I used to use Trillian, a long time ago. It consolidated all of my different communication channels. Unfortunately, Trillian stopped keeping up with the different protocols. At this point, it is out of hand. I am using the following to talk with friends, colleagues, mentees, and other folks:
- SMS Texting
Each one is a separate app, a separate sound, a separate notification. The different UIs are killing me. So I started looking for a new consolidation system. I looked at Franz (and their sister app AllInOne), but it did not support Signal. There is another tool called Pidgin which seems to be an open source tool with plugins for each service. I wasn’t filled with confidence so I decided not to try. Also, I checked out Element.io which built on the matrix platform for doing this kind of thing. I failed miserably trying to set it up. It was the worst onboarding I ever experienced. Maybe setting up that Blackberry server was worse.
I happened across something called Beeper which I wanted to try. It’s in beta, but luckily a colleague introduced me to their CEO and I was able to try it out.
Beeper is not free. It’s actually quite expensive compared to any of the competitors. It’s $10 a month. I decided to treat myself since the plethora of communication vehicles was just overwhelming. In fact, I paid $120 for the year. A gamble, but again, I was splurging on myself for quality of life.
All I can say is that it was delightful. An A+ experience. It was a snap to connect all of my services. My 1Password came in very handy in the process. The whole thing was streamlined and filled me with confidence.
I wish I took more screenshots, but you just click on your service and sign in to create the bridge.
I was a little bummed at first because the styling was awful. It was giving me a headache right away. However, once I started looking at the settings, I saw this box:
Custom CSS?! What? I could barely believe my eyes. Product developers rarely give this freedom and I think they are all making a mistake. Customization is what makes a tool go viral. Look at Winamp. It’s nothing except customization!
I first had to figure out how to see the DOM in an Electron app. The answer is Control-Shift-I. (I was delighted when it worked). My version of the above screen looked like this:
Here is a before and after of the main screen with my customizations. I don’t think it’s a miraculous change, but it’s much easier on my eyes.
There are two downsides. One is that the CSS only lasts for one session. I have to paste it in every time. I am sure that will become annoying. The second is that I can’t figure out how to import fonts. The typical web method doesn’t seem to work.
Please just make two files called custom-light.css and custom-dark.css in the application directory and let me edit it. That would work just fine and users could trade files with each other.
Beeper works on my Android phone as well as my iPad. It seems quick and hasn’t crashed yet. You can’t customize the phone and iPad experiences, but that seems less important to me at the moment. I do hate the purple fade on the messages though.
The usability on the iPad is pretty good. It is missing some preferences, but nothing I can not live without for a while. Same for the Android app. It is basically what you expect. The single platform styles are a bit more polished, but that is missing the point. It’s all in one. That is making me very happy.
To a degree, I am still getting used to it, so it is possible I get bored or sick of it. So far, so good. I think the Matrix platform will be used to create the next generation of communication systems. The price point of $10 is likely going to limit their adoption. I understand why they are doing it, but it will be interesting to see if that changes over time.
They don’t have an invite system currently, but let me know if you are interested. Again, it’s not free and it is most certainly beta software.
Oh, I almost forgot, here is my custom CSS Code:
I am updating them periodically.