As it stands right now, the iMessages bubble is starting to burst. Its attempted integration with the new iOS has had this trajectory in the last few weeks: "Wow, this is amazing! I can send and receive texts on my computer, and also Gchat!" to "Why the heck isn't any of this working when it did a few weeks ago?" to "Forget it, let's find something better.
It's not just me who's been running into these hiccups. CNET has documented this as well, and if you're not sure if you're alone in hitting bumps with Apple's once-amazing service, you can check Apple's cloud dashboard thingy.
But if you're like me, you're either going to ride it out and see how it goes in the next few weeks or about ready to jump ship and look for something better. I liked it because it kept me from having to check my phone whenever I got a text in the middle of a work day -- I could keep blabbing with my bosses and colleagues in the same window and also receive very important cat photos from friends. Nowadays, I'm lucky if I can still do that in the same window.
So I asked around to see what other people are using for their work stuff and am passing along the best responses to you (meaning, for the most part, I filtered out all people who were actually just shilling for their own companies -- you're welcome).
"Has the iMessage bubble burst? Or do just not enough people know how to use it properly?" asks Jamie McKean, founder of The Solo Journey. "I run my business from the countryside of New Zealand and service clients across the globe. iMessages has started gaining pace once I show others how to join in, that and Skype are the two for me."
Well, yeah, I think people do know how to use iMessages correctly, and also think that its service's effectiveness likely varies from hemisphere to hemisphere. But Skype and iMessages are great, sure.
Greg Standerfer of All Call Technologies, however suggests Trillian: "I find it works well with all of the usual IM systems like Yahoo, MSN, Jabber, Pidgin, etc… my clients use it for the virtual phone numbers we supply for their businesses, and it works really well for IT support so the customer can IM or call one number to reach a support team."
Standerfer adds that one of Trillian's biggest drawbacks, however, is its inability to print its text easily and cleanly. Also, the app on mobile devices tends to be somewhat battery intensive, so, something to keep in mind, for sure.
Trillian, Skype and iMessages are all pretty common ones people have heard of. There's also Gchat, Facebook and MSN. I won't dip too much into these because, well, you've already heard of them and therefore probably already have an opinion of it, too.
One you might not have heard of is imo.im. According to Liz Grimes, the PR manager repping it, it's "a free web and mobile app… that provides one location to access 11 of the most popular third-party instant-messaging platforms like Facebook, AIM, Skype and MSN. [It's] ideal for easy collaboration, pivate chats, group chats, voice IMs, multimedia file sharing and voice calling for Android and iPhone users."
Another you might not have heard of is Tracky. This one comes from another PR evangelist, this time Sarah Evans:
I'm biased, of course, but I was using the platform I'm going to brag on before I became their chief evangelist. I was sick of using a separate IM client during work. While keeping 20+ browser windows open, Word, calendar, task list, etc… It was just one more thing. Switching to open social collaboration platform Tracky <http://www.tracky.com> made things much more efficient, it has IM built-in. There's no software, simply a browser window I keep open all day and can chat with my coworkers who are online. I don't need to know their chat name or send them a request. Once we're connected on Tracky, we can chat (unless you change your settings, of course). Super easy. You can see a chat window in the lower right-hand section of the screenshot, below.
Finally, one last one that might've slipped past your radar is Microsoft Lync. It was recommended by Melanie Gass of CenterPoint Solution:
"For business I think it's awesome because I can instant message at my desk, my tablet, and even my phone. I'm always connected and the best part is that it encompasses both video conference and instant message. I call it Skype for business."
Also, yes, in case you're a newbie to all this: You can use Skype for business stuff, too.
So, there you go. A nice sampler plate to get you started at the gluttonous buffet that is IMing. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go respond to these very important cat pictures.
David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.