How to Setup and Enjoy Messages Beta for Mac OS X

Messages Beta for Mac OS X is here.

It is meant to seamlessly bridge the text communication gap between your iPhone and your Mac desktop and accomplishes this goal in a simple, elegant manner.

Let’s walk through the fairly simple set-up process.

1. Make sure your operating system software is up to date. Messages Beta requires Mac OS X Lion Version 10.7.3 (sorry Snow Leopard folks – get a move on and upgrade already!)

2. Download Messages Beta here.

3. Open and install. The install process is standard and the only thing you’ll need to enter is your Apple ID in order to take advantage of the new iMessage features. Otherwise you’ll just have a fancy new iChat interface.

4. We’ll assume you made it through the standard install. Now stop and admire shiny new blank Messages Beta interface. Oooh. Aaah.

5. You’ll notice a blue circle with a white plus sign in the upper right hand corner of the New Message screen. If you click this you should see a drop-down menu of all your contacts (hopefully synced via iCloud).

Unfortunately there is no way to see which of your contacts are eligible for an iMessage. This seems like a fairly large oversight and I hope Apple will correct it before the OS Mountain Lion launch.

6. Navigate to a contact you are certain is eligible for an iMessage and you’ll see a small blue conversation bubble next to the number.

7. Compose your message and fire it off!

8. Notice the results.

9. You can even try and send a test response to yourself but the results seem a little buggy. It took a few minutes for the response to go through and when it did finally appear the iPhone had already recorded it as not being delivered. Oh well, it is beta after all.

10. Enjoy!

Messages Beta for Mac is not difficult to set up or even use but I don’t see this as a must-have tool. While the iPhone has a huge market share and it’s likely that more than a few of your friends are iMessage eligible, it is still a ‘walled garden’ community and therefore the application is limited. It’s an especially difficult option for me to adopt since I primarily use Google Voice.

All that being said, the ability to move from one platform to another while carrying on a conversation within iMessage is a nice, albiet niche, benefit.

Let me know what you think in the comment section, circle me up on Google+ or send me a tweet if you have any Messages Beta tips. I’d love to hear them!

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The Good and Bad of Google Plus

I’ll admit it. Google Plus launched last summer and I balked. I read all the reviews on Google Plus and maybe even peeked at a few screenshots but I didn’t see any reason for making the switch from Facebook. I didn’t even try.

And why?

Mostly because I was disillusioned.

I’ve tried many times over the years to include Google’s social experiments into my workflow. Buzz. Wave. Some other failure I can’t even remember. Suffice it to say none of them worked very well for me and in an obvious white-flag maneuver Google pulled the plug on each of those projects.

I respect Google for having the gumption to return to the drawing board each and every time. I’m a firm believer in throwing a bunch of ideas out there and seeing what works. This tenacity is a hallmark of a successful individuals and companies.

It was also the impetus for Google Plus.

It’s been nearly eight months since Google Plus first entered the tech scene. That is long enough for the initial hoopla to die down. It’s also long enough for a large bulk of people to hear about a new product, try it, and either decide if it is for them or stay with Facebook.

With Facebook’s recent decision to release premium ads into their news feed, my inability to ignore how annoying the ticker bar really is, and a host of other reasons (why do I have to be bombarded with ads even as I peruse an album?) I’m taking a closer look at Google Plus.

The Good

1. Circles

Circles makes it easier to share information with specific sets of people. Facebook does allow for specific sharing but it’s less intuitive and probably not as much of a priority because it doesn’t coincide with their ultimate goal of universal sharing.

2. Chat

Google Plus doesn’t have a separate messaging platform. Instead they’ve rolled the popular gchat messaging client into the social network. Brilliant and convenient.

3. Imagery

Images and video are displayed beautifully in Google Plus. The colors pop and appear crisper against a black background and appear larger than they do in Facebook. Although comments appear on the right of any image by default, you can click on a small, nearly imperceptible arrow on the bottom right hand corner of the image which causes the sidebar to disappear completely allowing for an unobstructed viewpoint. As an amateur photographer, this is my favorite Google Plus feature.

The Not-so-Good

1. Limited User Base

While this isn’t surprising, it still qualifies as a drawback. I’m very selective about who I friend on Facebook and my friend count sits at around 150 people. These are individuals whom I personally know and, moreover, who I’d like to keep in my life. As of today there are only 16 people from my Facebook friends who use Google Plus and only 3 of those 16 use it on a regular basis.

2. Photograph Sharing

Remember how thrilled I am about the beautiful display of images on Google Plus? Here’s the catch: if you share an album with someone in your friend circle and that friend decides to share a cute picture with another friend they can. This might not seem like such a big deal except if your friend shares that one picture then the person they share it with has access to the entire album and also has the ability to share it with other people. After dealing with so many privacy issues over the years, especially of the drunk-embarrassing-photo-of-you-at-a-party leaking to your boss variety, Facebook offers its users fairly tight control over their images (even if not everyone opts in). I’d like to see Google Plus implement more of the same.

3. Integration with 3rd Party Services

One of the very first things I do when I download a new application or sign up for a new service is see if there is a way to link it to my current services. When I set up Instagram I was able to link it to not only my Twitter, but also Facebook and even Tumblr. Foursquare offers the same integration with Twitter and Facebook. I can’t even use HootSuite to share via Google Plus.

Final Thoughts

So, what does this all mean?

It means that Google Plus is a formidable opponent to Facebook. I signed up and despite the challenges I still have that fledgling desire to go out of my way to interact via Google Plus. I’m still active on Facebook but realized that by not having a presence on Google Plus I was contributing to the problem of a limited user base. Google Plus is a good product and worthy of attention. I’m taking a leap of faith and investing some time in the social network. Come find me and we’ll figure it out together.

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