Abstract: Buddy Tracker is a utility for Mac OS X which allows you to monitor the status of your iChat buddies. Ever wanted to know exactly how long your friends were online while you were gone? What about their away messages? Buddy Tracker records all this information and allows you to view it in an attractive graph format. For more detailed reports on your buddies, you can export buddy history to an HTML file. These provide information about average buddy availability and total online presence time, as well as breakdowns on individual buddies. Want more? BuddyTracker allows you to create pending buddy messages which get sent when your buddy comes back to their computer (or goes away!). You can also edit your profile using BuddyTracker, something that iChat won’t let you do unless you have Mac OS X 10.4.

Getting Started:

Download BuddyTracker by clicking the link above if you haven’t already. Mount the disk image and copy the application to your Applications folder. Run BuddyTracker, and take a look at the window that appears. If iChat isn’t running, the window may appear empty or your buddies will show a “?” to the left of their names. Start iChat and login to your AIM account. BuddyTracker should now display your buddy list and a status icon should appear beside each of your buddies. Let’s talk a little more about that window. To the right of each of your buddies is a long bar. By default, the bars graph the presence of your buddies over the last ten minutes. If you watch for a few minutes, the graphs should begin to build (the newest data fills in at the right). Hovering over a one of the graphs will allow you to read your buddies’ away messages. You can change the time interval displayed using the popup menu at the top of the window.

For a more accurate representation of your buddies’ status history, you need to open a graph window. Select two or three of your buddies and press the graph icon at the top of the window. A new window will appear with your selected buddies on the left. You can drag more buddies into the window from the main window if you want. The graphs of their availability are now longer and fill the right side of the window. You can change the window of time you are viewing using the green slider at the top of the window. Dragging either of the endpoints allows you to narrow the window of time.

HTML Research Prints:

The detailed graph window also allows you to save recorded buddy data to a folder of HTML files. This can give you a much nicer presentation of the data and will also allow you to print tracking results for research purposes. To generate an HTML version of your results, use the green bar at the top of the window to select a time frame, and then press the Research button. The research button looks like a beaker and is located in the upper left part of the window. A window will appear prompting you for a destination folder. You should probably create a new folder and select that. BuddyTracker will create three HTML files and an images folder within this directory.
Once you select a folder, BuddyTracker will create the files necessary to view your data in HTML. In the Finder, locate the folder you created and open the “buddies.html” file within it. Here you can see a more detailed analysis of each of your buddies. Each screenname is displayed on the left, with a graph of their availability and a time analysis on the right. Below are average times. Graphs and time sample information is available the other pages. You can access these through the menus at the top and bottom of the page.

Pending Messages:

To create a pending message, select a buddy in the main window and click the pending message icon. This looks like an iChat bubble with a green status dot beside it. A window will appear allowing you to type a message to this person. You can change the selected buddy by typing their screen-name or real name into the field in the top left of this window. If you select repeating, this message will not be deleted after it is sent, and will be sent every time the buddy’s status matches the criteria. This can be great if you’re trying to annoy someone. When you’re done preparing you message, click the Save button. The sheet will close and you’ll see a list of your pending messages. To open this window later on, press Command-2 or select Pending Messages from the Window menu.

Changing Your Profile:

Changing your Profile: Prior to Mac OS X 10.4 (iChat 3.0), it was impossible to change your profile from within iChat. BuddyTracker allows you to do just that. Open the profile editor by selecting Change my Profile from the File menu. You can insert links and smileys, and use custom fonts and colors. BuddyTracker also checks spelling as you type.

What isn’t Working:

BuddyTracker is a work in progress! There are several incomplete features and toolbar items which don’t currently work. The magnifying glass and save functions in the detailed graph window aren’t done yet, and the “Change my Icon” feature in the file menu isn’t working under Mac OS X 10.4. It should still work under previous versions of the Mac OS X, and allows you to use an animated gif as your buddy icon (iChat only does single frames!)


If BuddyTracker isn’t working for you, email me! It’s freeware, and I can’t guarantee support — but I’ll do what I can.