Internet Chat

ICQ – An Instant Messenger on Steroids

ICQ is sort of an acronym for “I Seek You”. Like the Instant Messenger programs discussed, it uses a contact list and alerts you when your contacts are online. Also like the other programs, the first time you launch it you will be prompted to register a name on the network. It does not have to be unique though, as in addition to your nickname you will be assigned a unique UIN (Universal Internet Number). You will be prompted to enter information in your user profile (which you can change at any time), you do not need to fill out all the fields and only need supply the info you want other users to see. You can download ICQ at http://www.mirabilis.com

While it is easy and user friendly, this program will take some getting used to. You may find it a bit weird and intimidating at first, with all the options and settings. Don’t worry, it will operate just fine with the default settings until you learn what options are available. There are, however, decent instructions and FAQ pages at the above site. Another thing I should mention is that this program is almost always in beta (a version that is still being tested), and there may be a few “bugs”. Don’t let that stop you from getting it though, it is a lot of fun and won’t likely cause any problems on your system. It can be uninstalled from Add/Remove Programs or from the program group on the start menu and will not leave too much of a mess behind.

How do I start ICQ?

If you selected the option during installation, ICQ will load its Net Detect Agent at startup. As soon as you connect to the Internet, ICQ will launch and connect to the server. If you are like me and do not allow programs to load components at startup, you can launch ICQ from the start menu. If you change your mind, you can change the setting and have ICQ load the Net Detect Agent at startup. When ICQ is open and minimized, it resides in the system tray area. Double-click the green flower icon to bring up the program and hover your mouse over the ICQ button to see a silly little animation. Click the button to see the menu. Move the mouse to Preferences and Security and choose Preferences. Click the Connection tab and you will see the checkbox to load ICQ at startup. Take a look around at the menus on the tabs, there are a lot of settings! This isn’t all the settings either. There are more settings under Security and Privacy. If you lose track of which settings you have changed, don’t panic, there is a button on every options dialogue to restore all default ICQ settings.

Add Users to your Contact List

To add users to your contact list, simply click the Add Users button and you will be presented with a dialogue to search for the user you wish to add. If you know their UIN number, it will be instantaneous. If you do not know their UIN there is still a good chance that you will find them by entering other info in the fields. For example, you can try searching for the nick name that you know they use. If it is too common, this might not find them as it will only display 40 matches. If you can add more info like their real name or e-mail address you can track them down. Once you have found them, you must send a request to add them to your contact list. Double-click on their name in the list in the search results to send the request. Depending on how they are configured, they may have to authorize your request, in which case they will receive the request next time they are online and can accept it. You will be notified. By default, ICQ will accept authorization requests automatically. I recommend that you change that setting so that you must authorize requests, to maintain privacy and avoid users that may potentially pester the living daylights out of you. To change that setting, click the ICQ button and move the mouse to Preferences and Security and choose Security and Privacy. On the Security tab, you will see the radio button setting My Authorization is Required. While you are in there, click the Ignore List tab and you will see more settings. If privacy is desired you can choose the setting Accept messages only from users on my contact list and Do not accept multi-recipient messages from (drop down list). This will eliminate the spam and chain messages that you might receive. Other interesting settings in here are the Invisible List and Visible List. These allow you to specify which users in your contact list can see you when you are in visible mode and invisible mode.

What can I do with ICQ?

Once you have users in your contact list, left-click on one of them to see the available options. If they are online they will be in the online list, and if offline they will be in that list. ICQ notifies you with a “knock knock” sound when your contacts are online. If they are offline, you can send messages that they will receive as soon as they are online. If they are online you can establish a direct chat, send files, play games, voice chat, view their user info, ignore, delete, launch a white board session (sort of like MSPaint) and more. You can even send email through the ICQ program, it really is quite a versatile communications program. What if you are already chatting with someone and another friend in your list comes online? You can position your chat window such that you can click on them in the ICQ contact list and simply drag them over top of the chat window and release the mouse button. That will initiate a session with them and bring them into the chat! If someone you have dragged into the chat has become a nuisance, you can kick them out. When this is initiated (from the menu in the chat window itself) the rest of the users in the chat session must all vote to kick the individual. It’s fun, and you’ll want to try it with one of your friends that agrees to it just for a laugh (though it’s mean to gang up on and kick people that don’t deserve it…it will hurt their feelings more than they would ever let on). What if you want to go back and read a message that you got a few weeks ago? Well fortunately, ICQ keeps a message archive all in a centralized location. Click the ICQ button and choose message archive from the menu. You’ll find an expanding tree structure for different categories of messages that you have sent and received. Expand the tree by clicking + signs and then double-click each entry to view the messages. Also, in addition to all the built in features, there are a myriad of plugins you can download for ICQ. Visit http://www.icq.com/plugins to see what is available. There are also third-party plugins available from other sites. Other miscellaneous features are various reminders and to-do lists that you can configure.

Change your User Profile Details

You can edit your user profile at any time. Click the ICQ button and move the mouse to Add/Change Current User and choose View/Change My Details. Click the various tabs to see all the different types of info you can provide. You might want to include some of your interests and hobbies so that others with the same interests can contact you. Then again, you may not want to have others contacting you with requests to add to contact lists, it is up to you how you want to configure ICQ. On the Main tab, it’s a good idea to provide your real e-mail address and check the box Don’t publish my email address, use it only for password retrieval in case you ever forget your ICQ password. Another interesting tab in your user profile is the Picture tab, where you can select a JPG or BMP picture that is on your hard drive for sending to others that request a photo. You can configure it to autosend to users that request it, or not: You can set it to display dialogue, autosend to only users on your list or simply automatically decline.

So far, all of the Internet Chat methods we’ve discussed involve downloading and installing client software. What if all you want to do is chat and you don’t want to download software? The next section deals with Java Chat on the Web.

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