Fishbowl is a trial application built using Facebook’s public API and developed by uxlabs@Microsoft. “It’s a ‘lab showcase application’ which means that it’s available for download by technology enthusiasts and Facebook power users but it’s not a ‘real’ supported product.” If you’re an avid Facebook user like me I’m sure after reading this, you’ll be ready to give Fishbowl a try. Not only does it duplicate most of Facebook’s key features, but for some features it does it even better.
The timeline is the first thing you see when you login and is updated in real-time. You’ll notice that some users have a green circle next to their name, this means that the person is currently online. You can “like” and “comment” on items just like on Facebook. If an item has comments on it, they will show (expanded as opposed to hidden) in the timeline. Just like on Facebook, you have your various feeds listed on the left side that you can view one at a time. You can also make the timeline bigger or smaller by zooming in or out. There is a “plus” and “minus” sign in the top right corner of the timeline that allows you to do this. I tried zooming out all the way and it really gets huge; zooming in all the way makes it very small and illegible.
At the top of the application your latest status update will show and a box underneath to post new updates. To the top right of the application there is a search bar, manual refresh button (even though the timeline does auto update), and a button to switch to mini-mode. There are also 5 menu buttons: home, friends, profile, photos, Facebook (this will take you to the actual site). At the bottom right of the application you’ll find the settings button, logout button, notifications indicator and who’s online indicator. Clicking on “notifications” will display your notifications in Facebook fashion. Clicking on “who’s online” will show you who’s currently online. Clicking on a user’s name will take you to their wall (as explained below). If you want to chat, there’s a little chat button displayed at the bottom of the who’s online column. Clicking this will cause the Fishbowl chat to popup in its own window. As you can see below, it has pretty much the same options and setup as on Facebook.
There are three “visual styles” to choose from (in the settings): blue, dark, and Facebook. Speaking of settings, there’s not really much to customize in this area. Besides the visual style, you can choose whether or not to: disable automatic updates, open web content in external browser, and keep the mini-mode window on top of all others.
Clicking on a user’s picture or name in the timeline will take you to their wall. There’s a mini menu on the bottom left that will also let you choose to view their info and photos. What’s kind of neat is that under their profile picture you’ll see an “interest level” that can be customized to suite your preference; it’s currently displayed in the middle by default. You can move this level either up or down. Moving it down will basically mute that person from your timeline, while moving it up will show more of them in your timeline. If you have the option to open web content in an external browser disabled, external links will be displayed using Fishbowl’s internal browser. It will display as a pop-up covering your current view of the application. It’s a very simple window; there’s no address bar, just three buttons – refresh, pop out, close.
Mini-Mode is great because it turns the application into a 280×180 pixels window and automatically updates with the timeline. You will only be able to see one item/user at time. There are arrows on the bottom which allow you to scroll through the last 100 items in your timeline. There’s also a button that will take you to Facebook when clicked, and another button that displays how many notifications you have. Clicking on this will display your notifications below the mini-mode window. (In case you’re wondering, yes that is a dog in the screenshot – this is my desktop background!)
Doing this is through Fishbowl is actually easier than through Facebook. Once you click on the “photos” menu button, you’re brought to the photo albums of all your friends. You can sort them by owner name or by interest level (that’s if you have customized any of your friends’ levels). At the bottom there’s a button to add more photos. You’ll then get a pop up that will prompt you to “drag your photos here or into the application at any time”. Alternately, you can browse for images as well wouldn’t you agree that dragging is so much easier? Once you drag a photo in, you’ll be able to choose an album to add it to along with a location and description.
- OS: Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (32-bit), Windows Vista (32-bit or 64-bit), Windows 7 (32-bit or 64-bit), Windows Server 2008.
- Processor: 800 MHz or higher for Windows XP, 1 GHz or higher for Windows Vista and Windows 7.
- Memory: 512 MB for Windows XP, 1 GB for Windows Vista and Windows 7.
- System: .Net Framework 3.5 SP1 or later.
- Graphics/Video Card: Must support DirectX 9.0 or higher and Shader Model 2.0 or higher.
Hands down I feel that Fishbowl is a very solid Facebook client and would have lots of potential if it was going to be regularly updated. I wish that it was going to be supported because it’s something I can see myself using on a regular basis. I’ve tried a few other desktop clients for Facebook and none of them impressed me the way Fishbowl has. For all of you regular Facebook users out there, will you be giving Fishbowl a try?