For software that isn't tied to one machine.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

YahElite Review

Neither "lite" nor "elite"

Billed as a lightweight Yahoo client, the software is surprisingly feature rich and fast while using (by default) the one-window format, it much more accurately draws design elements from mIRC to enhance Yahoo's experience. As an instant messaing client for Yahoo, its a formidable addition and worth checking out. However, as I was unable to test much of its functionality, many of the other features will go unreviewed.

At startup, YahElite provides a "Normal Chat" and "Pager" setting. Respectively, this is an IRC and Instant Messaging client format; a focus on chat "rooms" against a specific list of people you know. Based on problems with the "Normal Chat" in testing, I strongly recommend "Pager." This setting closer mimics the official client.

Even with this limitation, other chat clients out there have a lot to learn from YahElite.

User Interface

The look and feel is very much out of date in a sort of late 90's design style, which makes sense as development started in '98. Still, reinventing the wheel often means a learning curve, which YahElite doesn't have. For power users, the dearth of features won't hurt any feelings and may easily replace Yahoo's official client, which by contrast seems by comparison castrated in useful features bloated download size.

Above: Pager window that demonstrates something present throughout the program: primarily text buttons.


One of the best parts about portable software is that its generally better for your privacy by its very nature as you take all your logs and settings with you. However, YahElite takes it a step further with the option to destroy all files and logs at program close. This feature forces the software to start as if it was just installed every time but protects user privacy from people looking at a computer after-the-fact.

Sadly, there is no feature for protecting conversations being eavesdropped over the network. This is a flaw with Yahoo's chat service protocol and not YahElite. Look to Jabber tools like Google Talk or others for encryption. For this, I recommend the portable and open source Pidgin.

Chat window awesomeness

Although the user inteface is a little noisy, there are some excellent controls that have been on my chat client wish-list for a long time. This is worth studying closely:

Left-to-right features
  • Stay on top - just like it sounds -- don't let other windows focus cover up the YahElite window.
  • Send colors - a great way to turn off frequently annoying color schemes.
  • Send typing notifications - sometimes if you're chosing your words carefully, you can write and the rewrite something several times
  • Voice features (untested)
  • Play a sound (when message is received)
  • Flash a window (when message is received)
  • Number chat lines - a great feature that I've seen in no other client
  • Decrease text size
  • Default text size - sort of a reset button. Very welcome.
  • Increase text size - for bigger screens
  • Spellcheck - pretty much required if you ask me
  • Smileys

Other features
  • Excellent NOSPAM personal message filter feature, multiple spam filter settings. The official client could learn from this.
  • Unique "Mamma Says" feature that helps track online chat usage:

  • Astonishingly smart wallpaper system (maybe the best I've ever seen):

  • E-mail checker
  • Webcam system - untested in this review
  • Voice chat - untested in this review
  • Fullscreen capability - click the top bar to go back to normal settings
  • And MANY more


Sadly, the program's failures are Yahoo's failures: it inability to use anything but the Yahoo chat protocol and several broken features killed its use. I wasn't able to log into chat rooms to find out whether YahElite fixed the problems with Yahoo's official chat rooms, which are spam-filled and won't allow you to effectively block users. The capsha (human test) program was offline during my test, so I quickly lost interest where YahElite might have restored my use of Yahoo as a chat service.

The program bills itself as a "no banners, no advertisements, no nags, no spyware" which certaily seems to be the case, but its unlikely you'll benefit from the spam blacking if you can't connect to chat rooms.

Final thoughts

Although this software definitely has its flaws, programs like this have me convinced that there is just a whole other world out there of people that works on obscure software. Where did something with this much packed into it come from and why have I never heard of it? Chat software developers everywhere should take note of YahElite.

Although it won't bother the average user, the homepage could use a little more information and not rely so much on the forums, which are usually a little too messy to provide more information. Release notes, a clear license, a roadmap for future additions, or even release date put on the download would really help out.

Version: 330.1
Size: 0.7 megs compressed, 0.8 megs uncompressed
RAM Usage: 0.7 megs
License: Freeware
CrossPlatform: Yes - claims to function under Linux with WINE
Score: 7 out of 10 - Exclusively for Yahoo IM (not chat room) users. For this narrow group, very feature-rich and a very worthy Yahoo IM replacement.
In Kitchen Sink Collection: No - Pidgin is a much better option for a wider portable freeware audience.

Update: Seems this was a timely post as the Yahoo Messenger 10 Beta just came out. It might also explain why several of the service didn't work, since Yahoo's updates are likely to have broken imitators both for obviously technical reasons, and just maybe in an effort to get people to try out the new stuff.

This is further suggested by fellow Yahoo chat network tool Pidgin's most recent 2.6.0 update, which has a lot of changes to the Yahoo protocol.