Guide Review - Facebook Messages
Facebook as a Closed Email System
For years, obscure email services have claimed freedom from spam by closing their system. They never worked.
Now, Facebook seems to have lured enough people for a closed email system to be somewhat useful. You can set up Facebook Messages to accept mail only from people you know in Facebook — whether they send it via Facebook itself, email or SMS text.
Open to the World, Facebook Messages Still Filters Spam
Typically more useful will be turning Facebook Messages into a real email service by accepting emails from everybody.
You can still set up Facebook Messages to give lower treatment to messages from certain senders and have them relegated to an "Other" folder. You do, it seems, have to mark each sender thus manually, though.
Automatically, Facebook Messages weeds out spam. It does so quite effectively, and marking as spam and good mail is easy enough.
Finding and Reading Mail in Facebook Messages
Unfortunately, that's about it for email organization. You cannot file or label messages, and other than leaving them unread there's no way to flag either.
Message search looks simple, but Facebook Messages does return relevant mail reasonably fast, and a few operators let you concentrate on unread messages, for instance. To scan all your messages, you'll have to search inbox, "other" and archive separately.
How- and wherever you've found it, Facebook Messages arranges all communication as chronological successions of messages with individual contacts or groups. This often works fine and make for a simple but useful way to tame the deluge of messages. It's great how not only emails but also messages received by other means of communication appear in the stream. Sometimes, though, this lumping together of disparate threads is confusing, and there's no way to liberate individual messages or conversations.
The messages themselves appear in a condensed format. Plain text alone and stripping of unneeded text let you see the relevant message fast; one click gets you the message in its full glory.
Dealing with Messages in Facebook
When you're done with a message, you can archive or delete it. Archiving is easy enough and removes the entire conversation from the Facebook Messages inbox (until a new email or text from the contact arrives, of course). Deletion is more granular and cumbersome: it's possible to delete individual messages from conversations or all mail exchanged with a sender; in either case, it does take many a needless click.
Unfortunately, only one keyboard shortcut brings deftness to operating Facebook Messages: you can set up "Enter" to deliver a message you are composing (which, itself, is less than ideal for longer emails or messages).
Speaking of message composition, it's a pity Facebook Messages does not know drafts — or templates, for that matter. There's no way to control what's quoted, or to change recipients.
Accessing Facebook Messages
Given the web interface's simplicity and limitations, it's all the more unfortunate that Facebook Messages does not offer access in standard email programs. You can get (limited) apps for mobile devices, of course, and Facebook Messages has lightweight web interfaces to be used on the go, too.
If you want to take your emails and messages with you — to an email program, this time, or to create a backup and not rely solely on Facebook — Facebook Messages offers them up in not all that useful or convertible HTML file format.
(Updated February 2012)