Texting others (and others texting you) is great, and the built-in Messages app in OS X makes this really convenient, allowing you to text from your computer (as if you were texting from your iPhone). In some cases, though, it may make sense (and it may even be a business requirement) to use a messaging system in a slightly different way that offers greater privacy and control.
I have a client that works in the medical industry and they were looking for a good way of messaging between office workers without using a text message-base system. The reason? Because they didn’t want messages to be sent or received from outside the office and they wanted to have much greater control for HIPAA compliance purposes. The essentially needed a closed message network (similar to a CCTV video system). With the click of a button, there’s an easy solution with a lot of benefits. Here’s how it works.
First, let’s open the Messages app (which is built-in to every Mac). Next, let’s to go Messages > Preferences… from the menu bar.
Now, let’s click on the “Accounts” button and select the “Bonjour” option on the left.
Bonjour is a zero-configuration technology that Apple has used for many years. This technology is what allows us to quickly add printers, browse available network resources, and more. In this case, when we enable Bonjour in Messages, it will allow us to quickly and easily (and automatically) see who else is available to chat on our network using the Messages app.
Note: this feature would need to be enabled on all Macs in your environment.
To enable Bonjour, we simply check the box labeled "Enable Bonjour instant messaging.
With Bonjour enabled on your computer as well as others on the network, it’s time to explore. To see who else is available (as well as their status), let’s go to Window > Buddies (or press Command + 1).
This will open the “Buddies” window where we can see who else is online at the time. This list is automatically populated with others who are also using Bonjour on the same network. There’s no need to add people to your list as new computers are added to the network.
You’ll notice the status for each person to the left of their name (green is available, red is away). At the top of this window, we can set our own status (and note that you can add custom messages to your status as well).
To chat with someone else on the network, we simply double-click on their name and start chatting. From here, we can also initiate an audio or video call with another person. We do this by highlighting the name then clicking the appropriate button at the bottom of the window.
Using Bonjour with Messages can more than utilitarian… it can also be fun! I attended a conference many years ago (about the time that I discovered Bonjour). When connected to the conference network (and with Bonjour enabled), I was able to see many others who also had Bonjour enabled. I would randomly just start talking with others who were available and made some great new contacts and even friends from that.