What is Yahoo Messenger?
Yahoo Messenger (henceforth abbreviated to YM) is sort of a cross between email and a chatroom. Now, I know you may be thinking: chat is for teenagers! But before you dismiss it, you may want to give it a try. When telephones were invented, most people turned their noses up at them. They said, I can write a letter - what on earth would I need a telephone for? Yet most of us can't imagine living without one these days. Chat is to email as the telephone is to postal mail. Obviously postal mail and email have not outlived their usefulness and aren't likely to, and they're clearly preferable for some things. But sometimes there's no substitute for the immediate interaction provided by a phone call or a chat.
Yes, but what does YM DO?
YM does a number of useful things, but it's primary use is to let you send "instant messages" to the people you want to chat with.
What's an instant message?
An instant message is similar to an email message, but it appears in a little window and displays both sides of your conversation with the other person, essentially instantaneously.
How exactly do I begin a conversation?
YM contains a sort of personal directory, called a Friend List, to keep track of your friends. You decide who to add to your friend list. YM will also tell you which of your friends are online. To talk to someone in your friend list, just double-click their name and a chat window will open.
Tip: If you would like to chat with people after Winterfest is over, add the people you meet in the Winterfest chats to your friend list.
What's a Conference?
The Conference feature lets you chat with more than one person at a time. You invite who you choose (or someone else invites you). No one can drop in on your conference unless someone in the conference invites them. It's kind of like a conference call on the telephone.
I have a microphone. Can I use it to talk to my friend, with my voice I mean?
Yes, so long as both computers have a sound card (virtually all computers do these days), speakers or headphones, and a microphone. Just click the Call button in your chat window. The first time you try, it will want to run a Wizard to make sure your microphone and speakers are working properly - this is probably a good idea. Note: there's sometimes a slight delay with voice chat, but if you can put up with it, this might be a nice way to talk to faraway friends without the long distance bills. :-)
You said before that YM does other things. What other things?
-If you have a yahoo mail account, it will tell you when you get a new email message.
-If you use the yahoo calendar feature, it will remind you about your appointments.
-It can be set up to send you weather reports, news or sports updates, stock quotes, and airfares, among other things.
-It will let you send text messages to cell phones.
-It will let you save your conversations in an archive.
-It will let you sign in in invisible mode, so you can see who else is on without letting them know you're signed in. (This can be handy if you don't have time to chat with whoever shows up, but there's a certain person you need to talk to.)
-You can block people from sending messages to you. (This a safety feature, just in case you meet someone who sends nasty stuff to you.)
How hard is it to install?
Pretty easy. Just go to http://messenger.yahoo.com/. If you have Windows on your computer, click the Get it Now button. If you have a Macintosh or Unix computer, squint around for the appropriate link. Then just follow the prompts. (The screenshots above were taken with the Windows version of YM version 7.)
-In order to use it, you will need a yahoo id. (If you're on one of the yahoogroups mailing lists, you already have a yahoo id, of course.) You can get one at http://help.yahoo.com/help/us/groups/groups-48.html and then click the Register link. You will need to either give it your email address, or accept the option to create a free yahoo mail account.
-You need to have someone to talk to!
If your friends already have YM, it will be easier at first to just send them an email and tell them you've installed YM. They can send you a friend request. Friend requests look like this. Click Next.
Enter a group name if you want, then click Finish.
To initiate a friend request yourself, just click the Add a contact button on your Messenger list.
Enter the person's yahoo id and click Next. (Or, skip the next two dialog boxes by just clicking Finish.)
If you want, enter a group name to add your new friend to. Also, if you want, you can enter a message to include in your friend request. Click Next, or skip the next dialog box by just clicking Finish.
Click any of the options listed, if you like. Click Finish to close.
Usually your new friend will send a friend request back to you, which will like something like this.
This all sounds cool, but I'm nervous about installing stuff on my computer.
Installing the software isn't difficult. So far as we can tell, YM doesn't do anything evil to you or your computer, although it has been known to crash now and then. (And like other free Yahoo services, you're likely to encounter ads.) As Yahoo has updated YM over the last couple of years, it has become more reliable and stable. Ultimately, you must of course choose for yourself about installing software on your computer.
A few changes to make if it feels like Yahoo Messenger has "taken over" your computer.
Yahoo is a bit too aggressive in its default configuration of YM. Making a few adjustments will make it behave better.
In your YM friend list, go to the Messenger menu, and choose Preferences. In the General category, uncheck Show Inside Yahoo! and Automatically start LAUNCHcast. You may also wish to uncheck Automatically start Yahoo! Messenger if you don't want YM to load as soon as you start your computer. Click OK when you've finished making changes.