Friday, April 23, 2010

Trying to switch to Empathy

I try to dogfood as much as possible. I try to use the actual applications Ubuntu ships by default for everyday things like web browsing, email and IM. I believe this is the best way for applications to get tested properly, fixed, and improved. If developers don't use the default applications because they are buggy, or don't contain necessary features, how can we expect them to be appropriate for regular users?

I've been a Pidgin user for years. It's a great, but now there's a new kid in town: Empathy, which is now the default IM client installed in Ubuntu and other distros. This week, I am attempting to switch from Pidgin to Empathy. So far so good. It's working pretty great, except for one thing: I keep missing the notifications when people send me messages.

If I already have a chat window open with someone in Empathy, and the person sends me a new message, I get notified in three ways: I get a temporary notify-osd message, the Indicator Applet envelope turns green, and the window in my window list flashes for a few seconds and stays highlighted and bold.

Most of the time, I miss the notify-osd popup, as I'm typing something, and tend to always finish before looking up at the alert. Once I do, I rarely have time to read the whole thing before it disappears. My Indicator Applet envelope is green most of the day as I almost always have unread messages in my Inbox. But as soon as I finish the task I'm doing and go to switch windows with the window list, I notice the highlighted and bold window demanding attention.

The problem I have with Empathy is there is no way to tell it to open a new chat window automatically when a new message arrives and there isn't already a chat window open. When that happens, I don't have the highlighted window in the window list demanding attention, and often discover that I missed an IM an hour later when clicking on the green envelope to read my email.

What am I doing wrong?