For over ten years now, instant messaging applications have shared a common user interface pattern – a slim window with your contact list in it that you can keep docked on the side of your screen. This makes it easy to keep the window open without taking up too much screen space. Because really, all you’ve ever needed from instant messaging is a list of friends, which allows you to launch popup conversation windows.

With the new Windows Live Messenger, we are expanding that paradigm and introducing what we call “full view” – an expanded mode of Messenger that allows you to access rich media and updates from your social networks, MSN, and more. This view doesn't replace the more traditional “compact view” of your contacts. Rather, it is available in addition to that view, and you can switch between views at any time using the view switch control:

Switch views with this button Full view – designed for social networking users

Introduction of the new "full view" acknowledges the growing importance of social networking for many users. We believe people want an always-available “social dashboard” at their fingertips, to help them stay in touch with the people they care about most. This is a window that we expect you'll want to come back to several times a day. In fact, for those of you who choose to automatically start Messenger when you log into Windows, this may become the first window you see each day.

Messenger in full view

As you can see, we’ve also incorporated the latest headlines and news from MSN (see “MSN” next to “Social” at upper-left), so you can start your day with the news or weather if you like. And soon we’ll be adding social games from Xbox LIVE here as well.

Compact view – designed for IM purists

We're very proud of the new Messenger full view, and we hope many of you will find a place for it in your lives. However, we know that this new view will not work for everyone. Some of us don’t care about social networking, don’t feel the need for a social networking “reader”, or simply don’t want any window to take up too much room unless summoned to do so.

So, we designed the new “compact view” with IM purists in mind. Our goal with this view was to remove distractions and focus purely on IM (and no, we could not afford to remove the ad, thanks for asking ). As you can see, this new design is very clean, and focuses on your list of contacts:

Messenger in compact view

Compact view shows more friends than in the previous Messenger design, even when you choose to show user tiles. This is because we removed the Wave 3 “social ticker” that used to sit below the contact list, in order to focus this view on what it is really good at – seeing your friends.

As a bonus feature, we’ve made it so that if you drag the edge of the compact view window horizontally, you can make the compact view wider, so you see multiple columns of contacts. This is super handy for those of us with very large contact lists. If you maximize the window on a large monitor you can see five or more columns of friends!*

Compact view, scaled up to 2 columns

Combined with tabbed conversation windows, compact view is designed to ensure that the new Messenger meets the needs of hard-core IM users, even if they are not interested in the new full view.

You are always in control

Of course, you have complete control over which view you use, and can switch views at any time.

Messenger will not only remember which view you prefer, but also whether you were looking at the Social, MSN, or Xbox LIVE page in full view, and where you like each view to sit on your screen. So for example, you might want to start your day by catching up on the latest from MSN in full view, with the window centered on your screen, but then you might want to collapse it down to compact view and move it to the corner of your screen as you work on other things throughout your day. Messenger will remember these positions independently, so you can arrange your setup just the way you like it.

We've designed the new Messenger to be flexible enough to fit your daily routine, and we're excited to hear what you think as you try it out in the coming weeks.

- Piero Sierra
Group Program Manager, Windows Live Messenger & Mail

* Did you know? Our data shows that 30% of current Messenger users run it with the Messenger window maximized! Wave 3 Messenger doesn’t look very good when maximized, which is why we decided to add multi-column support for these users.