Windows Messenger

You might argue that you’ll have plenty to do at your desk, what with all of the games and programs included with Windows XP (oh, yeah…and work). But if you’ve got even more time to kill, Microsoft invites you to “chat” with other people on the Internet by typing live comments into a little window. For millions of people, chat is a big deal. It offers the immediacy of a phone call, with the privacy, transcript-keeping features, and price ($0) of email.

Better yet, you don’t have to type all of your witty comments. If your PC has a micro¬phone and speakers (or a headset), you can also speak to your friends, using the Internet as a free long-distance service. It’s not quite as handy as a phone—you and your conversation partner must arrange to be online at a specified time—but the price is delightful. And adding an inexpensive Web camera means that you can actually turn your PC into a cheapo videophone, Dick Tracy–style.

The software you need is Windows Messenger (which was called MSN Messenger Service in previous versions of Windows). The quickest way to open it is by double-clicking the icon that appears in your notification area (see Figure 11-9). If you don’t see it, just choose StartAll ProgramsWindows Messenger (although you may also find the icon listed in the left-side column of your Start menu).

Left: To open Windows Messenger, double-click its icon in your notification area. (This icon’s appearance indicates whether or not you’re online and signed in.) Right: If Windows Messenger didn’t automatically sign you in when you went online, you may have to click the link to do so. (This dialog box may look different in your version of Messenger. Microsoft updates this Windows component, via the Automatic Updates feature, more often than almost any other.)

Figure 11-9. Left: To open Windows Messenger, double-click its ...

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