Facebook is the new Orkut and Facebook Messenger is the new GTalk. It’s how most of your friends, if not you, like to communicate. A lot of people hate that Facebook Messenger on Android and iOS was split from the main app and that you can no longer use the main app to chat. I like the Messenger app and the reason is that it is hands down the best way to chat with my friends. Also, when you’re in the Messenger app, you’re not distracted by Facebook itself. There’s no notifications popping up, no timeline refreshing.
Having this experience on a Mac is surprisingly hard. Chat and Facebook on the web are too deeply intertwined. And before you ask me, yes, I’ve tried IM apps. In the days of GTalk and Yahoo Messenger I used to be a big fan of IM clients. But they just don’t work with Facebook. First, I use Facebook chat on multiple devices. The iPhone and iPad being the prominent ones (the ones where Facebook Messenger does a great job). The thing with IM clients is that the chat history is limited to the app.
So if I’m using an IM client on Mac (Adium was my choice), and I switch to the iPhone for a while, the messages I typed on the iPhone won’t show up in Adium. When I switched to the Mac, I lacked context and for some reason this really annoyed me. I’ve tried a couple of Chrome extensions that try to bring Facebook chat out of Facebook but none of them really worked.
I’m glad to say that I’ve been successful in my pursuit of finding a good Facebook chat client for Mac. One where it’s just about the chat, without any other Facebook distractions. In fact, I found two solutions. One paid, one free (with ads). Read on to find out which might suit you best.
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Current for Facebook
Current ($1.99) is not solely a Facebook chat app, even though that’s how I use it. It can run the Facebook’s web interface inside a window, just like any other browser. But it has features like pop-out windows for viewing photos and video, and device-level integration for notifications.
What I like most is its menu bar utility. When you click the menu bar icon for Current, it opens up a drop-down window that contains friend requests, messages, and notifications. Clicking a recent chat opens it in a new window. Each chat gets its own floating window that you can move anywhere on the screen.
I’ve turned off notifications for anything other than messages from Facebook and I don’t open the main window, which loads up the Facebook homepage (it shows Facebook ads and I’m not a big fan of ads on Facebook).
What I love about Current: It’s fast. And stable. After using so many sucky IM clients and hacks for enabling Facebook chat on desktop, I’m surprised how good Current is. I can have four concurrent chats and it doesn’t miss a beat. Clicking on a notification brings me to the chat window. There’s no lag anywhere. The app is totally worth the $2 asking price, and more.
ChatBook for Facebook
ChatBook is an app expressly built for chat. It’s free and ad supported (though you can pay $1.99 to remove these). While I’ve yet to see an ad, I have gotten annoying pop-ups for upgrading to a pro account. And this happens out of the blue, when you’re not even using the app. Very annoying.
The app replicates the sidebar from Facebook, including the ticker. Which is weird because it’s an app that’s just meant for chatting. But this problem is easy to solve. Just grab the divider between the ticker and friend list and drag it all the way up.
The way the app handles individual chats is also similar to Facebook’s website. They snap to a grid at the bottom of the screen. You can’t pop any windows out, and when a chat window is on screen, so is the friend list. There’s no way to separate them.
The app does have a handy stay-on-top feature. This is a feature I wish Current had. Browsing the web when you have a Facebook chat docked at the corner of the screen is incredibly useful. Although, with ChatBook, you’re looking at wasting about half your screen.
The Winner: Current for Facebook
Current costs $2 but I think it’s totally worth it. When it comes to a pure chatting experience that’s disengaged from the Facebook website but is integrated with the OS, Current is the best.
ChatBook is free but to use it for free you need to put up with annoying pop-ups that come out of nowhere. The Pro version of ChatBook costs $1.99, the same as Current.
Even looking at it from a purely economic perspective, it’s better to pay $2 up front for an app that offers a generally superior experience (along with full Facebook access if you’re interested in using it) than an app that puts you through annoying pop-ups.
How Do You Chat on Facebook?
How do you use Facebook chat on all your various devices? Let us know in the comments below.