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IP.Chat 1.4 Development Update

IP.Chat is our AJAX-powered chatting software application, available as an addon for IP.Board. IP.Chat takes a "less is more" approach and focuses on providing a simple but powerful interface for your users to chat, real-time, on your forums. We have spent some time enhancing the functionality available in IP.Chat to make it more useful and more flexible for you and your users, and we wanted to take a moment to let you know what changes you can expect to see with the release of IP.Chat 1.4.0.

All bugs flagged for correction in a future version have been resolved

Often times we have items reported to the bug tracker that can be considered both a bug and a feature suggestion, or could be considered either a bug or a feature suggestion, depending upon your viewpoint. A lot of the time when we feel the report has merit, or is close enough to a bug that one might reasonably consider it to be a bug, we will flag the report for correction in a future version. We have taken the time to work through all open reports for IP.Chat that were flagged for correction in a future version to ensure we launch IP.Chat 1.4.0 on a clean slate. There weren't many to begin with, but as of the time of this blog entry there are exactly 0 open bug reports for IP.Chat as a result.

Ban confirmation

It was brought to our attention that when you clicked to 'ban' a user within the IP.Chat interface that no confirmation was requested from the moderator. This meant that if a moderator accidentally clicked the 'ban' option instead of another option, the user would be banned from chat until a super moderator went into the ModCP to remove the ban (or until an admin did so from the AdminCP). We have added a quick confirmation to ensure that when you click the 'ban' link that this wasn't an accident before proceeding. While this is surely a small detail, it can save you (and your users) time and hassle when a simple mistake is made.

Redesigned Interface

We have made some small interface improvements based on customer feedback that we feel will both make chat a little more attractive, and a little easier to follow when you have several users actively chatting with new messages popping up onto the screen quickly.

The interface changes have largely been confined to the chat area itself; in other words, the changes we are talking about here are primarily focused on the list of chats.

Firstly, as you'll notice, profile pictures are shown for the users who are chatting. This visual indicator can help you to more easily identify who said what, especially when compared to the names previously shown in the left hand column that could scroll quickly past. In moving the profile picture to the left, we have moved the user name over above the chat message, allowing us to stop truncating the username due to the possibility it could be longer than the space available to show it.

If you take a look at the last message you will notice one other small but useful improvement - successive chats from a single user will now be grouped together. This not only saves space, but helps to create a more conversational approach to the IP.Chat interface, making it easier to read and follow the discussion.

Mobile Support

Not only did we redesign the primary interface, we have added a mobile interface for IP.Chat. Whether you can use IP.Chat on your mobile device will of course depend upon the device's support of the technologies IP.Chat utilizes, however for more advanced smart phones you can now utilize IP.Chat on the go in a native mobile skin.

To allow IP.Chat to better function within a mobile interface, we have made some small tweaks to the functionality when utilizing the mobile skin. First and foremost, there is no embedded scrolling div (this is the area of IP.Chat that scrolls within the page on the full skin). Many mobile devices use touch screens and scrollable divs are not always supported (and when they are supported, users do not necessarily know how to actually scroll within these areas of the page). As such, all chats are pushed directly on to the screen. Because of this, we have also hardcoded the limit to the number of chats on the mobile skin to 50 to ensure the screen does not get too large.

In this screenshot I have scrolled the screen down so that you can also see the list of users, which is shown below the chat messages themselves. The user links have been simplified and pulled out of a menu, but otherwise all of the same functionality is still available.

The area to post a new chat is fixed to the bottom of the screen so that it is always quickly available for the user. As your user scrolls the screen up or down, the text input box and post button will always be shown right at the bottom of the screen.

The best part - private chats are still supported!

When you start a private chat, or a private chat is started with you, tabs will be created at the top of the window to allow you to switch between the main chat room and your private chats.

We are excited about the mobile support for IP.Chat and hope your community makes good use of it!

Full guest support

Last, but not least, we have updated IP.Chat to allow multiple guests to join chat (if your permissions allow it). Guests will be shown as "Guest_####" (where #### is a random number) and will now be able to join the chat room and participate in the conversation. These chat room guests will be shown in the "Who's Chatting" block on the board index, and can make use of all features of IP.Chat. You can even ignore private chats from individual guests, and you can kick individual guests from the chat room.

Moving forward

As you can see, we have made some important improvements to IP.Chat that we feel will allow you to make better use of your software package. These changes improve upon the consistency of the software, ensuring it functions exactly as you would expect within the IP.Board framework, but still allowing it to stand out as an excellent choice for real-time conversations on your site. We have many great suggestions for future versions of IP.Chat, so if you would like to add your support to a particular suggestion, or submit your own, head on over to our IP.Chat feedback forum. Otherwise, we'd love to hear your comments regarding IP.Chat 1.4.0 below.

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