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Friday, January 04, 2008

Double w00t!

It looks like a good year for customer service already. Four days into the year and already I've had two problems sorted out.

Writely so

I moaned in a previous post about the the Windows Live installer making it impossible for me to install the new version of Windows Live Writer. Well as luck would have it I am writing this post in the new version of Writer. Kudos to Joe at Microsoft for sorting me out with an installer that works. Keep up the good work, nice to see the borg still has some humanity to it ;)


Next up on the pat-on-the-back list is Diana from Nimbuzz. After trying the mobile client I was curious about the PC one. Not only was an installer for Nimbuzz rapidly made available that doesn't fall over thanks to the proxy here after my complaint, but is already directly linked to on the Nimbuzz site.

Now that I actually have Nimbuzz for the PC, I can do a quick review of both versions. Nimbuzz got my attention as (another) multiprotocol mobile IM client. In this case it supports Google Talk, MSN/Live, AIM, Yahoo, Skype and Jabber. It is supposed to work with MySpace and Facebook as well-but that functionality appears to still be under development. Nimbuzz is one of those that requires you to register with them (red light for the privacy-paranoid), so there is functionality available over their network as well such as a simple PM like messaging system and the ability to 'Buzz' other Nimbuzz users' phones to tell them them to come online.

The approach of both a mobile and a PC client is interesting. The PC client looks inspired by Skype (which I'm not fond of to start with), and it still needs a heck of a lot of work. The overall look and feel is clunky, with simple functionality such as being able to resize chat windows missing. The core chat system does of course work, and as always it's nice to have all contacts from one place in the same list, but they definitely need to take some lessons out of the Trillian, Pidgin and Miranda books. The contact window shown on the right has most of the bells and whistles expected these days, but the actual chat window is a very different affair with a very inefficient design space wise and zero customizations available. Avatars do not even seem to work at this stage (though there is an area reserved for them and a default image).

The mobile client is a much more impressive application, and probably has the best interface approach to multiple simultaneous chats I have seen so far in mobile, with a pseudo-tabbed system that can easily scroll between chats by pressing left or right. The small, simple and clear fonts in both the contact list and chat window make for excellent use of the mobile screen, and being able to collapse chat groups makes a lot of sense. In addition to the protocols supported by the PC version, the mobile client optionally imports your phone's contact book to be able to initiate calls to them. This is very much like Fring's approach but the designers of Nimbuzz made some very sensible design decisions that made their app much more practical to use. The one thing keeping me from using it as a full on contacts list replacement is the lack of a search box. If the contact list had an inline text box that pruned the list as text was entered (like the N95's native contact list) Nimbuzz would take over one of my shortcut keys. Finally the app is stable. This should go without saying, but as mobile IM clients have been getting more complex of late, it seems to be more and more difficulty to find one that doesn't occasionally crash for no particular reason. Nimbuzz has yet to crash on me and that's a big plus as far as I'm concerned.

Overall the Nimbuzz mobile is a fantastic multiprotocol client, certainly the best I have tried to date. The PC client on the other hand is way behind the competition, but could certainly catch up if the same clean approach was taken as that used in it's mobile sibling.

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