Instantbird 1.1 released!

Exactly 4 years after the very early 0.1 preview, Instantbird 1.1 has just been released today in 13 locales (Swedish and Estonian are new)!

In addition to several stability fixes and a dramatic reduction of resource consumption in some cases, this new release will make Twitter and IRC much more usable in Instantbird:

  • On Twitter, it’s now possible from the context menu to retweet, to reply to a tweet (or simply double click on the tweet to start a reply). The context menu also lets you follow or unfollow the author of the tweet.
  • Tab completion of usernames (starting with an @ character on twitter) or nicknames (in IRC channels) will also be very appreciated.

All these changes have been commonly requested, so no surprise here. But there’s one last feature I would like to talk about before offering you a download link: Instantbird 1.1 brings support for putting conversation on hold. This means you can now close conversation tabs without leaving the conversation, the conversation will sit at the top of the Contacts window until you reopen it or someone talks to you. While this may seem like a small change, it’s exceptionally useful for IRC users who tend to idle in lots of channels because they want to “be there just in case” but don’t interact much with the conversation.

Enough talk! Time to go download Instantbird 1.1 (or read the more detailed release notes).

As always, your feedback is welcome! And if you like Instantbird, maybe you will want to share the good news with your friends on Facebook or twitter?

“Why should I switch from Pidgin?”

This is a question people keep asking us. With some variations (“Why should I switch from Adium?”), or sometimes without the question mark (“There’s nothing more than Pidgin”).

We are not competing…

I think people ask us this question because they perceive us as competing with Pidgin/Adium/[insert the name of your favorite open source IM client]. But there’s no good answer to that question, because we are not competing, here is why: Continue reading

Instantbird 1.0 release, 3 days later

Servers load

Instantbird 1.0 has been very quickly downloaded over ten thousand of times. In fact, it happened so fast (especially immediately after we have been featured on lifehacker) that our server couldn’t handle the load.

We have very quickly been able to mirror our main website on another server, which allowed people to keep discovering and downloading Instantbird 1.0, but we had to close the add-ons website for a while as the load it couldn’t handle was also putting down other services that we really needed to keep online, especially our bug database.

We have tried to re-open the add-ons website at a quieter time, but the server was unresponsive again within half an hour. This morning we tried to improve the website’s performance by adding some caching mechanism and reopened again (at a time when most Americans are asleep) for a try. Again it fall down.

Some people very kindly offered help and proposed to host the website on their server, but it’s difficult to trust someone we barely know to host a website that requires our SSL certificate.

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Version number change

The current system

Since the beginning of the Instantbird project, we have released versions numbered 0.x.y.z:

  • 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.”

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User icons

Another very visible change between Instantbird 0.2 and 0.3 is the possibility to set a user icon and a display name.

screenshot of the contact list with a place holder icon

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:
screenshot of the contact list with an icon and a display name

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Better contact list

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.

Tags

Goodbye groups

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.
Tags menu

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Introducing magic copy

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:
Copying from a conversation without the 'magic copy' feature

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.

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