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Watch TidBITS Presents “Explaining the Big 3 Confusions with Messages”

In our fourth TidBITS Presents event on 14 November 2012, “Take Control of Messages in Mountain Lion” author Glenn Fleishman talked for about 40 minutes about the three most common confusions that we’ve heard from users with regard to using the Messages app in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. In particular, Glenn addressed the following issues, which you can watch at your leisure. If you prefer audio to video, you can listen to the entire presentation by clicking the Listen link at the very top of this article on our Web site or the Listen button
in the TidBITS News iOS app. Or you can subscribe to our audio edition podcast via iTunes and listen to it there.

First, since an Apple ID can be associated with multiple email addresses and iPhone phone numbers, it’s easy to end up in a situation where iMessages don’t arrive where you think they should, or where you’re unable to contact someone at the desired device. Glenn explained how to ensure that you get all your messages on all your devices by associating all your email addresses with an iMessage account, or how to pick and choose which devices should receive which messages. In general, we recommend starting with linking up all your email addresses and then disabling certain ones on particular devices if you find message ubiquity annoying. Finally, in response to a listener question, Glenn advised logging out of and back in to iMessage
accounts on your Mac and your iPhone if your iPhone number doesn’t appear as an option in Messages on the Mac.

Next up, Glenn explained something that drove us nuts early on with Messages. We’re accustomed to using text chat to check if someone is available for a voice call, and then switching from text to audio. That’s easy in Skype, and was easy in iChat, but it’s trickier in Messages. Look at the FaceTime video camera button in the upper right corner of the Messages window; it’s actually (who would have guessed!) a menu, and you can choose an email address or phone number from it to start an audio or video chat that way. Confusing the issue further is how Messages combines AIM and other instant messaging accounts with the text-only iMessage; if your only connection with someone is via iMessage, you’ll be able to do audio and/or
video only via FaceTime. And the FaceTime app itself is awkward, since it makes avoiding video difficult and lacks controls to make audio output separate from the system default (something all other audio-capable chatting programs do, including Messages).

Finally, Glenn delved into the topic of conversations in Messages and how they relate to transcripts in iChat. He showed where in the ~/Library folder they’re stored, and explained that a conversation in Messages brings together multiple chat transcripts. (See “Dealing with Lion’s Hidden Library,” 20 July 2011, for instructions on how to show the ~/Library folder permanently in both OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and 10.7 Lion.) A particular setting controls whether closing a conversation also deletes the transcripts, and Glenn warned against using the Edit > Clear Transcript command in Messages, which nukes every
transcript associated with the selected person, with no option to undo.

Hope you enjoy the presentation and find it useful, and if you have other questions about Messages, they’re likely answered in the full 113-page “Take Control of Messages in Mountain Lion.”

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