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Jabber for Mac is some people's favorite aspect of our new phone system. Jabber provides access to the Cisco phone system, works as an IM client and is a soft phone. While I am reviewing the Macintosh version I am told that the Windows version is almost identical.

Installation and Setup

Simply drag the Cisco Jabber.app file to the Mac’s Application folder.

In the case of a MacBook or any Mac that will be used outside of the office also install a VPN client. Currently Jabber needs to be on the same network as the Cisco PBX. Or you can poke a hole in your firewall to allow Jabber to communicate across the Internet with the PBX, but I recommend against this approach for security reasons.

I have been told that Cisco will be introducing a box that will allow Jabber clients to access the PBX from across the Internet without resorting to using a VPN connection.

Jabber will request setup information the first time it is run. Click Agree on the end user license agreement. The welcome screen summarizes Jabber's capabilities. Click Continue.

Click on Cisco Unified Presence and then on Continue.

Enter Username, Password and Server name or url. I do not understand why Cisco used 2 screens instead of 1 to collect this information.

Because Jabber connects to 3 servers, if they have self-signed certificates for them you will see a warning for each certificate. You can instruct the Mac to remember this certificate by clicking on Show Certificate. and then checking the Always trust "xxx".  And you are set up.

Talk to the Phone

The first time you open Jabber 2 helpful balloons point out the search and mode buttons. These yellow balloons will disappear forever the first time you use each button.

Use the lower right button/popup menu to determine if Jabber should control your desk phone or act as a soft phone. Click on the lower right button and select Send Audio through Desk Phone. All telephony operations will now go through the phone. If you stay with to instruct Jabber to control your Cisco phone. Send Audio through Computer then you have turned your Mac into a phone. For the latter option I recommend using a USB headset unless you like sounding like you are calling from the bottom of a well.

MacBook users should pay attention since they might want to switch between these two modes as the work inside and outside of the office. I picture someone at home with their MacBook accidentally causing their desk phone in their office to dial, making their co-workers wonder if there is a ghost in the office.

These two options are poorly named because Jabber doesn't send all audio to the phone in the first case. Voicemail still plays through the computer speakers or headset. Better names for these two options might be Use Desk Phone and Use Computer as Phone.

Contacts

Jabber automatically searches for contacts in the PBX. To fully integrate Jabber with Mac OS X Address Book open Jabber’s preferences and check off Enable Mac Address Book integration and click on the Install Mac Address Book Plug-in... The former allows Jabber to search through contacts on your Address Book, the latter allows you to dial your phone directly from your Address Book.

In Address Book, or Contacts if you are running Mountain Lion or later, bring up a contact and click on the phone label and a popup menu will appear. Select Dial With Cisco Jabber.

It is more often easier to dial the contact within Jabber. If the contact has an account on the PBX you can dial their extension, start a chat, send a file or start an e-mail. In the example to the left we searched on marg and 4 contacts were found. Jabber combined my local Address Book entry for Margaret McCullough with the PBX entry. The bullet indicator shows that she is offline so I cannot send her a file but I can do any other function. If I select one of her phone numbers my phone will dial that number. If I add her to a group she will be added to Jabber’s own list of contacts. If Margaret was online I would be able to see her status including if she was available or on the phone. This is similar to any IM application.

The search results can be odd. I found if I searched on marga the local contact would be found but not the information on the PBX. I have also found the reverse, were contacts in the Address Book would not be found. So contact search works most of the time. Under the Jabber menu there is an option to Empty Cache.... Sometimes this clears up up Address Book integration issues.

Here is a contacts list. Only PBX accounts can be added to this list. As with the search you can easily call, e-mail, chat or send files to these contacts. You can set the view options to show all contacts or only those who are online. To send a file to a contact you can drag it directly onto the contact’s name. I think of it as a list of favorites. I usually just use the contacts search feature rather than build a list of contacts.

But if are really anal, err organized, you can build multiple groups.

Chat

Jabber is a decent chat tool. It is limited to your phone users. It is possible to link the Cisco chat service with other chat services via peering, something of little interest for most offices. So Jabber becomes yet another IM client that you run on your Mac.

But the integration of IM with telephony is a more important issue in my office. We have people who never used IM who have Jabber open all of the time. They might have it open for telephony but then use it for chatting. Since we want staff to stop sending large files via e-mail, an every losing battler, sending files via Jabber is a better alternative. And it is the one IM network that everyone in the office is on.

Group chats are supported. You can start a chat as a group chat or invite additional people to an existing chat.

During a chat you can easily call the person, send an e-mail, or send a file. Formatting and emoticons tools are provided.

Call History

Jabber keeps a phone call history, showing incoming and outgoing calls. Missed phone calls appear in read and a tab allows you to view only missed calls. If the call was to/from a staff member you see their presense and can initiate any action from their record.

The weakness of the Jabber call history is that it only shows calls made/received while Jabber was running. If you get a call when your Mac is turned off or you are simply not logged into Jabber, then it will not show in the call history.

A related shortcoming is that Jabber isn't aware when you have viewed missed calls on your Cisco phone, and the reverse. So if you want to remove from both the phone and Jabber the number of missed calls badge, you need to view the list of missed calls on both devices.

Voicemail

I hate listening to voicemail over the phone. I don’t like having to enter prompts or talk to my phone to get my voicemail. My Cisco phone does offer visual voicemail but Jagger is my preferred way to dealing with voicemail.

Voicemail display as a list. Caller ID information is shown, but if the phone number matches on in my Mac OS X Address Book, the Address Book name will display. This makes it easier to decide which new voice mail to listen to first. And to identify old voice mail that I do not want to delete yet.

The controls are simple: play, pause, rewind, volume and a slider. A control to slow down and speed up playback would be helpful. A badge will appear if you have new voicemail and Jabber is in sync with the Cisco phone. If I listen to my voicemail on one device it will shown as played on the other.

The biggest missing feature is the ability to download voicemail as a .wav file. If you record a phone conversation the recording will be saved in voice mail. If you want to download the recording you need to go to the voicemail web page and download a web file from there.

Making Calls

You can use Jabber a call from search results, from a contact row, or by entering into a software keypad Jabber will either dial your desk phone or will at as a soft phone.

While Jabber doesn't have all of the options of the Cisco 8961 phone, some of our heavy phone users are using Jabber with iPhone earbuds and mic plugged into their iMac and are ignoring their 8961. But they need their desk phone if they want to tell me their Mac has crashed.

Whether the call is placed on Jabber or the desk phone you can take control on Jabber.

While you are on a call a new window opens. This has its own number pad and is dedicated to placing and controlling calls. Here are a few views of the screen.

In the first picture a call has been made or picked up on the desk phone. The buttons to mute or adjust sound levels are disabled. The phone number, call duration and actions are displayed.

In the second picture the call has been made or picked up with the Jabber software phone. The options are the same as before but muting and sound level control are enabled.

In the third picture the Show Actions button was depressed and you can now transfer, add or park the call.

In the fourth picture the phone box is expanded to show the caller(s). This is handy if you are juggling multiple calls.

In the fifth picture is a popup menu so you can chat or e-mail the caller. In this case I called a number not associated with my Address Book or PBX directory so Jabber can.not offer these actions

On incoming call s Jabber will ring, display information about the caller, and bring up 3 actions. The information displayed will be based on Caller ID, the PBX directory, and the Mac OS X Address Book.

Jabber is a True Mac App

Despite some shortcomings Cisco Jabber enhances Cisco’s phone system offerings. In examining phone systems for the past 5 years the Mac usually gets shorted. It is nice to see a telephone product which integrates the Mac.