There was a time when instant messaging was simple and straightforward. As the dotcom bubble was bursting, workers in offices needed only to fire up ICQ, pick a name from a list and ask someone in the office next door if they knew who was being laid off next. The software’s double-bong when a message came in was as much part of the late nineties as a message saying “You’ve got mail.”
Today’s team communication software is much more complex. Gone is the double-bong (and the fear of a message from HR calling you in for a chat.) In is a range of features and APIs that turn simple messaging into a complete hub for virtual management, complete with project assignment and monitoring.
HipChat doesn’t quite go that far, though Confluence, another product from its manufacturer, Altassian, does. It’s not Slack either, though it is a cost-effective alternative to it. Instead, HipChat focuses solely on the swapping of messages. Like WhatsApp, it creates space for groups to discuss topics in private rooms.
The Twitter-like use of @[name] calls other users into a discussion, and a good range of emojis and even animated gifs means that you’ll never have to wear your fingers out typing a long answer that says, “OK.” Users can share files as easily as drag-and-drop from desktops, email and cloud services. They can customize the platform’s look and feel, and even add guests in a secure environment. That allows groups to expand to non-employees, allowing clients and buyers, for example, to be a part of internal project discussions.
Move outside the free version and they can also use the system to run a group video chat and share a screen with up to twenty people, making long-distance presentations very straightforward. The program also works across different platforms so users can continue conversations that start in the office on their mobile phones, their tablets and in their browsers while they’re surfing at home.
Some users have found the online indicator to be less than reliable and some of the usability is less than optimal but HipChat promises to solve a single problem. It does it very well and at a good price.
HipChat is a reliable and cost-effective option for scattered teams and intra-office communications.
|Usability: 7 /10||Speed: 9 /10||Features: 6 /10||Support: 7 /10||Pricing: 9 /10|