Review: Harvester Messenger UWP


Do you ever get frustrated by the sheer number of messaging and social clients online? I do (rant here, from 2015). So what if you could have just one application that brought all the various services 'under one roof'? This is the aim of Harvester Messenger UWP and it's a nice idea, though the reality of just wrapping each site's mobile view ends up being less than compelling.

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The range of services 'supported' is impressive, mind you. On Windows 10 Mobile (the PC's version and even Continuum views get extra options) there's Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Telegram, Reddit, Slack, Google+ and ICQ, all accessible within a hamburger-navigable interface, each presenting a windowed and optionally control and status-bar-free interface to the appropriate site's HTML5 web site.

Which is fine... as far as it goes. But, given the real time nature of these services, many of which might provide messages that you need to be notified of, just getting access to mobile web sites and with no background agents or services isn't anywhere near enough. For example, you might have Twitter and Slack and Facebook set up in Harvester Messenger, but you only see their content while the appropriate tab/service is in the foreground in the application. It turns out, unsurprisingly, that it's far more useful to have the real client UWP applications installed, complete with background notifications. Yes, even with all the bloat of the Facebook and Facebook Messenger abominations and their resource requirements.

So... it's all a bit of a waste of time then? Well maybe. And maybe not. It depends on which services you use and how you use them. For example, I only ever use Facebook and Instagram in browsing mode, i.e. I only ever see their content when I want to, when the applications (or, in this case, the Harvester Messenger instances) are in the phone's foreground, i.e. on the screen. So using this UWP application saves having to use the first party applications at all, plus the full screen view genuinely means that more content is visible at any one time.

On the other hand, I depend on Twitter DMs and I need to respond to Slack private conversations immediately. So these aren't a good fit at all for Harvester Messenger - for me.

Here's the UWP app in action on my Lumia 950 XL, I've set up some typical services to give you an idea of how it looks and works.

Screenshot, Harvester MessengerScreenshot, Harvester Messenger

The Settings slide-out pane is probably the best place to start. Within the pane are Metro UI-like tabs and it's here that everything's set up, including adding services to the application. There's also explanation of notifications and (largely) why you don't see them unless Harvester Messenger is open. Well, at least it's all up front?

Screenshot, Harvester MessengerScreenshot, Harvester Messenger

Here in the Instagram 'module' - yes, it's the Instagram HTML5 web site, wrapped!

Screenshot, Harvester MessengerScreenshot, Harvester Messenger

Still. the switching between services here via the hamburger menu is indeed convenient and quick, faster than working through Start screen shortcuts or Edge Favourites. Note the 'Quantum Browser' option at the bottom, this is the Edge rendering engine on its own, i.e. without starting in a service. Again, saves switching over to Edge specifically. Note the controls at the top of the hamburger menu, specifically the 'dark'/night mode - which doesn't work at all in this version (for me), and the full-screen option...

Screenshot, Harvester MessengerScreenshot, Harvester Messenger

...which, when tapped, gets rid of the top (Windows) status bar and lets you see that little bit more content. Here in the Twitter module. Again, it's 'just' Twitter's mobile view, but as functional as always.

Screenshot, Harvester MessengerScreenshot, Harvester Messenger

As a third example, here's Facebook in Harvester Messenger. You'll have got the idea by now...

The interface is generally pleasant and intuitive, though - as noted above - the 'dark theme/mode' didn't work at all - perhaps this is a bug? Given the preponderance of white on the web and the power savings available on AMOLED screens by going 'dark', this is a real missed opportunity for the application. To have made Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (etc.) dark in an easily navigable interface would have been really useful.

Is Harvester Messenger 'better' than having each of these services as Edge 'favourites' and accessing their mobile sites this way? Absolutely - though it's also potentially a heck of a lot less useful in real life than having dedicated and properly programmed UWP clients that can respond to each service in (more or less) real time.

Your comments welcome, I'm sure that some of you must have used Harvester Messenger in the last few months (it was updated recently, prompting this review)?

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