Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Weekly Chatter For August 11, 2014

End-User Click Candy

What is most fun about software development is introducing features into an application that you already know end-users will love. With such a well-seasoned, mature software application as ParaChat, these moments have been enumerable across the span of its existence. As the ParaChat chat client user interface has evolved into what it is today, it has obviously been refined and reorganized many times over. With literally hundreds of end-user features and functions to choose from, users are truly able to configure a ParaChat experience that suits their own needs and style. ParaChat uses a variety of ease-of-access methods so functionality is readily available to users. These include drop-down menus along the top of the main chat window, right-click menus within each of the chat window, user list and room list areas, and a toolbar above the chat text input field. Features have been meticulously placed into an intuitive layout with a focus on quick accessibility to the primary features.

Directly above the chat text input field is the toolbar, which is how each user can configure how they appear to other users. The toolbar has single-click access to popular font style and font color settings that a user can select to represent and differentiate themselves from other users, along with emoticon, sounds, status, voice/video chat settings, and the log on/off button. The elaborate font color palette allows users to modify their own text color using swatches, HSV, HSL, RGB and CMYK. The emoticon library and sound library are available using single-click selection or through keyboard shortcuts mapped to specific emoticon image files. Users have the option of setting a status that displays next to their user name in the user list either from preset selections, or by inputting a new status message themselves. The voice/video chat option provides single-click access to initiating voice/video chat broadcast. Options contained within each toolbar feature are fully customizable, and any unwanted toolbar button can be easily removed by the service licensee.

Along the top of the main chat window are the Action, Options and Help drop-down menus. The Action menu is handy for choosing to view Recent Room History, which is a chat message history that transpired before the user arrived in the live chat room. The Action menu also contains other key features like the avatar library selection, auto-reconnect option, clear text option, and the ability for admin users, moderators and speakers to re-launch the chat room's Admin Console and Moderator's Console. Apart from the toolbar, which controls how a user wants to be seen by others, the Options menu houses the core configuration options that control how an end-user wants to see the chat window during their own chat sessions. Settings under the Options menu are cookied by the user's browser so they are remembered for subsequent chat sessions. The Options menu is partitioned into 5 sub-menus -- Format Messages, Format Window, Message Filters, Notifications, and Sounds. The most frequently used features under the Options menu are those found under Message Filters, where users may choose to block private chat messages, to view messages only from certain users, and to filter out system messages like joined/left messages and room roaming notifications that may clutter the chat window, and speed up the scrolling of messages off-screen. The Help menu is fairly self-explanatory, but it includes quick access to our User Guide, some plug-in information about a user's computer that may come in handy for a support inquiry, and a Troubleshooting utility that allow a user to test their connectivity to the chat server using ping and traceroute.

Finally, the right-click menu functions throughout the user interface contain some extremely helpful features. Within the chat window, the right-click menu can be used to copy highlighted text to the computer clipboard. The largest right-click menu is within the User List area, where a user may right-click (or double-click) another user's name to open a private one-to-one chat session, and to ignore a user's messages so they don't display in the chat window. If a user happens to log into a ParaChat room with multiple user names from the same IP address, an end-user may also choose to ignore another user by IP address. When a user right-clicks (or double-clicks) a room within the chat room's Room List, they are able to join the selected room. With so many features to explore, don't forget to actually chat with other users!


Internet Explorer Will Block Old Java Plug-ins

Microsoft will issue their monthly Patch Tuesday updates this week. In a blog post on the MSDN.com web site, Microsoft explains that they will begin blocking out-of-date ActiveX controls. This new feature, which Microsoft is calling out-of-date ActiveX control blocking, will be introduced on August 12. Under closer scrutiny, however, the blocking of out-of-date ActiveX controls appears to center around the Java plug-in in particular. The post cites an intelligence report about Java exploits from 2013 as a basis for introducing the feature. Using the notification bar at the base of Internet Explorer, the browser will warn a user if an out-of-date plug-in has been detected. The notification will allow a user to either update the plug-in at that time, or to override the warning on that occasion to permit the plug-in to execute.

Important to note is that, although Java appears to be the immediate target of out-of-date blocking, Microsoft will be adding other plug-ins to the list. The blocking of out-of-date ActiveX controls will be turned off in the Local Internet Zone and Trusted Sites Zone. Many ParaChat users may already be accustomed to such features that already exist in other web browsers and platforms, so the impact of this change will likely be minimal. At the heart of the change is Microsoft's effort to help users stay safe online, which is something we can all understand and appreciate. More information...


ParaChat Feature In Focus: Chat Room Admin Console

Control and configure your ParaChat rooms on-the-fly using the room-based Admin Console, a tabbed graphic user interface. Admin users are conveniently prompted to load the Admin Console when they first log into a ParaChat room. The Admin Console is used by admin users to execute key commands and functions vital to maintaining a pleasing, orderly and productive chat environment. Unlike other chat services, access to this feature is included at no cost with our free ParaChat BasicPlus service, and included in the software license fee of our paid services. No additional fee is required! More information...

Thanks for chatting, and we'll see you again next week!

The ParaChat Team


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