Handle all of your messages in one place

Instant messaging is an increasingly competitive market and despite your best efforts to keep it simple and use a single app or platform, it’s hard to avoid keeping two or three apps around to keep in touch with different groups of people. In any given day I get hundreds of notifications from HipChat, WhatsApp, Telegram, Skype, Slack, Workspace (Facebook) and our business’ Facebook Page.

While most of these clients are mobile-first nowadays, thankfully for my sake all offer some form of desktop counterpart — either a full blown native client or a web based one — so I can reply faster and more comfortably using an actual keyboard. However that doesn’t make switching between different app windows and browser tabs throughout the day any less annoying.

If this sounds familiar, there are a handful of all in one messaging clients that can save you the trouble by keeping all your chats under one roof, and best of all they are cross-platform. The concept isn’t new — remember Trillian, anyone? — but updated for today’s mobile messaging world.

Franz

I’ll tell you right away all three options we’re covering today work similarly as they are essentially wrappers for the web versions of all the supported messaging apps. But Franz is still my favorite of the bunch. It feels polished, fast and is presented in a clean, no-frills interface.

It covers a wide range of services, among them Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack, Telegram, WeChat, Skype, HipChat, Google Hangouts, GroupMe, Steam Chat, and more. As of writing there are 34 different services in total and development is active so new ones are added regularly. The latest update introduced support for email (Gmail, Inbox by Gmail, and Outlook), Twitter’s TweetDeck client and custom HipChat servers for companies that prefer self-hosted solutions.

Moreover, Franz allows you to add each service many times, which is useful if you manage multiple business and private accounts at the same time. It’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Rambox

Rambox is an open source alternative to Franz that works pretty much the same but covers a lot more services — 74 and counting at the time of publishing this piece — and adds a few bells and whistles of its own. Each service you add is listed in its own tab in the Rambox interface, with notifications handled individually for each service and the option to mute all by enabling Do Not Disturb mode.

Like Franz, you can add each service many times, but a key feature that differentiates Rambox is the ability to add a custom service in case you are using an obscure or niche app that isn’t already listed. As long as the service is accessible via URL, which I tested by adding a tab for Chatra.

Other unique features include the ability to lock the app if you’ll be away for a period of time and setup a password for when you come back or when launching the app. If you use Rambox in different computers, you can synchronize your configuration between them, configure it to use a Proxy if your network blocks some services, and add custom behaviors via custom code injection.

Overall it’s a broader and more flexible alternative, though after using it for a few days it didn’t feel as polished as Franz, and I noticed a little lag while switching between clients. Rambox is also available for Windows, Mac, and Linux and since it’s open source you’re always free to check its inner workings.

All-In-One Messenger

If you’d rather have a solution that lives inside the browser then All-in-One Messenger will be more up your alley. It has a more limited list of supported services but not by much, and all the big ones are there. Like its desktop-based counterparts above, you can use as many accounts of the same messenger platform as you want. You can get desktop notifications with one-click reply and mute specific services if you are being distracted by one of them.

If you are a fan of hotkeys All-in-One supports a few, allowing you to quickly toggle between tabs or jump directly into one of them and reordering within the chat interface.

All-in-One is simple, stable, well designed and uses roughly the same amount of resources they would in a browser tab in Chrome. It’s available as a Chrome Web App, and while I prefer a standalone client, it still serves the purpose for keeping all your messaging clients accessible in a single place. It’s also the only of the three that will work on Chrome OS, so there’s that, too. You can download it here.

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Tech Tip Tuesday – How to Show icon in Windows notification area

How to Manage and Hide Notification Icons on the Windows Taskbar

Manage and Hide Notification Icons in Windows 10

The steps and interface to hide notification icons in the Windows taskbar are a bit different between Windows 7, Windows 8, and the upcoming Windows 10, so we’ll highlight the differences below. However, all operating systems share a common starting point, and that is to right-click on an empty space in your desktop taskbar and select Properties.

windows 10 taskbar properties

In the Taskbar and Navigation Properties window, find the section labeled “Notification Area” and click Customize.

windows 10 taskbar and start menu properties

Manage and Hide Notification Icons in Windows XP, 7 and Windows 8

In Windows 7 and 8, you’ll see a new Control Panel window appear, called Notification Area Icons. This lists all of your currently installed apps and programs that offer taskbar notification support. If you wish to show every icon all the time, check the box at the bottom of the window labeled Always show all icons and notifications on the taskbar.

windows 8 hide notification icons

For most users, however, this is overkill. Instead, make sure that box is unchecked, which will let you set individual visibility settings for each app separately. Simply browse through the list of applications, which will differ from our screenshots based upon your unique software, and use the drop-down menu to set a “behavior” for each. Options include:

Show icon and notifications: This setting will always show the notification icon in the taskbar, even if there are no active notifications to display. Note that while some apps and system icons will always show up, the notification icons for other apps, such as Skype or VLC, will only show up when those apps are open and running on your PC.

Hide icon and notifications: This will always hide the icon, even if the app has notifications to display. You’d generally only want to set this for applications that are bugging you with too many notifications, or for apps which aren’t crucial to your workflow. An example would be your graphics card settings, or a secondary file sync service.

Only show notifications: This setting will hide the icon unless the corresponding app has an active notification to show you. For example, if you configure your network icon to this setting, it will hide the icon unless you lose connectivity.

To manage or hide system icons — clock, volume, network, power (for laptops and tablets), action center, and inputs — click Turn system icons on or off, which will display a new “System Icons” window. Unlike normal app notifications, however, this window has a simple “On/Off” selection for each icon.

windows 8 system icons

In general, it’s best to configure your critical or most-used apps and system settings to always show their notification icon, ensuring that you’ll never miss an important alert. For other apps, the best setting is to show notifications only, which will keep the icons from cluttering up your desktop unless you need to be alerted to something important. Finally, only hide notifications for less important apps, as you’ll want to know if your OneDrive is encountering sync issues, if someone has invited you to a Google Hangout, or if you lose your network connection.

Manage and Hide Notification Icons in Windows 10

When you select Properties from the taskbar in Windows 10, you’re taken to a new Notifications section of the Windows 10 Settings interface. Here, click Turn system icons on or off.

windows 10 notification settings

The interface here is a bit different from that in Windows 7 and 8, but the concepts are the same. If you’d like to always show all icons, turn the designated slider at the top of the window to On. Otherwise, set it to Off and then designate a status for your individual apps.

windows 10 hide taskbar notification icons

Unlike Windows 7 and 8, however, there’s no option to hide a notification icon completely. By setting an app to “Off,” you’re configuring it the same as the “Only show notifications” option from Windows 7 and 8. That is, Windows 10 will hide the icon most of the time, but will show any notifications it produces. Conversely, setting an app to “On” means that the icon and notifications will be visible in the taskbar all the time.

The reason for this change is that Windows 10 handles all notifications through the new Notification Center, which combines traditional app notifications for desktop apps with modern app alerts, alarms and reminders, and social media updates. You can obtain more control over exactly how and when you’re alerted to all of these updates via the Notification Center Settings, which is the first window that appears when right-clicking on the taskbar and selecting “Properties.”

windows hide notification icons

In all of the above-mentioned versions of Windows, you can still access your “hidden” notification center icons by clicking on the upward-pointing arrow to left of the notification area. This will reveal a pop-up with all hidden icons, and you can also click the Customize button (in Windows 7 and 8) to jump right back to Control Panel and make further changes.

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