AOL on Friday released the second beta of AIM 6, adding a number of major features that users have been requesting for years. On the list is the ability to send messages to buddies that are offline, and automatic message logging.
AOL has returned to number-based versioning after launching AIM Triton last year. AIM 6 is the next iteration of Triton, which was named to emphasize that it was a completely new instant messaging platform rewritten from the ground up, but caused some confusion among AIM users.
Beta 2 of AIM 6 introduces a number of user interface changes to the popular IM client. Window buttons, menu items and even the color schemes used by the software have been reworked. AOL has removed Triton's "IM Catcher" feature and replaced it with an Away Status window and an Unknown Sender's curtain.
The Away Status window shows up when set as "away" and lets users disable sounds and pop-up notifications. Unlike previous versions of the client, users can remain away and still send messages to buddies. The Unknown Sender dialog catches messages from those not on a user's list, and can be used to report IM spam.
Offline messages, a feature long offered by Yahoo and AOL's own ICQ service, are a new addition to AIM 6. Messages sent to a buddy who is not connected will appear when they next sign online, accompanied by a System Message that lets the recipient disable the feature if desired. AOL has restricted the functionality to reduce abuse, however, and users can only send and/or receive 40 offline messages in 24 hours.
Message logging, which has long been offered by IM rivals Microsoft and Yahoo, previously appeared in beta versions of AIM Triton and has surfaced once again. This opt-in feature stores logs of chats on the PC, which can be accessed from the Actions menu at the bottom of the AIM 6 buddy list. AOL emphasizes this feature is not turned on by default for privacy reasons.
Another oft-requested feature now appearing in AIM 6 is the ability to quickly become invisible. This enables a user to remain online, but appear offline to those on their buddy list. An "eye" icon has been added to the software to toggle invisibility on and off.
AOL has not said when it plans to release the final version of AIM 6, nor whether the features added to Beta 2 will remain in the official release. Interested users can download AIM 6 Beta 2 from the website.