GMT) (11727 views)
Why LTD? Well I was trying to come up with something that would describe what I wanted to do with the skin. LTD stands for "Love This Design", which is kind of what I want to happen. The skin was designed specifically for Messenger 9 so scenes work better than ever. For those wondering, yes dark colors work on this skin unlike Ev0.
So what does this skin have to offer? Well along with the usual settings, LTD has been designed compress down the look of 9 and offer something that is a bit more cleaner and functional. The display pictures have been simplified further and do not take as much space so you can fit more contacts in your list area.
Additionally the chat window has been transformed into a new layout where your text goes from one end of the window to the other. This gives you a lot more room to read and means you can have a shorter window but not sacrifice the reading area. You also have the option to switch back to the default style of chat window if you really want to, the options are all there.
Being the second skin in the designer series, I take great pride in this skin and it has been created with a lot of thought. Check it out even if you don't like white skins, you'll be surprised how quick it grows on you. I would have a darker version, but I found that a lot of the design didn't really work.
So if you're looking for a new, simple and well polished skin for Windows Live Messenger 2009, I recommend giving Willz's latest creation a go.
View the announcement at the Design Evolved forums
Download LTD for Windows Live Messenger 2009