Facebook is all over the place, and unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, you’ve probably heard more than a few stories about what it can do. Facebook is undoubtedly the biggest and most significant method for people to reconnect and keep updated on what their friends and family are up to. In a sense, Facebook has redefined how we communicate.
So, how do you make the most of your experience with Facebook? For the most part, the site is accessible through pretty much any browser, though there are a few tricks in Windows to make the experience just a little easier.
Pin Facebook to the Task Bar
Did you know that you can pin Facebook to the task bar for immediate access to the site with a single click? Further to that, by doing this on Interenet Explorer, you will see an alert indicator on the icon that lets you know when a new message or request is sent.
All you need to do is navigate to Facebook on Internet Explorer, log in, and click+drag the icon next to the URL down to the task bar. You should see the Facebook logo appear as an icon in your task bar. That’s all you need to do. Facebook will open in its own window, free of navigation buttons and URL bar, allowing you to experience Facebook whenever you need without the hassle of having to open a browser and find the bookmark.
Sobees is a new Windows desktop client built on .NET that that lets you manage your Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn accounts from a single client. What I like about Sobees is that you can filter out links and other specific update categories, allowing you to see the kind of updates you want to at a given time. The interface looks a bit like the official Twitter app for Mac OS X and Sparrow (also Mac OS X). I’m a fan of this interface, and was pleasantly surprised to see something like this on Windows.
Sobees is a little confusing at first, placing a home button under the update button, which can’t be toggled off (not that you would want to). Once you get the hang of it, it’s a very quick and easy way to access and manage your social accounts, keeping you updated with your Facebook friends and allowing you to post without opening a browser.
I’ve often said to anyone that asks, you should never trust a program owned by one company to provide a rich experience with its competition. TweetDeck is about Twitter, and while Facebook can be updated through it, I’m leery of trusting my experience to it.
TweetDeck has done an excellent job of keeping up with my needs as a user in the past. It has a smooth and customizable interface with columns representing a number of different areas you may want to keep tabs on that works very well on a widescreen monitor.
TweetDeck is built on Adobe Air, which may or may not be a deal breaker for you. For the most part, it runs very smoothly and uses minimal system resources.
Note: There are two versions of TweetDeck floating out there. Commonly referred to as the “yellow” version, the older TweetDeck still works with Facebook. The new TweetDeck, called “blue”, has a Facebook feature, but it is currently broken. That’s no surprise considering that TweetDeck was purchased by Twitter between those two updates. While the first version runs from Adobe Air, the one that has iffy support for Facebook is built to run through a browser.
Messenger for Windows
Facebook has launched its own Windows client with Messenger for Windows. This client simply mimics the sidebar found on the full site, allowing you to message friends and keep up with any alerts that might be coming your way. It also features three of the latest status updates from your friends at the top, so you won’t miss anything by not being present on the full site.
The client itself is very lightweight, using minimal system resources.
What I like most about this solution is the tabbed chats that are created when you message your contacts. It’s neat and clean. I like it.
The downside is that it isn’t really a full solution. You still have to use your browser to do many things. You can confirm friends, check notifications, and send/receive messages. Beyond that, it sends you to your browser.
Windows Live Messenger
Windows Live Messenger has its own built-in Facebook support. You can link your Facebook account and chat away with your friends without even logging in to a browser. As far as native Windows support goes, this is perhaps the closest thing to it, beyond the Internet Explorer pinned taskbar icon.
What About Gadgets?
Microsoft has stopped accepting new gadgets pending the release of Windows 8, which will feature an entirely new interface for gadget-like functionality. The Metro interface has social written all over it, but for now you’re stuck with existing gadgets.
I tried myFacebook, a popular gadget for Facebook users. Unfortunately, I kept receiving error messages when attempting to link Facebook to the gadget. This may be due to Facebook having changed how third-party applications interact with the service.
Facebook is a brilliant way to keep in touch with friends, family, coworkers, and even complete strangers. While it may have endured a lot of bad press in recent years, the fact of the matter is that no social network has maintained a user base that even comes close to Facebook’s nearly 1 billion users. Being able to link into this powerful social tool without relying on a browser can offer a boost in productivity in an environment that is best suited to fit your needs.
During testing, I tried another option called Fosimo, which has an interesting array of features. Unfortunately, when I installed it, the only feature that actually worked was chat. Every other option I attempted to bring up (aside from the settings menu) did absolutely nothing for me. Perhaps there’s a toggle I didn’t switch on, but I can’t review what I can’t use.
What about you? Are there any third-party Windows platforms on which you experience Facebook? What are they, and how to do they work for you?