Friday, April 23, 2010

Trying to switch to Empathy

I try to dogfood as much as possible. I try to use the actual applications Ubuntu ships by default for everyday things like web browsing, email and IM. I believe this is the best way for applications to get tested properly, fixed, and improved. If developers don't use the default applications because they are buggy, or don't contain necessary features, how can we expect them to be appropriate for regular users?

I've been a Pidgin user for years. It's a great, but now there's a new kid in town: Empathy, which is now the default IM client installed in Ubuntu and other distros. This week, I am attempting to switch from Pidgin to Empathy. So far so good. It's working pretty great, except for one thing: I keep missing the notifications when people send me messages.

If I already have a chat window open with someone in Empathy, and the person sends me a new message, I get notified in three ways: I get a temporary notify-osd message, the Indicator Applet envelope turns green, and the window in my window list flashes for a few seconds and stays highlighted and bold.

Most of the time, I miss the notify-osd popup, as I'm typing something, and tend to always finish before looking up at the alert. Once I do, I rarely have time to read the whole thing before it disappears. My Indicator Applet envelope is green most of the day as I almost always have unread messages in my Inbox. But as soon as I finish the task I'm doing and go to switch windows with the window list, I notice the highlighted and bold window demanding attention.

The problem I have with Empathy is there is no way to tell it to open a new chat window automatically when a new message arrives and there isn't already a chat window open. When that happens, I don't have the highlighted window in the window list demanding attention, and often discover that I missed an IM an hour later when clicking on the green envelope to read my email.

What am I doing wrong?

16 comments:

Matthew Garrett said...

Empathy provides a notification area icon that will continue flashing when there's a new message, so the real problem is that the indicator applet transition for it in Ubuntu hasn't been well thought through.

Sebastian said...

empathy is quite shitty I think. hardly any configuration options, counter-intuitive interface, no file transfers...overall it just sucks compared to pidgin. the only advantage is its neat gnome integration

Shane Par-Due said...

I too have ran into the same issue! I'm subscribing to this post's comments to see how I can work through this problem!

Alex Wauck said...

I think there needs to be a separate signaling mechanism for real-time communications. That could be a separate indicator icon or a different way to indicate real-time messages in the current one (red envelope instead of green?).

Kache said...

I always give a chance to default ubuntu apps, but Empathy give me a kernel panic. Yes, I submit the bug and someone told me it was a problem with vmware... I need vmware so I'm still using pidgin.

Plus, I'm tired using GNU's IM that always has a lack of some feature. So, now I'm be using pidgin 'till Empathy grow up.

hads said...

I've been trying to use Empathy too, but must admit I've been slipping back to Pidgin for the exact same reason - I keep missing incoming messages.

There must be something that can be done to improve this somehow.

mgarrido said...

The problem you describe is a reported bug: https://bugs.launchpad.net/hundredpapercuts/+bug/206547

This bug is the reason I'm still using pidgin.

Daeng Bo said...

Thank you for dogfooding. Too few Ubuntu devs do it. We should especially be dogfooding during alpha and beta testing.

zaman said...

I tried Empathy once when they switched from Pidgin to it in Ubuntu. Went running and screaming back to Pidgin, never to look back. Empathy I'm sure has a super great backend but it just isn't Pidgin with all of its features.

Akshat said...

You can get notify-osd in Empathy.Go to Edit>Preferences>Notifications

Ryan said...

My main problem with empathy is that it does not support metacontacts. I don't want every contact in my list to appear 3 or four times.

Guillaume said...

Like Matthew said, this behaviour is because of Ubuntu's libindicate patch.
You can get an upstream version of Empathy using the PPA of the Telepathy team.

mdeslaur said...

I don't want to use the upstream version of Empathy, as I think the notification area is evil and should die as soon as possible.

JMan said...

i believe the current default system for managing windows in envelope should be in an away/busy mode not in available mode.

Mackenzie said...

I still use Pidgin even though I'm a Kubuntu person. When I want to use the webcam, and Skype is deciding that staying connected for more than 10 seconds is too hard, I use Empathy because it is less-fail in that department than Pidgin and Kopete.

Correction: was less-fail. Pidgin apparently fulfills its claim to work with webcams in Lucid and Kopete now knows which way is up! Guess I don't need Empathy anymore...

Clint Foster said...

Same problem here. This is the second time I've tried to switch. Both times I gave it a couple of weeks, and both times I found myself constantly missing incoming messages. No combination of preferences for notifications cures the problem. Because I need to be able to respond quickly to IMs for work, I'm going to switch back to Pidgin.