Though this doesn't have to to with web design, branding or any of the other services we offer, this post addresses a major productivity issue that our agency was having and identifies a deployable solution.
Communication is the lifeline of any successful agency: our designers, developers and other professionals all need to communicate. We use slack for the majority of our communication, but when it comes to quick questions, nothing beats iMesssage. Super quick, easy, and on every Apple product out there. The majority of our employees and contractors have iPhones and Macbooks so there's never the issue of being unable to access the service. However, for someone on a Windows PC and iPhone, there's an issue. Every time I get a question/text sent to me, my phone lights up. When I'm working, it ruins my flow because I need to leave my computer, grab the phone and respond there.
Adding iMessage to my Windows Laptop would save me an absurd amount of time and allow me to focus on building amazing things for my clients. I'm not willing to by an overpriced Mac just because of iMessage, but I'm willing to dedicate time and money to figuring this out. This post details the workaround that I macgyvered together over the course of an hour.
⚠ Fair warning, you'll need an existing Mac for this, preferably one you're not using. There's no way around this -- iPadian, Bluestacks and other emulators simply do not work. Don't waste your money.
You need a Mac for this endeavour. You can't emulate the MacOS on Windows and get iMessage to work (tried this), and you can't use an IOS emulator either. The only way to get iMessage on a Windows laptop/machine is to remotely connect to an existing Mac. It sucks, but it's the only way.
The first step is setting up a Mac in a server-like installation. It's going to need to always be on and connected to the internet, so put it in a well ventilated area, preferably with a LAN connection.
I used a Mac Mini that was a decommissioned server for Isotropic Design, so I didn't need to go and buy an Apple product. If I needed to go and buy one, I would -- having iMessage on Windows is worth $100-200, which is about what a Mac Mini (terrible specs, but you don't need much to run only iMessage) goes for on Ebay.
We now need a way to access the Mac from the Windows computer. CRD (Chrome Remote Desktop) is a really easy, simple and free way to do this. Download Chrome, and head to https://remotedesktop.google.com/. Follow the installation instructions; you download and extension and utility and that's about it. Register the machine and open iMessage. Once that's done, you can put the Mac away - you shouldn't need it anymore. For my setup, I put the Mac Mini in a closet and took the monitor, keyboard & mouse for use elsewhere.
Test to make sure you can access the Mac from your laptop. With this setup, anywhere you have Chrome, you can access the Mac, which is very nice.
At this point, you should basically be able to log into CRD, open the Mac remotely, and access iMessage from your browser. You can stop at this point - the goal is achieved. However, if you want to take it a step further, follow the next step.
Obviously it's not going to be seamless and perfect, but we can try.
The best way to do this (I've found) is to create a windows shortcut that launches everything in a clean window. Here's how to do that. Right click on the desktop and make a new shortcut.
In the first entry (where the shortcut points) enter this info:
"C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe" -incognito -app=https://remotedesktop.google.com/access/session/XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX
Breaking it down, here's what it means:
| "C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\
|Location of Chrome, this means that it won't use your default browser to open the URL, it'll use Chrome.
|Opens in Incognito mode, you don't need this but Incognito uses less CPU resources.
|This opens Chrome without the tabs, address bar or anything on the top. You only get a window, which makes everything look much nicer.
|This opens the actual remote desktop environment. To get the URL that's specific to your Mac, open up a remote session and simply copy the URL. The XXXXs will be replaced with user-specific alphanumeric characters.
You can also change the icon of the shortcut to be an iMessage icon by downloading a .ico file and applying in to the shortcut via the properties interface. I also made a shortcut key - CTRL + ALT + M which launches iMessage whenever I do the key combination.