or Connect
AppleInsider › Forums › Software › Mac OS X › An Introductory Mac OS X Leopard Review: Address Book and iChat
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

An Introductory Mac OS X Leopard Review: Address Book and iChat

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard comes with a selection of entirely new or greatly improved applications. The new system is designed to be flexible to fit your needs, so you can import the data from existing apps you currently use into Leopard's, or alternatively continue to use your own preferred alternative apps on the new OS. It also exposes new functionality for developers to allow them to extend upon, replace, or collaborate with Apple's supplied applications. Here's a look at how the new versions of Address Book and iChat work.

Leopard Address Book

Apart from the mention of new links to Google Maps and sync features with the Yahoo! online address book, Apple didn't feature the new Address Book at all. At first blush, the only thing new here is the removal of the brushed metal appearance. However, there are new features related to Address Book (and applied to other apps as well) that weren't even featured in the "300 new features" of Leopard.

The first is the new Picture Taker Panel. If you go to the System Preferences/Accounts pane (below top), you have the option to set up your User Name and photo there. If your Mac has a camera attached or built in, you can click on the photo and select Edit Picture from the drop down menu. The typical sheet drops down (below bottom).





However, the new Address Book gives you some hidden options to get more creative with your system account photo, as well as the pictures you set for your contacts. Here, I dragged in a photo and used the typical crop and adjustment controls to fit it. But there's a new button in the Picture Taker Panel that Address Book uses: that Effects Gallery icon swirl (below).



If you're down with the swirl, click it and up pops a panel with the familiar effects from Photo Booth (below). There is one more thing....



Actually several more things, with six pages of effects you can use (below).







These are produced by Quartz Composer composition files, and you can add you own, too. Apple's included effects are in the System domain, but you can add new ones into your Mac's /Library/Compositions or a user's Library (Users/username/Library/Compsitions) to expand your options, just as you would install fonts. QC Composition files show up throughout Leopard, in iChat, Photo Booth, and any other applications that take advantage of them. Any Core Graphics savvy application can use these effects plugins to style and enhance photos and video, just as Core Audio units are used in audio music applications. If you're keeping count, that's another system wide feature that didn't receive much mention at all.



Address Book also incorporates photos the system discovers attached to incoming emails. As Address Book help explains, "A picture can appear in a contacts card even though you havent added a picture yourself. If a picture whose filename matches the contacts email address and whose file extension is .tiff (such as tclark@mac.com.tiff) is located on your computer in a folder named Library/Images/People, or is located on a computer or server youre connected to in a /Library/Images/People folder, the picture will automatically appear in Address Book, Mail, iChat and other applications where the contacts email address is used."

This feature is based upon one that appeared in NeXTMail. If you set your photo in Address Book and send emails from .Mac, the system attaches a .tiff file and your recipient will see this in email programs that support it, similar to Buddy List icons in iChat. If you don't want to use your photo, you can use one of the generic icons instead.

On page 2 of 2: Leopard iChat; iChat Interface; Video Conferencing and Screen Sharing.

Leopard iChat

The new iChat expands video conferencing to include document scanning, screen casting, and a media broadcasting system. It's also a bit easier to set up accounts on systems outside of AOL IM and .Mac, with direct support for GoogleTalk and simplified configuration of other open Jabber IM servers. There's still no support for Yahoo IM or Microsoft's MSN, both of which use closed, proprietary systems that can only be interacted with on the sly by quasi-legal software. Alternatives such as Adium incorporate support for these other system by relying on an open source package of tools that defeat the proprietary boundaries Yahoo and Microsoft have set up, but that isn't really an alternative for Apple. Hopefully, both Microsoft and Yahoo will soon abandon their own non-standard protocols and get behind open Internet standards for instant messaging.

The new iChat also provides expanded support for Bluetooth devices. Leopard now supports stereo Bluetooth headphones in addition to headsets. You can pair headphones to both profiles (Bluetooth products all supply a set of feature "profiles" that can be fully or partly supported on both ends), allowing you to listen to music from iTunes using the stereo headphones profile (called A2DP or A2DPSink), then start an iChat using the headset profile (HSU) without doing anything special to reconfigure things.

This may be a bit confusing to users who don't understand the profile architecture of Bluetooth; Apple presents profiles in the Bluetooth menu as options that can be turned on or off (below). "Don't use headphones" really means to only use the headset profile, in other words disabling the stereo headphone profile and sending regular system audio out through the main speakers. The headphone speakers still work as a headset function. This highly simplified menu doesn't let you configure the more complex aspects of audio, which requires a trip to System Preferences/Sound (which should be provided in this menu, but isn't).



When you start a new audio or video conferencing session, your music fades out and your call comes in, much like the iPhone. It should come as no surprise that the iPhone will soon offer the same features. Currently, the iPhone can be paired with Leopard but does not advertise any supported profiles. A software update will add these shortly.

In System Preferences/Sound, you can configure your system Output (below top) and Input devices (below bottom). It should be noted that there is a lot of variety in Bluetooth quality, and that devices can often be flakey. Leopard's support is also brand new, and will not be without issues.





Of course, you don't necessarily need Bluetooth hardware hooked up to use iChat. It also works well enough with the built in iSight camera and mic included in most of Apple's Leopard-capable Macs.

iChat Interface

Leopard still presents separate Buddy Lists for each account. If you use multiple accounts, this is clumsy. It's hard to understand why you'd want to have three windows for Bonjour, GoogleTalk, and AIM open. Why not tab them together, or even mix them into one buddy listing? In any case, the new non-metal iChat buddy list now has a new button for screen sharing (below), in addition to the previous text, audio and video connections.



Video conferencing gets a new twist with document sharing, which Apple calls "iChat Theater." Setting this up seems a bit convoluted, until you realize that you can simply drag and drop files. You just have to initiate a video chat first (or a one-way video chat, if your recipient has no camera). You can do this by selecting "Share a File with iChat Theater," which then tells you to set up a video chat first, or you can skip the middleman by doing that directly (click a buddy list camera, or right click on a buddy and set up a one way video chat, below).



If you drag a file directly to your buddy list, it only offers to send the file as a transfer. However, once you have a video conference going, you get two options as drag zones on top of your video chat (below). When you "Send to," you're just using iChat to transfer the file. This offers a handy alternative to email within an office setting, and you don't end up with your mailbox and sent items full of attachments. When you "Share" a file, iChat makes a video capture and streams it as a picture. This means the recipient only gets what you chose to show them, but it also means that it isn't very good quality for text documents.



When you're sharing a document, a nice looking Quick Look preview pops up (below top, the graphic file I shared). You also see a preview in your iChat window that indicates the document is being sent at a lower resolution (below middle). Your recipient, however, gets the document as a heavily compressed video snapshot (below bottom). This makes iChat Theater best for photos, fair for presentations, and worthless for text documents. If you have a text document you should send it instead.








If that seems disappointing, it helps to think of iChat Theater as really being a document camera that supports any files Quick Look can preview. That includes, of course, audio and video files. And these provide a better example of what iChat document sharing is really useful for. Just drag a song and video file into the "share with iChat Theater" target, and you begin streaming it to the user on the other end. The useful thing about streaming is that you aren't actually sending the file, and you remain in control of playback. So, you can share a video, pause the playback, and talk over the top of it while its playing or stopped.

This use of iChat Theater seems a lot more useful and practical than what Apple has demonstrated using Keynote. Of course, if your presentation slides are designed for easy reading from across the room, it might be useful in iChat Theater. But using it as an impromptu audio/video/photo sharing system that requires zero configuration is its best feature, and very smart. Don't expect HD streaming over the Internet however, which is what you'd need to show off computer documents in the same resolution you see them on your screen.

By comparison, the "what you see, what you get" is much better when working with video. I dragged a video taken with my point and shoot camera to the "Share with iChat Theater" zone. Here's the Quick Look (below top), the iChat sender's view (below middle) and what the recipient sees (below bottom).







Screen Sharing is the other new feature in iChat. It works using the open VNC protocol, and is independent from iChat's own video sharing system. You can actually run both at once, sharing video to a system while it also controls your screen. Screen sharing connections can also be initiated from the Finder's Sharing section in its sidebar, by clicking on one of the Bonjour-discovered computers on your local network, selecting the Share Screen button, and then supplying the user and password of an account allowed to shared the screen. For sharing the screen of a remote system that doesn't automatically show up in Finder's browse list, you can also connect by IP address from the Finder's Connect to Server command, using a standard URL such as vnc://192.168.0.2

A third method for setting up screen sharing is to use Back to My Mac, which registers your systems with .Mac, allowing you to see them in the browse list even when they're not on your local network. This uses Wide Area Bonjour to supply the IP lookup information tracked by your .Mac account. Using any of those methods to being a sharing session causes the launch of an application called Screen Sharing, which is simply a VNC client.

If you are trying to set up screen sharing with somebody else, chances are they aren't on your local network, and you likely don't know what their IP address is. iChat uses the discovery systems behind its buddy lists to do all that for you. When you click a buddy and ask to share their screen, iChat uses its integrated support for VNC to present the shared screen on your (or the recipients) desktop, and they you (or they) get control of the remote system. It presents a warning first noting that you shouldn't offer control of your system to someone you don't know (below).



More details on iChat were presented in Road to Mac OS X Leopard: iChat 4.0.
post #2 of 11
One feature that has been removed from Address Book, however, is support for sms and caller id from bluetooth phones. It was a pretty big shock the first time I switched the sim out of my iphone into my old t637 so i could get messages during a meeting without having to use the phone directly. I wonder if this feature was removed due to the relatively small number of phones with which it was fully compatible or because as things stand now, it served to highlight the shortcomings of the iphone bluetooth capabilities. Either way, some pretty useful functionality is removed, and despite fewer clicks to map an address and some nice eye candy, in some ways, the new Address Book feels like a downgrade to me.
post #3 of 11
Owmygod, AI, you almost gave me a heart atack

All the addresses in your address book should be updated by your contacts! This way you don't have to adapt your address book all the time.

People move and change houses. 10% of your contacts a year actually! So, who is gonna keep track of that?
post #4 of 11
AB is crying out for more work. Contacts are core for everyone in business or not.

For example not allowing Skype or a custom field for a contact's IM type is ridiculous. This is an obviously unnecessary restriction. I really hope that Apple address this issue in a point release really soon.

All in all AB needs to be a whole lot more flexible in its internal schema so that it can pave the way for interoperating with other clients and services. So, that it can truly become the only address book we need.

I really want to avoid the situation where every app has its own address book. All apps should slave off AB. Otherwise managing and manually syncing all these different address books becomes a real pain. We need much more work on the back end framework to encourage developers to use AB and not roll their own.

Cheers Daniel
Add your ideas to the Apple Mac OS X Wish List.
Reply
Add your ideas to the Apple Mac OS X Wish List.
Reply
post #5 of 11
There's some nifty stuff there. It's nice that wireless headphones are supported. I'm hoping they add wireless headphone support in iPhone too.

I hope that the VNC support has stabilized. I used Apple's VNC for a bit in Tiger, but I've had it quit working a few times such that it needs a reboot to work. I don't know of this problem until I need it and am at a different computer trying to connect in. Fixing it means going to the remote computer to restart it. I get fewer problems using Vine Server instead.
post #6 of 11
Unfortunately, Address Book is one of the worst apps on the mac. We have an unreadable small font, tons of whitespace, difficult to organize, and worst of all, no way to export your data. Who would ever enter information into a database where you couldn't get it out?

So with the Leopard update, all you have to tell me is the windows are now grey and I can add a picture. Well, where do I start the parade. Apple has a ton of apps now that sync with AB, and AB continues to be a second rate app... shame on Leopard. Maybe 10.5.1??
post #7 of 11
The curious thing with image effects found in Address Book, is that they aren't available to Photo Booth from I can tell.

I would certainly like support for custom fields in Address Book, or at least expanding the list of instant messenger address types, to include Skype, QQ and Gadu-Gadu for example. This would make it even better for working with programs such as Adium.

Oh, and don't get me started on limiting some neat features to users of .Mac.
post #8 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by iamdmann View Post

One feature that has been removed from Address Book, however, is support for sms and caller id from bluetooth phones. It was a pretty big shock the first time I switched the sim out of my iphone into my old t637 so i could get messages during a meeting without having to use the phone directly. I wonder if this feature was removed due to the relatively small number of phones with which it was fully compatible or because as things stand now, it served to highlight the shortcomings of the iphone bluetooth capabilities. Either way, some pretty useful functionality is removed, and despite fewer clicks to map an address and some nice eye candy, in some ways, the new Address Book feels like a downgrade to me.

Absolutely agreed. Address Book in Leopard is certainly a downgrade for those of us who relied upon its Bluetooth integration (which has worked flawlessly for me from my old T68 all the way through to my new K810).

However, I think all is not lost. The new Address Book bundle contains new (i.e. not the same as those in the old AB bundle) Bluetooth icons. There are also two references to Bluetooth in the Address Book preferences plist file (although they seem to do nothing at present).

So hopefully this feature will make its way to us in an upcoming point-release.
Cheers,

Chris
Reply
Cheers,

Chris
Reply
post #9 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by dahacouk View Post

AB is crying out for more work. Contacts are core for everyone in business or not.

For example not allowing Skype or a custom field for a contact's IM type is ridiculous. This is an obviously unnecessary restriction. I really hope that Apple address this issue in a point release really soon.

All in all AB needs to be a whole lot more flexible in its internal schema so that it can pave the way for interoperating with other clients and services. So, that it can truly become the only address book we need.

I really want to avoid the situation where every app has its own address book. All apps should slave off AB. Otherwise managing and manually syncing all these different address books becomes a real pain. We need much more work on the back end framework to encourage developers to use AB and not roll their own.

Cheers Daniel

At last! Address Book can store Skype accounts!...
Add your ideas to the Apple Mac OS X Wish List.
Reply
Add your ideas to the Apple Mac OS X Wish List.
Reply
post #10 of 11
One thing that should be noted is that AB is designed to be compatible with the vCard format, so it is important compatibility is maintained even when new features are added.

Personally I am wanting to see an easy to install carddav server.
post #11 of 11
Do you guys go to graveyards and dig up people's grandmothers too? Come on!
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Mac OS X
AppleInsider › Forums › Software › Mac OS X › An Introductory Mac OS X Leopard Review: Address Book and iChat