I’m testing the new Yahoo! Messenger version 9.0 beta and it’s quite stable. It has not crashed on me yet or gave me any serious problem.
Few things I noticed in this beta version is the ‘detailed’ listing of friends. You have an option to go back to classic ‘compact’ friends list if you don’t like this new format. The plug-in area is now cleaner and is collapsed by default. Maybe Yahoo Messenger dev team have noticed that very few liked many plug-ins opened so they decided to let the users activate the plug-ins one by one instead. This is good because casual chatters won’t bother what those extras are anyway. What’s more obvious now is the phone-out balance, placed on top to remind you on your available phone-out credit. A new group to show address contacts is visible by default but it can be disabled in ‘show/hide’ option from the menu. The small ad banner at the bottom is still there and cannot be disabled.
The skins are improved and you can easily change them depending on your mood. You just have to click the orb-like thing near the minimize button and you can access new skins — orange, green, blue, purple, pink, violet and brown. These skins are more artsy now because they sport unique vector art unique for every color. In version 8.1 you only have 3 skins to choose from so you have to download extra themes in order to get more colors but version 9.0 has 7 themes out of the box. Not entirely useful nor useless but it’s neat to have these new themes by default to suite your style.
For the message window — still no tabbed options. I don’t know how useful it is for typical users but power users have been screaming for this feature quite some time already. If 3rd-party chat client such as Trillian can have it, why not YM? Down to the core feature of the new IM window, you can now preview links to pictures and videos right in your IM window. It’s really convenient when you are showing off pix or vidz from the web to your friend. There are new emoticons for this beta release but I have not checked if there are new hidden emoticons. You may want to invite your friend to get the beta release because the current version (8.1) cannot render them yet.
YM 9.0 beta has an option to forward calls to your mobile phone, pretty much like Skype-in, and yes, you should have a ‘phone out’ credit to use this feature. Sending SMS to a friend is now well integrated in YM just like ICQ. Good news to Philippine local users because YM is now localized so it has better support to text messages. I tested it and the text messages are transmitted from mobile phone to YM chat window, and vice versa, almost instantly.
To share a few disappointments, there are things I am not happy about. If you are using picture avatars instead of the default Yahoo flash avatars, I noticed that there is a bit of distortion on your friend’s avatar in the IM window. Sometimes the dimension is correct, sometimes, it’s a bit stretched. It’s irritating to look at. Then, they removed the option to reveal/hide your avatar and your friend’s avatar separately in the IM window. Now, you only have the option to reveal or hide both avatars at the same time. But why? Why would they remove the option to hide your avatar? I’m happy to look at my friend’s avatar but viewing my avatar in the main window and the IM window is redundant already, that’s why I miss the separate hide option for each avatar. This new beta also has a bit of increased RAM usage.
Anyway, if you want to improve this new version of YM drop your feedbacks to Yahoo Messenger team. You can also report some bugs if you encounter one. So far, in the duration of my test, this beta release is very solid and stable so don’t hesitate to try it out.