Last weekÂ MSN Messenger 9 Beta turned up on the web, Feeling adventurous as i do, I decided to give it a run and see what it was like.
In short: In my opinion, It looks like MSN9 will be a pretty decent evolution of the messenger many of us have grown up with, Quite a few new features/functionality look promising, The UI takes a bit to adjust to, but all in all, its pretty simplistic to use.
So, Are you just after a Download link? Then bugger off :), else sit down and read this rather bad review/talk.. I’d also like to take this chance to apologise about the breaks between the points due to the images, I couldnt think of a better way for them to fit in.
So, The bad.
- Contact sign in sounds “Signature Sounds”
No, Custom sign in sounds, defined by the contact, Not you. Ok, So this is a seemingly interesting feature, It allows for you to define a sound that others will hear when you sign in,
The default sounds range from 1 to 5 seconds in length, and vary between “oh, thats what that noise is” to “What the heck is that!?”.
Thankfully, Theres an option to disable hearing your contacts sounds under Options -> Sounds (Which is also where you define your own), and by default, its set to No sound. It also appears to be able to override contacts sounds on a per-contact basis, and mute anoying contacts sounds while still leaving it enabled globally.
This’ll be seen as Good/Bad depending on who’s using it, But i personally do not like it at all. The idea is that you add certain contacts to this Favourites group (which for the record, isnt actually a “Group”) and they’re displayed at the top of your list;
In the beta i have, the favourites section makes no distinction between online and offline contacts, which would be anoying for people i would’ve thought.. Perhaps this’ll change in future builds? Once again, You can disable the Favourites via Options -> Layout
- The Groups section
Probably a bug, However, In this build when i’ve got the list set to order by Availability, I end up with an Empty “Groups (0/0)” section.. Kind of anoying
- Small Screen support non-existant
Bit of a shame really, On my eeePC for example (with 800×480 resolution) the Whats new, Favourites, and Bottom ads eats up a fair ammount of the screen
After first installing it, There was not even enough room to show one contact.
Once disabling the Whats new and favourite features however, There’s enough room to display ~3 contacts with small display pictures, There’ll be enough room for an extra 2-3 contacts once the Bottom ad-bar gets removed (Sorry Microsoft, But i think this point virtually explains why iÂ have to remove them)
Now, The Good (I apologise if theres anything in here which is available in the 8.5 stable, It takes me some time to notice things sometimes :))
- Multiple sign-in locations
This beta has introduced the ability to sign into the same MSN account from multiple computers at the same time, And the ability to remotely signout another location.
This is a great feature for me, I personally leave my home computer running while I’m out and about, or at Uni, This allows me to sign into my MSN accounts via my laptop, and not sign out my home computer, A great piece of functionality which i use in Aim and skype quite often.
The bad? I can see this being exploited by malicious websites which sign into peoples MSN and send spam links when they sign off (Yes, People shouldnt be so stupid to give them their details in the first place, but whats done is done), they may now have the potential to do this without signing the user out..
Oh, You can also set a custom name for each location to make it easier to remember (It defaults to the computer name, Which could be messy on OEM machines (WinXP-345345 anyone?)).
- Contact status simplified
The Range of status’s has been vastly simplified to Available, Busy, Away, Appear Offline; The 4 most common statuses which actually encompasses most statuses one needs..
- Contact list display picture shows Status
Quite a nice touch in my opinion personally, The border of display pictures glows Green (Available), Red (Busy) or Orange/Gold (Away).
Much simpler to glance at the colours to know your contacts statuses.
- Contact list display picture size
Not sure if this is present in the 8.5 series, But This version also gives an option of 3 different sizes for the display pictures in the contact list, as well as for not showing them at all. Like i say, Probably in past versions, and i’ve just missed it.
- “Whats New” Section
There’s been a new addition to the bottom of the contact list too, a “Whats New” section cycles through recent changes to your contacts,
For example, It tells me that Amy has changed her Display picture, and that John changed his Personal message.
It also appears to remember the past actions, For example, It allowed me to see all the images which people had set their display picture to over the past week,
(Ladies, It might be time to stop setting “revealing” pictures as your display picture to get someones attention. (I wonder if there’ll be a function to remove certain messages or images from that list))
- Webcam snapshot as Display Picture
I’ve never noticed this before, So I assume its new, The Display Picture window has an option to take a snapshot from a available webcam and add it as a useable display picture, Also allows you to add a 4second video clip as your display picture
Should reduce the number of steps some people need :)
- “Mood” Display picture
I missed this one at first, It allows you to define your “standard” display picture, and then allows for your display picture to be changed to various other pictures (or videos) based on the emoticons that you use within the conversation, It appears to only change your display picture on a per-window basis, Kinda cool, Going to get old quick though..
- Flip the Display pictures in the conversation window over to the Left
The conversation window has moved the Display pictures over to the left, Fits in rather nicely there IMO.
The toolbar has moved to a colapsable section at the top too, Nice to hide it out of the way, yet still leave it accessable.
Just Plain buggy;Â Well.. Actually, I’ve not run into that many bugs at all supprisingly, That might change the more i use it though
- Incoming Webcam requests go to all currently signed in locations, The first location to accept the webcam invitation is the one that receives it, Yet they’re still sent to the other locations, and they can accept the invitation too. (In the case of asking the multi-location user to send webcam, they can both accept it, however, only the first to send it will show on the requestee’s computer, In sending the requests, I’m not sure, As one of my MSN locations appears to not be recieving messages now, Could be a bug, or it could just be my internet connection)
- Just Odd:.. Messages sent to a multi-location contact goto all locations, Which is ok, except when closing a window on a multi-location session, The window is closed in all locations.
Now, About these Version numbers.. Its been advertised as MSN 9 on Mess.be, however the About dialogue calls it “Version 2009 (Build 14.0.5027.908)” with a 2007 Copyright date, AFAIK this is the latest beta released.. But i could be wrong.
To end this piece, I’m putting out a Call to Cerulean Studios, The makers of Trillian(The Best IM Client ;)): Please support the Multi-location in Trillian Astra, I’m currently running a Alpha of Astra, And prefer it over every other IM client i’ve had the pleasure of using, I’d love to be able to take advantage of the Locations support for my Astra-MSN account. (I have 2 main MSN accounts, One in Trillian which is my main account, and one which i’ve used historically for Webcam and other related functions which Trillian hasnt supported)
Update: Also: The Mess Patch Light can be used to enable polygamy(Mutliple instances), and remove ads. I believe i removed the ads before taking these screenshots, I really should’ve thought of that at the time.. :)