Now that Apple has released the Messages for OS X beta software, it’s possible to be able to send and receive iMessages on my computers alongside all the iOS devices in our house. It makes it very convenient to be able to continue conversations while moving from device to device, but it also creates a situation where a chorus of alerts come from all corners of the house.
I’ve come up with an easy, simple plan for Apple to remedy this. It goes back to something that’s existed since the early days of instant messaging programs: the status. If you’re from the instant messaging generation, you know what I’m talking about. The IM status was the original Twitter; a place to let your friends know what you’re currently doing or post a short funny joke. This plan could give it an important encore.
If Messages is running on my Mac, and my status is Available, any iMessage I receive should only alert me on my Mac. The messages should still go to my other iOS device(s), but without an alert.
If Messages is not running on my Mac, then everything should function on my iOS devices as it does currently.
The glory of the system shows itself when Messages on my Mac is set to away. The messages continue to go to the Mac, but the alerts are turned back on for all my iOS devices. This all seems pretty elementary, but once you couple this setup with the ‘Set my status to Away after the computer is inactive’ setting in the Messages preferences, you’ve basically covered any situation where you walk away from the computer. If your phone rings or you need to run to the store, you pick up your iPhone and leave and a few minutes later, your computer sets Messages to away. Apple’s iMessages server is notified [I'm sure Apple would ask for permission to receive your Available/Away/Offline status], and your alerts automatically kick back on, where you can hear them in your car or out walking the dog.
That would narrow the off-the-grid grace period down to whatever the arbitrary inactive time is for OS X. I don’t know if this interval is tied to the screen saver, some other setting, or the whims of the OS, but it wouldn’t be hard to create an explicit setting for it if necessary. Regardless, it seems significantly better to me than what we’ve got with the beta version of the software, and it seems much easier to implement than any high tech bluetooth proximity systems or other overly complicated solution I’ve been able to dream up since it came out.