Another very popular group of Internet applications are instant messaging programs. In fact, just like with Internet Explorer and Outlook Express, XP sets up an IM program as part of default installation.
This program is called Windows Messenger (version 5 at the time of this writing), and it does everything an IM program is supposed to do: chat with text messages, exchange files like pictures or a Word document you're collaborating on, and even hold phone or video conversations. Additionally, you can initiate a Remote Assistance session, open a whiteboard to share ideas, or even have multiple people work in the same program. In Windows Messenger, you can have up to 14 participants in a single conversation window. (If you're not in an IM program, by the way, "chatting" is known by its more accurate and pedestrian nomen: typing.)
The Windows Messenger homepage is
But you have other IM options as well. Many Windows XP users opt for MSN Messenger, which can be downloaded from this Website:
There's also an easy link from the msn.com homepage, which just so happens to be IE's default homepage. So based on all outward appearances, Microsoft is really trying to steer you towards the MSN Messenger service. It's not uncommon for one computer to have both installed simultaneously.
MSN Messenger (version 7 by now) is targeted more toward the home user. Its core functionality is not all that different from Windows Messenger, but it adds many personalization features like additional emoticons, the ability to add a picture to your sign-in profile, and the ability to play online games. It also adds several tabs where you can get instant access to all sorts of vital info such as stock reports or Xbox news. The two versions are compared side by side in Figure 12-17.
Figure 12-17. MSN Messenger on the left; the more buttoned-up Windows Messenger on the right (I look remarkably like Bon Jovi, as it turns out).
Even though both of these programs might be installed on the same computer, you can't sign into both at the same time. You may want to take note of which will run at XP startup time and modify as desired. The next chunks explain how to make these modifications. What follows will apply no matter which of the two IM programs you choose.
A last note: In the past, you could make Windows Messenger behave much more like MSN Messenger with MSN Add Ins (Tools | Add Ins). Service Pack 2 upgrades Windows Messenger, and these Add Ins are no longer available.