Some years ago, working environments were completely different: smaller, more familiar, with a kind of charming air surrounding desks, water coolers and meeting rooms. Internal communication was just a question of leaving your place and joining the quick chat beside the water cooler for just five minutes, before going back to your daily tasks.
However, things have changed quickly over the last few years. Companies have grown really fast, not only in financial terms, but also in number of workers. New people join the staff everyday and it’s harder to make new friends. Those five-minute breaks begin to be scarcer, until one day there’s not a single one during a whole working day.
When communication reaches a non-existence level, you know it’s time for a change. Most office managers reject the idea of using traditional instant messaging tools such as MSN or Yahoo, mostly because workers end up chatting with friends outside the office instead of answering the dud from accounting. This is why local network based IM applications like Neos have become a more popular solution: they allow workers to exchange messages, files, even media streams… without the temptations of the outer world.
However, Neos is no walled garden. It allows you to gather all your contact lists from different messaging networks (ICQ, MSN, Yahoo and Jabber) into a single window -but that depends exclusively on the plug-ins you install on the server, so everything remains under the Administrator’s control. That means you can use it just as an internal communication tool and add support for other networks as it is needed.
Despite being “local”, Neos does its job, and does it pretty well. I dare say you will not miss any of the main features found in other instant messaging tools, that is, not taking into account the sometimes useless options offered lately by some of them. You can reach out by one-to-one chat, chat room, VoIP, video conference or even share a whiteboard to have a laugh at your artistic abilities. Neos also allows you to share files, though this functionality may still need some work, because transfers are unsuccessful too often. One little detail I like is the fact that Neos shows you when your chat partner is typing, so you know that they are in the process of responding.
Managing your contacts is really easy: split them into groups, block them if they become a pest, or even rename them to whatever you want (but be careful not to let your boss see his politically incorrect office nickname on your list).
However, Neos is not flawless. Apart from the small bugs which get fixed version after version, the developers need to improve the tool’s design. The interface is fine and so is the menu system, but the problem is the default emoticon pack. My goodness, they look so ugly! I’m simply not able to express my feelings with such a limited repertoire. At least you can download new packs from their webpage, but still, this is something they really need to improve since emoticons are a staple of any good IM program.
In short, Neos is a great tool for inner office messaging, which can be adapted to other external IM networks, and also a nice way of going back to those good old chats next to the water cooler, taking a break from work and gossiping a little for five minutes (just five minutes, I promise!).