Much to my chagrin, I get people sending me messages through many different messaging services, including:
Skype (very occasionally)
Message (iMessages & Text Messages)
I’ve been looking for ways to make this as convenient and efficient to manage as possible. To that end, I’ve been actively researching options that allow me to access at least some of the above platforms from a single app.
Here’s what I’ve tried so far:
IM+ —This is the first one I tried. It’s been around for a while and is included with my Setapp Subscription. I didn’t end up sticking with it for very long. I’m not a fan of the UI and I found it was too CPU heavy.
Station — This is an app that strives to be “A single place for all of your web applications.” It supports a large (and growing) number of apps, including many of the messenger apps on my list and has quite a slick UI. But it has some annoying UI quirks (e.g. there’s no title bar, which makes moving the window around tedious) and some equally annoying bugs (e.g. Quit doesn’t work reliably). I’m going to keep an eye on this one, but it doesn’t quite fit the bill just yet.
Franz — This is the best option I’ve found so far. The UI is nice and clean and I haven’t seen any CPU or stability issues so far. The app is free, but there are Support Licenses available. I’ll probably become a paid subscriber if I’m still using this app a few weeks from now, mainly to support their ongoing development.
Another option is simply reducing the ways you choose to interact.
I found LinkedIn and Facebook to be useless at best and spammy at worst, found Slack in general to be a time-suck, and I don’t Skype in or have ever used Whatsapp. I don’t need to use anything besides iMessage/SMS or email, so those are the only two things I respond to or use (aside from initiating the occasional Twitter DM). ‘Get people sending you messages’ sounds like it’s not required for work, so I’d just reply in any non-essential messaging platforms with a list of ways to be effectively contacted going forward, and then only use that.
That’s how I switched emails years ago - I kept the old address, but sent out emails prefaced with ‘Hi, this address is deprecated, please use firstname.lastname@example.org’ Everyone got the memo, literally, and any stragglers who lazily or stubbornly continued to use the old email would find replies from me took a lot longer, with an attached, “Sorry, I don’t check this email any more, it’s about to be deleted. Glad I saw your post, please use email@example.com in the future.” Took a few weeks to migrate everyone to my new email (even though I kept the old one for several months more).
Thanks for your response, @bowline. You make some great points.
While I encourage people to contact me through specific channels, I’ll inevitably receive some important messages through other platforms.
For example, someone I met at a conference might initially contact me through LinkedIn. If I want to continue the conversion with this person I’ll typically provide them with my email address and/or suggest that we have a phone or Zoom chat. I could ignore LinkedIn messages, but then I might miss out on some great opportunities.
I’m also part of a community that, for better or worst, communicates through Whatsapp. Refusing to use Whatsapp would mean not being in the loop on discussions, which is not a viable option (I’m one of the teachers in this group, so I need to know what’s going on).
Being able to access multiple services in one app (currently Franz) definitely helps.
Same here. Also: due to legal (and/or NDA) reasons, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and so on are no-go. That’s why we are using Skype for Business (not “Skype”, formerly Lync), which runs on our own server, for inter-company messaging. No outside servers, no “cloud”.
I don’t mind using multiple services so I have no useful suggestions there, but I’ll add a word of caution about aggregators: I would avoid using any such service that isn’t 100% local to my device. There is absolutely no way I’d use one that is a cloud service in such a way that it would require my authentication credentials to interact with the various chat services on my behalf.
(I have no idea if that’s what any of them do, it was just the first thing that came to mind).
These apps are essentially web browsers that have been customized for specific web services. I checked out the Privacy Statement for Franz (the one that I’m currently using) and didn’t see anything that was cause for concern.
Thanks for your comment…though I’m not sure I follow. In the case of Franz (and the other apps I mentioned), authentication takes place in the web browser, such as it would if I were using an app like Safari or Chrome. Am I missing something?
in the case of a single install that might be the case (though error reporting will send stored data)
But in the case of synced accounts I read that credentials (although encrypted (?)) are stored on their server.
Franz looks like it’s doing the “right” thing. I mentioned what I did because I think that it’s important to verify this for whichever aggregation service/application that might be chosen.
There’s one other thing to consider and it’s a subtle but important one: Using Slack as an example, when I install their app and enter into it my Slack credentials, I form a trust relationship directly with Slack. Since Slack runs their own service, and presumably has full access to my accout I incur no additional risk by using their service directly.
With an aggregator, there is an extra entity that sits between Slack and myself, either another service or (as is apparently with the case Franz) an application. In this case I also have to form a trust relationship with the providers of the aggregator, which means that I have to trust them to not mishandle or misuse my Slack credentials.
My original post was to say that if the aggregator is a hosted service rather than an app, I would not use it because then my credentials would necessarily be stored elsewhere.
This (long-winded) post is to point out that even in the case of a local app, you still have (at least a little) extra risk in that you have to trust the app developer with information that may be of value to them but that they would not otherwise have. For most people that’s probably an acceptable risk if the app developer is reputable.
You make some great points. I wouldn’t even consider using Franz if they stored any of my credentials or stored/cached any of my data. Even if they’re a reputable company there’s always the risk of a data breach.
I also agree that there’s at least a little risk using an app that’s an aggregator and that it’s important that the developer be trustworthy.
I’m planning to continue to use Franz for the foreseeable future with some of my services. It’s been working well for me so far and, based on the research I’ve done, I’m confident that the developer is reputable.
I’m not going to use Franz for all of the above-mentioned services. For example, in the case of Slack, I prefer to use the dedicated Slack app (even though it’s essentially a web browser).
Wire looks interesting…though I’m not sure I want to add yet another service. And it typically wouldn’t work to go a week without checking secondary channels.
Franz is proving to be a good compromise. I’m currently using it to access five services (LinkedIn, Messenger, Skype, Twitter, and Whatsapp). Some of these are very low volume, but I still like to respond within a day or two when messages do show up.