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When Apple updated the Messages App in iOS 5 to support “iMessage”, we all assumed that this functionality would eventually come to Mac OS X as well. It’s very similar to what happened with FaceTime. First FaceTime was only on iPhone, then iPad and iPod touch and now it’s part of Mac OS X. iMessage allows you to send text and multimedia messages to other iMessage users for FREE. Think of it as Apple’s Free SMS/MMS Messaging service. When it first appeared in iOS I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal for me, but as it turns out it has been great and I’m totally hooked on it now. Although I have unlimited test messaging on my personal AT&T plan, my company phone plan is NOT unlimited. When I’m communicating with my friends and family (most of which use iOS devices), I can send/receive all the text and picture messages I want without impacting my text message limit. I’m a Google Voice user and while Google Voice also allows me to send/receive unlimited text messages, Google Voice still doesn’t allow MMS (picture messages). Speaking of Google Voice, one of the main reasons I like texting with it is that I can do it either from my iPhone via an App or from my computer via my web browser. This is why I’m so glad to see the Messages App (public beta) come to Mac OS X Lion 10.7.3. Get it here.

 

Send and Receive iMessages on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or your Mac

If you have a Mac running the latest Mac OS X Lion 10.7.3 then you can download the Messages public beta. Apple introduced the next version of Mac OS X Mountain Lion due out later this year and Messages will be a part of it. However, like FaceTime they made it available early to current Mac OS X users. I couldn’t wait to download it and give it a spin. Like Messages on iPad or iPod touch, it can use your email address/Apple ID to send/receive Messages. If you’re sending to an iPhone user then you can use either their iPhone number or email address. Keep in mind that this is a beta and therefore it’s not perfect.

 

Here’s what I like

  • Conversations started on the Mac will be picked up automatically on your other devices.
  • Messages replaces iChat, but still works with AIM, Google Talk and Jabber for a unified Messages system
  • Much to my surprise I received a GTalk message from someone and then later I went to send them an iMessage and it put the new iMessage thread in the same area/window as the existing GTalk thread. In other words it keeps all conversations to a contact in one window regardless of the messaging platform you use.

 

Here’s what could be better

  • I’m having issues with messages that I read still showing up as unread and the dock icon showing unread messages even though I’ve read them all
  • Sometimes If your message window fills up and a new message comes in, it doesn’t auto scroll. Once the window fills up with a long thread, I then have to scroll to see every new message that comes in.- <-they have to fix this, arggghhhh
  • Alerts! I understand that Messages doesn’t know which device you’re near, so when an incoming message comes in much like your home phones, all of your extensions/devices sound off. However, once I’m actively responding back and forth with someone it’s kind of a pain to continue to hear all the devices beep for every reply that comes in. It would be nice to have a “silence other devices while I’m on this device until after a period of inactivity.”
  • Like on iOS there should be a more straight forward way to select a file/picture to send. Drag and drop is great, but there should be a button that lets you go find the file you want.

The Bottom Line

I’m happy to see Messages on the Mac and even happier that I didn’t have to wait for Mountain Lion to get it. Messages is rough around the edges, but it has potential and even with its quirks it works good enough for me to use it throughout the day.

 

By the way: If you think Apple is putting too much focus on iOS and not enough on tradition Mac users, this article might help you bring things into perspective.

 

Also here’s a great video walk through of the other Mountain Lion features:

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  • I have the same issues you do. I’m also worried about rumors that once Mountain Lion is out, the beta will be killed off. I wouldn’t mind paying for this on my older systems (like they did with Face Time) but I don’t want to have to uninstall and go back to a partially-useless iChat. And at least one of the desktops here won’t be able to go to Mountain Lion, so I really would want to buy it for that machine. The others won’t be going day 1, either. So I hope this will be offered at a reasonable price.

  • kishi23

    They need to add the ability to use your phone number as your ID on your mac.

  • Pat

    I ran into the no-auto scroll problem today (that’s how I found this post). Annoying.