Leopard wish list – Part three: iChat

Another application within the Mac OS that is open for most of my day is iChat. Many have chosen to use third-party chatting applications like Adium – but the ability to hold audio and video conferences, and transferring files to those on my list, proves to be indispensable features for me.


I hope not to sound as if I use iChat begrudgingly because, on the contrary, I rarely find fault with iChat during my normal usage. However if I really turn a critical eye to it, I find:

Error messages should be more descriptive when a video or audio conference, or file transfer fails. Many times there are issues with NATs or Firewalls getting in the way of iChat trying to make connections. iChat typically reports with an error message along the lines of “blah blah blah”. If iChat could have a built-in utility to test your connection for possible problems, and then offer ways of solving those problems based on it’s findings – that’d be cool.

Better Address Book integration is something that I’ve long for since the beginning. Both Adium and iChat both pull your contacts address cards to add buddies to your list – however they also hold their own lists separate from the address book. I’d like to see every contact held within iChat to be in the address book, and vice-versa, by default. What typically happens is, if I sign up for a new AIM account, and load up iChat – I will be forced to go in and add each buddy from my address book into iChat – rather than it just recognizing them. Perhaps there is a reason that they do not do this (perhaps some would find it annoying) – but for me – I think it’d be neat to at least have the option.

File transfers that don’t work when video and audio do seems really strange to me. If I am talking to someone on video and I try to send them a file, and it doesn’t work, that seems strange to me. Why can we make a connection for audio or video and not for transferring files?

Update the tooltips which are used to show your buddy’s info. If you hover over a buddy, you can see some quick information about them – usually their AIM name, and current status. Like Adium, I’d like to see this updated to show a larger version of your buddy’s icon – along with a way to quickly send them an email, an invitation to an event in iCal, a link to the song currently playing in iTunes, etc. This could also be considered a feature request, but I’ll get more into that in a second.

Feature requests

There are a few of my feature requests that delve slightly into what we already know will be included in the next release – but bear with me because I think they need to be refined a little more.

System-wide iChat integration could go well beyond what we see now with Mail and Address Book. Currently you can see who is online from within Mail (if you have that particular email address associated with the current AIM username), and also from within Address Book. This is sufficient in my opinion though anywhere address book information is used (i.e. in the Address Book widget), it’d be nice to see a person’s online status as well.

However, there are many more ways I’d like to see iChat integrated into the OS. If we take a look at the four reasons I currently use iChat, perhaps we can see a way to integrate it more.

1. Text messaging. There are several ways I could see this being used. Contextual menus in Safari, as just one example, give you a way to “Search in Spotlight” and “Search in Google” when you have highlighted text. Perhaps “Send to buddy” would also be available instead of having the need to copy/paste all the time. This may seem like a very small thing, but just think of the amount of time it could save.

Perhaps this feature could be extended a bit further to actually be an option from within Pages.

2. Audio chat. Audio chat should not be limited to only sharing one’s voice. With a little jiggery pokery, or software like Audio Hijack Pro and Soundflower, one could potentially share their tunes with someone working remotely out of the office or with a computer not directly connected to the LAN. Or, maybe two people would like to collaborate on a project in GarageBand, and they could do so by “porting” the output of GarageBand in the current audio chat.

The implications could be fairly endless here.

3. Video chat. Just like with Audio chat, I’d like to see a way to share video via the video chat feature. I realize that the upcoming release will have some screen sharing, iPhoto slideshow, and other features. But being able to open iMovie and show someone a rough cut of a project their working on – could prove extremely valuable.

4. File transfers. What about being able to send a file from anywhere in the system to someone on your buddy list? You can do this now by dragging that file onto your buddy’s name in your contact list – but what if you could do it from within the application you are working on the file with. Say I’d like to send that same rough cut of the iMovie project to someone so that they can edit it further. Emailing it is not an option (too big). I could send it to him in iChat but that means I’d have to save it, open finder (or use Spotlight) and drag the file onto their name ect. What about a button to “Send to Buddy”?

Update (9am on Nov. 15): It turns out there is a product for doing something like this with Skype. It was written about on TechCrunch. Interesting.

I could also envision this feature being awesome from within iPhoto. Quickly send someone an entire album. Sure, this would bypass Apple’s .Mac photo-sharing service built-into iPhoto. But I think .Mac sucks.

Final thoughts

As I said, I really don’t have many issues with the current iChat. Not enough to make me jump ship to something like Adium (which I would have to write a 5-part piece to say what I don’t like about it). I’m going to stick with iChat – and I’m looking forward to the new stuff coming up.

Note: Be sure to check out other parts of my Leopard wish list listed below:

  1. Part one: Safari
  2. Part two: Mail
  3. Part three: iChat
  4. Part three: Finder

[tags]apple, macintosh, mac os x, osx, wish list, leopard, ichat, buddy list, aim, adium, audio hijack pro, soundflower, safari, spotlight, mail, garageband, imovie, iphoto, finder, itunes[/tags]