The Instantbird team is pleased to announce a polished Instantbird 1.0, released today in 11 locales.
Instantbird is an extremely easy to use and highly extensible instant messaging client that aims to respect its users!
Building on the experience available via open-source software, Instantbird is able to harness the power of Pidgin (via its libpurple protocol library) and of Mozilla’s Firefox technology, to provide access to a wide variety of instant messaging networks, while providing an easy (and well known) extension platform. Although Instantbird is fully cross-platform (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux), we strive to present a native look-and-feel to the user interface.
Get Instantbird 1.0 now!
The current system
Since the beginning of the Instantbird project, we have released versions numbered
0. indicates that the initial goals of the project haven’t been reached yet.
x is the major version number. For example, Instantbird 0.2 was a major version for which we made very significant changes.
y is the minor version number, incremented when a release is very similar to the previous one, but with some new features. We released Instantbird 0.1.1, 0.1.2 and 0.1.3 which were minor new versions.
z was used only for emergency bugfix releases. For example we released 0.1.2.1 a day after 0.1.2 because of a very common crash on Windows with some MSN accounts (not those we used during our testing of course). We also released Instantbird 0.1.3.1 when Instantbird 0.1.3 was no longer able to connect to the ICQ network.
This version numbering scheme made a lot of sense when the project was initially a “XUL UI for Pidgin” and the goal was to reach “feature parity” with Pidgin for Instantbird 1.0. We have, however, supported features that Pidgin doesn’t have for a long time, thus defining the completion of Instantbird 1.0 as a comparison with Pidgin doesn’t make sense any more. Actually, our roadmap has stated for a long time already that the 1.0 goal is a “Simple, usable and extensible user interface.”
Another very visible change between Instantbird 0.2 and 0.3 is the possibility to set a user icon and a display name.
You will see a place holder icon at the top of the buddy list, just click it (this will open a file picker) to set an icon. The icon will be automatically resized and converted to fit the various size and format requirements of the IM networks you use.
Similarly, click the “Display name” place holder to edit it. This name will be visible in your contacts’ buddy lists (unfortunately this currently works only for MSN).
Here you go, your friends will now easily recognize you:
The contact list was identified as a weak area of Instantbird 0.2. It has been dramatically improved for Instantbird 0.3 which we plan to release next week.
Like most IM clients, Instantbird 0.2 had each contact placed in a group, leading users to organize contacts a bit like files are placed in folders on the disk.
While this seems ok at first, placing contacts inside groups doesn’t work well when thinking of the contact as a person. Don’t you have a friend (group ‘friend’) who is also a coworker (group ‘colleagues’)?
For this reason, with Instantbird 0.3 we replaced the notion of “Groups” with the notion of “Tags” throughout the user interface. While groups used to be containers for your contacts (it was possible to move a contact from one group into another), tags are additional data attached to the contact (you can add or remove tags on a contact, but no longer ‘move’ a contact) and thus a single contact can have multiple tags. To change the tags attached to a contact, use the “Tags…” context menu item of the contact; it shows a list of the existing tags with a check mark next to the tags attached to the selected contact. Checking/unchecking a tag in this list will attach/detach a tag from the contact.
The surprise and enthusiasm of a few people about the “magic copy” feature I mentioned briefly at the end of my previous post introducing time bubbles reminded me that we forgot to introduce this feature when it landed for Instantbird 0.2 as part of our implementation of the Adium message theme system.
We decided to use this theme system because it seemed nice overall and was already used by a few other clients as well. However there was something we really didn’t like: using a customized message theme could make copied data from the conversation really hard to read, to the point that it would be unsuitable for sending a quote via email.
As this may not be very clear yet, let me give an example:
This is the text we get when copying the selection to the clipboard and pasting it. This is without our “magic copy” feature of course.
I’m excited to announce the release of Instantbird 0.3 beta, the first localized preview of what we have been working on for months, available in 10 locales (Czech, German, English, Spanish, French, Dutch, Polish, Russian, Slovak and Ukrainian)!
In addition to the cool features already introduced in the previous two alpha releases (among which the Twitter support, tags, contacts merging, …), this beta brings significant appearance changes with user icons, an updated tab style, the improved default message theme, Aero glass effects on Windows and more awesome new features!
As Instantbird 0.3 is almost finished and already localized, thanks to the great work of our localizers who were eager to share Instantbird with people speaking their language, this beta release is a great opportunity to give Instantbird a try, play with it, and report bugs!
Download Instantbird 0.3 beta now!
We look forward to receiving your feedback to help us make the final Instantbird 0.3 release (planned for this month!) a piece of software you will want to share with all your friends!
Instantbird 0.2 was released with Bubbles as its default message theme:
The most common feedback we received from users that quickly switched back to Simple (the previous default) or another theme was that the lack of timestamp for each message made the theme unusable.
Some users have really passionate opinions about whether these timestamps should be shown or not. On one hand, people think it’s a useful piece of information that should always be visible, but on the other hand, people think it’s a waste of space on their limited screens. The common “solution” to this problem is to include a “show timestamp” preference, allowing each user to decide for themselves which of the two behaviors is the least inconvenient.
I don’t think that making the user responsible for choosing between two not-so-good options which one is best is a good way to address this issue. So soon after the 0.2 release, I started searching for better solutions.