We’ve all seen it, a friend’s status reading: ‘anyone else’s Facebook chat playing up?’ or ‘my chat isn’t working and it’s really annoying me!’ Chit Chat for Facebook offers users a welcome alternative in the form of a Facebook Messenger that promises a ‘convenient and fun way to chat with your Facebook contacts’.
After a painless installation, a process of two-minutes (even on a modest computer), Chit Chat is ready to go. After entering an existing Facebook username and password, the user is immediately presented with a neat, unobtrusive interface, listing contacts both on and offline as well as displaying the user’s name and photo.
The main interface allows the user to perform tasks crucial to all social network users such as updating their status, posting to a friend’s wall and even sending private messages all from the same place; Chit Chat manages this without the need for a web-browser, which means users are free to surf other sites while being able to engage in Facebook messaging with friends from their computer.
Selecting a friend to message is achieved by a simple double-click on the contact’s name. The ‘message window’ follows the same thematic design as the main interface, making it clear, and easy to use. The option of tabbed message windows provides users with an efficient way to conduct several private conversations at once. Instant message notification allows users to keep-track of communications without the risk of confusion.
A distinct advantage Chit Chat has over Facebook chat is the ease of which users can format text using bold or underline options from the message window. This instant messenger displays users’ dialogue in different colors to distinguish the ‘speaker’, an innovation that, when coupled with the advanced formatting options, enhances the overall chatting experience.
Fans of emoticons will find Chit Chat allows them to express themselves more freely than with Facebook chat, as the dialogue box includes a user-friendly ‘smiley’ option, something which, again, takes the chatting experience to the next level.
While online, Chit Chat keeps users up-to-date with the online/offline status of friends via ‘live’ notification boxes, a very useful feature. However, if many contacts are active simultaneously, the notifications have a tendency to get backed up which some users may find intrusive (although they can be disabled in preferences).
The comprehensive preferences menu means users have near total control of how Chit Chat runs, from font colors and language to privacy settings regarding wall posts and status updates. Shortcuts can be selected or deselected from here too.
One aspect some users may find confusing is the status bar icon’s similarity to that of MSN messenger, meaning inadvertent mix-ups can occur, particularly if both programs are running at the same time.
Chitchat.org.uk’s program supports and even encourages the user’s individuality through its customizable formatting and emoticon options, but its main strength is its ease of use. Users with very little instant messaging experience will pick it up in minutes, while more proficient users will feel a sense of familiarity almost instantly.
The few negative aspects of the freeware are far outweighed by the positives; Chit Chat for Facebook combines the convenience of MSN messenger with the social aspect of Facebook, allowing both the seasoned chatter, and beginner to comfortably manage their ‘social life’ from the desktop, giving the user the freedom to surf other sites while maintaining those vital personal relationships.
The program feels like a genuine alternative to the Facebook chat system, and with thousands of hits on CNET’s download.com it seems Chit Chat’s popularity is set to soar in 2011.
Available at: chitchat.org.uk
System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7