AOL's Instant Messenger is going away. Here are some alternatives

Wednesday , October 11, 2017 - 5:00 AM

AP

In this Jan. 12, 2010, file photo, an AOL logo is seen in the company's office in Hamburg, Germany. AOL announced on Oct. 6, 2017, that it will discontinue its once-popular Instant Messenger platform on Dec. 15. (AP Photo/Axel Heimken, File)

LESLIE MEREDITH, special to the Standard-Examiner

AOL Instant Messenger will be no more come Dec. 15. AIM was the first chat app of its kind and launched in 1997. In the past 20 years, it was replaced by one messaging app after another, including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and last but certainly not least, SMS or phone-based generic texting.

“We know there are so many loyal fans who have used AIM for decades; and we loved working and building the first chat app of its kind since 1997,” AOL wrote on the AIM help page. “Our focus will always be on providing the kind of innovative experiences consumers want. We’re more excited than ever to focus on building the next generation of iconic brands and life-changing products.” However, AOL also said it has no plans for a replacement.

If you are an AIM user, there are several things you should know. AIM will continue to work until the morning of Dec. 15, but after that, you will no longer be able to access or sign in to AIM services on any platform. While you will be able to use your @aim.com email address to send and receive email, all data from your chats will be deleted. With that in mind, you may want to save chat records, images and other files that were sent and received during your AIM sessions.

To save your chat history, you must have the option to save your logs to your computer on. This is a default setting, but if you disabled it or “went off the record” with a buddy, those sessions are lost. To access your chat logs after AIM is removed, you can click in the search box in the bottom corner of your PC screen, next to the Start button, and type in “AIM Logs.” In search results, open the logs folder to see a list of screen names associated with your Buddy List, and then double-click to view the conversations within. The process is the same for Mac users, except you’ll find the search icon in the upper right corner of your screen. There is no way to save or export your Buddy List, so the best you can do is take a screenshot.

Saving files is strictly a manual process. Scroll through your chat logs and right-click to download and save to your computer.

AIM never really made the transition to mobile, but it remained useful to desktop users. If you are looking for a desktop alternative, there are several, and what you choose will be based on your activities. I cannot stand to be interrupted by pop-up texts while I’m working, but I have plenty of teammates who feel differently.

The app of choice in the company is Slack, which allows teams to easily set up groups and message individuals in and out of the group. (Be careful with that one—it’s easy to send a comment meant for an individual to the entire group.) Slack can be used for any group that needs a quick way to communicate—business or personal. You can also use it to set reminders to yourself: “Remind me to call my mother in 30 minutes” and Slack is smart enough to do it at the correct time. And one of its best features is the freedom to edit any of your messages after they’ve been sent.

If having a messaging app open on your desktop all the time isn’t for you, there is a less intrusive alternative. Did you know that there’s a chat app built into Google Drive? It has been a lifesaver for me when proofing layouts with designers on the West Coast and training new employees in Europe. If you collaborate inside Google Drive — docs, spreadsheets and presentations — you should try it. On any shared file, look in the upper right corner for the chat icon, which appears only when two or more people are viewing the document. Your conversations are not saved once you close the window. If your collaborator is not in the document, use the Comments button to leave messages.

Leslie Meredith writes about personal technology. She has designed and manages several international websites and now runs the marketing for a global events company. Email: asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.