Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Gaim: Under the hood

http://gaim.sourceforge.net/
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Gaim 1.1.1, the first palindromic version of Gaim since 1.0.1 (I quote the gaim website), has been spotted on the net lately. What's new ? For my interest: some MSN-bugs were squased, but most important: I can send files again by drag'n'drop! Hooray for boobies .. err for the gaim developers :)! This is one of my favourite gaim-features, and I was in agony when it dissapeared in gaim 1.1.0. But, it's not the only feature that makes me a gaim-lover (although I create some skins and did a tiny little bit of coding for aMSN, the platform-independent MSN Messenger clone written in tcl/tk); let's take a closer look.
First, a screenshot of the contactlist (or 'buddylist') window:

Click on the image to get the full-size version.


Here you see the difference between the 2 contact list 'modes' you can set up with gaim. I prefer and use the 'big' upper one, some people like the minimalistic version more. What's nice about the 'big' version is that there's more information on the buddylist. You get the nickname or alias you set for it, underneath it the status/statusmessage/away_information depending of the protocol this contact is using, and alligned at the right of the buddy, you get his/her 'buddy-picture' (some call it 'avatar'). One thing that annoys me a bit using gaim is you can't see your own status in the main window as it's possible with most IM clients. As a work-around, I added myself as a buddy to my contactlist, in a new group called "My status:", wich I dragged on top of the list. I like the gaim interface because of it's simplicity and it's "just working".

Gaim is (one of) the most intuitive IM client(s) I ever heard of as you can do so much by drag 'n drop or a some mouseclicking. Like when you want to send a file to someone, just drop it on the contact's name on the buddylist, or anywhere in the chatwindow! To set up a buddy-picture, go to the account-editor, click on "edit" after selecting the desired account and drag an image inside the dialog, could it be easier or more intuitive ? It would be nice though to be able o just doubleclick on an account in the acount-editor for editing, I'll request that when I'm in bugreporting-spree again :). Next; to invite people to a chat, click on the invite button and drag the contact from your list in the dialog. This is intuitive, but I suggest it could be even more intuitive if you were able to drag this contact into the chatwindow, another feature request I'll make soon :). The interface of gaim's chatwindows is slick too, it simple but costumizable.

Another great feature is one you find in other modern multi-protocol IM clients, the ability to 'expand' the contacts on your list and drop other contacts in it. E.g. if you have a friend who is online on both MSN and AIM, you can right-click the AIM contact and drag the MSN-one inside the container, and it will seem like 1 contact on your list. If your friend come online only on AIM, you'll see the aim one, the same for MSN. What's nice about this in gaim, is that if you're chatting with that contact on AIM, and he falls offline with it, it automagically sends the next message over MSN! you can also choose on top of the chatwindows "Send as ... {your different accounts here}".
Screenshot of the "expand"-feature:

Click on the image to get the full-size version.

Hail to the gaim-developers for this wonderfull piece of software!
I know gaim is not a part - yet- of the gnome desktop, but its damn well integrated with it;
* using gtk, it has the same look 'n feel as the other gnome-software
* you're able to drag files to send 'm to your gaim contacts
* synchronisation with evolution contactbook* the gnome-panel contact-lookup applet
* some more features I can't think of right now :)
This synchronisation with evolution, which has been a part of gnome since version 2.8, means you can store your gaim-contact data into the evolution address book and use it from evolution and vice-versa.
The contact-lookup applet also uses this information for doing searches. It's an applet you can add to your gnome-panel with an input field. When you type in this field, it does live searches for/on contacts in the evolution addressbook. When you select one of the found contacts you can send him/her an e-mail, an instant message or a gnomemeeting-invitation (I think this is for gnome 2.10, didn't try it out yet).
That's all about gaim for now, this post is already longer then I planned :)

Oh! One more thingie, I forgot a gnome-window-manager trick in my previous post;
press with the middle-mousebutton on a window's titlebar and you'll place it behind the other windows. This is really great if you're doing some work and you want to pause it to take a quick look at your windows behind it, instead of minimizing it or moving it, just middle-click it to the background ;).

EDIT: Another allmost-forgotten Metacity-trick; when you double-click the titlebar the default behaviour is "rolling up"the window, this means hiding everything except the titlebar. You can change this behaviour to the one used on e.g. Microsoft Windows - (un)maximising the window instead of rolling up - by navigation to Applications>Desktop preferences > Windows (in the gnome menu's) and picking the wanted option in the selection-box.

cheers!

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