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Group Chat Enhancements

Communications Server 2007 R2

Topic Last Modified: 2009-05-27

Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 Group Chat enables you to participate in multiparty, topic-based conversations that persist over time. With Group Chat, organizations can do the following:

  • Improve communication between geographically dispersed and cross-functional teams.
  • Broaden information awareness and participation.
  • Improve communication with your extended enterprise.
  • Reduce information overload.
  • Improve information awareness.
  • Increase dispersion of important knowledge and information.
  • Help to securely retain organizational knowledge.

New Emoticon Set

Group Chat now shares a subset of emoticons that are in Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 R2.

Group Chat Supports a Single Set of Display Preferences

Group Chat no longer supports the definition of multiple themes. Instead, users can set display preferences that apply in every situation to all chat rooms. You can customize the display by changing display preferences and applying it to Group Chat. Group Chat has default display preferences. You can reverse changes that are made to these defaults, if necessary.

Enhanced Folder Capabilities

You can organize chat rooms and contacts into a hierarchical file structure. A single folder can now hold both contacts and chat rooms, and by right-clicking on the folder you can open operations that apply to both contacts and chat rooms in the folder.

Minimizing Group Chat to the Notification Area

When closing Group Chat, you can now decide to minimize it to the notification area rather than exiting out of it. Group Chat runs in the background until you click the Group Chat icon in the notification area to resume working with Group Chat.

Image Previews

Group Chat now enables you to not only insert images into a chat session, but also to preview images that were inserted into a chat session. To preview an image in a chat session, using your mouse, pause on the image icon in the message area.

Automated Conversion of Messages to Stories

Stories are encapsulated messages that are too long to be posted in a chat room. If you enter more than 500 characters in the Message Entry Area, Group Chat automatically converts the message to a story, which you can edit before you send it to the chat room.

Coordinating Presence Information

Group Chat, when run with Microsoft Office Outlook and Office Communicator 2007 R2, coordinates presence information to produce more meaningful presence data. The Outlook calendar is used to produce a presence that more realistically reflects the availability of the user. The presence status appears next to users’ names, including yours, in several areas in the Group Chat client. You can use presence status to indicate your availability to communicate with other people. You can also use presence status to determine whether another contact is available for an instant messaging (IM) conversation.

Group Chat and other Office Communications Server clients, such as Office Communicator 2007 R2, 2007 R2 version of Microsoft Office Communicator Web Access, and the 2007 R2 version of Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile for Windows Mobile are integrated with Office Communications Server 2007 R2 so that presence status is continuously updated based on your activity, or in some cases, lack of activity. When you change your presence status in Group Chat, your presence status is immediately updated so that other users who are running Group Chat see your status change in their Group Chat client. You can manually change your presence status to communicate your availability to other Group Chat users. For example, if you will be away from your desk for several minutes, you can set your presence status to Be Right Back. The available presence status options are listed in the following table.

Presence status Description

Available

The contact is online and can participate in conversations. This status can be set manually by the user.

Busy

The contact is available, but is engaged in another activity.

Do Not Disturb

You see this status for a contact if the contact has assigned you to an access level other than the Team access level and the contact has manually set their presence status to Do Not Disturb.

Away

The contact is probably not available. This status is displayed when the contact’s computer has been idle for more than the idle time period setting. The default idle time period setting is 15 minutes.

Inactive

This contact may be available, but their computer has been idle for more than the idle time period setting. The default idle time period setting is five minutes.

Busy (Inactive)

This contact is engaged in a meeting or is scheduled to be in a meeting (as indicated in the Outlook calendar), but their computer has been inactive for the idle time period setting. The default idle time period setting is five minutes.

Blocked

This button is displayed in your Contact List next to the contact name that you have blocked. To the person whom you have blocked, you seem to be offline.

Offline

The contact is not available. This status is displayed when the contact has manually set their presence status to Appear Offline, Office Communicator and Group Chat are not running on the contact’s computer, or the contact has not signed in, or the contact has blocked you from seeing their presence status.

Presence unknown

Group Chat and Office Communicator cannot determine the status of the contact. This status is usually displayed because the contact’s presence status is stored on another computer system, such as that of an organization that is not a federated partner.

Chat Room Member Status

Each chat room has a Participant List that shows the active members of the chat room. Chat room members are considered active if they have joined the chat room and they are signed in to Group Chat. Chat room managers appear in the Participant List only if they are signed up as members of the chat room. Managers' names appear bold in the Participant List. If a person belongs to a chat room and is signed in to Group Chat, the person’s name appears in the Participant List. If the person is not signed in to Group Chat, the person’s name does not appear in the Participant List.

Managing Chat Rooms

In earlier products, a Web-based tool was required to manage chat rooms, previously known as “channels” in earlier releases. In Group Chat, all chat room management functions are built into the Group Chat client.

You can manage a chat room under these conditions:

  • You are a chat room manager.
  • You created the chat room.
  • You have Chat Room administrator permissions, which lets you manage any chat room.

If you are the manager of a chat room, the Manage menu appears on the Action menu in the Group Chat window, and the Manage this chat room button appears in the toolbar above the Participant List.

Searching Chat History

Chat history contains all messages that are posted to a chat room, whether these messages are still in the chat room display or not. Chat history is not available with IM chat and filters and is available for a chat room only if Chat History was enabled by the Chat Room manager. You can search Chat History for a specific chat room, a specific folder, or across all chat rooms that you have joined. You no longer have to access chat history through a Web interface and manual parameter entry as previous products required.

Peer-to-Peer IM File Transfer

You can now send files when you send an instant message to a contact.

Message Notification

Group Chat Users can now configure the Group Chat client to send an alert notification to the desktop. For example, when a message of high importance is posted in a chat room, an alert can be set up to appear on the user's desktop.

Filters

The process of creating and modifying filters is more streamlined in Group Chat than in previous product releases. You can create filters to monitor specific chat rooms, users, or content. You can create a completely new filter, or you can create a new filter that is based on an existing one.

Using Regular Expression Filters

Regular expressions are strings that are used to describe or match sets of strings, according to certain syntax rules. These strings can be used as search queries for filters by typing them in as you would a regular search query.

Group Chat supports Microsoft .NET Framework regular expressions. The following table describes some regular expressions syntax and behavior. For details about .NET Framework regular expressions, see Regular Expression Language Elements on MSDN at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?linkid=140644.

Broadcasting Messages to Multiple Chat Rooms

You can now send a message to multiple chat rooms and contacts at the same time in a simple and intuitive way. The old method of using reverse filters is no longer supported.

Federation and Public IM Connectivity

Individuals who are part of external entities and companies can log on and participate in Group Chat. Individuals can communicate through IM by external public IM facilities, such as Yahoo!, MSN and AOL if they have PIC licenses. All chat rooms and contacts, whether federated or not, appear together in your My Chat panel and can be grouped together in any combination. Previously, chat rooms and contacts from each federated domain were always separated under their own branch in the tree view.

Features Not Supported in Group Chat

The following features are not supported in Group Chat:

  • Structured Input Output Panels. Structured Input Output Panels (SIOPs) are embedded forms that allow the user to collect information from participants within the client. Currently, Group Chat does not support SIOPs.
  • User Colors. Users cannot set display options to define how other participants see their chat content. That is, a participant cannot define the background or foreground color in which chat content associated with the participant will appear. Also administrators cannot enable or disable participants from configuring their own user colors or configuring user colors for them based on Active Directory groups.
  • Web and Mobile Clients. Currently, Group Chat does not support a Web client that has the same rich feature set that exists on the native client. Also, Group Chat does not support a mobile client that has IM and Group Chat capability.
  • Ad hoc Chat Rooms. Group Chat does not support short-lived ad hoc chat rooms that are removed when the last member leaves the chat room.
  • Multiparty Instant Messaging. Group Chat supports IM only between two parties at a time.
  • External User and Chat Room Identification. Federated and public participants, as well as chat rooms that are from external sources, are not visually distinguishable from internal participants and chat rooms in Group Chat. However, when you enter a federated chat room, a small globe icon appears next to the chat room name.
  • E-mail Bridge. Chat data cannot be posted directly in a chat room by using an e-mail message. Similarly, chat data generated in a chat room cannot be e-mailed directly to a user.
  • Customized Branding. Currently users cannot change the appearance and behavior of Group Chat to reflect the branding associated with a particular Group Chat customer.
  • Story Size Limitations. Group Chat does not support stories of unlimited size. Group Chat stories are less than or equal to 128-kilobytes (KB).
  • Customizable Web Page per Domain. Group Chat does not allow the ability to display a Web page when the top level or domain level node is selected in the My Chat panel. Typically such a Web page would be used to direct participants to a company's internal sites.
  • Clear Chat Display. Group Chat participants cannot clear the chat display for either chat room message areas or for IM sessions, either locally or permanently.

Adding Links to Other Chat Rooms in a Message

To insert a link to a chat room into a chat room message, you must drag the chat room into the Message Entry Area. You can no longer add a link by just typing #<chat room name> in the message entry area.

Restoring Confirmation Dialog Boxes

In many instances, when a confirmation dialog box appears, a user can select an option that prevents that dialog box from being displayed in the future by selecting the "Do not show me this dialog box again" option. In Group Chat, you can now restore the displaying of confirmation dialog boxes at a later time if you want to.

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