Windows only: Fishbowl, the Facebook client demoed at Microsoft's introduction to Silverlight 4, is now available for download — and it adds quite a few new desktop features to the Facebook experience, including badges, a mini news feed, and more.
At first glance, Fishbowl looks a lot like a reorganised, slightly better looking version of Facebook. Along the top you have the usual sections of Facebook — Home, Profile, Photos, etc — and on the left sidebar you have options for the window you're in. Navigating these sections is just like Facebook's website, so it's pretty intuitive.
However, as a desktop client, it adds a few new features that really enhance Facebook's usability. It turns the photos section of Facebook into an almost iPhoto or Picasa-like interface — you can scroll through albums and view pictures as usual, but once in single-photo view you can zoom, view as a slideshow, save the picture or even print them directly from Fishbowl. You can also upload your own pictures using Fishbowl's built-in photo uploader, which is as easy as dragging and dropping.
Notifications are also handled very nicely, as would be expected from a desktop app — Fishbowl's taskbar icon has support for badges when someone writes on your wall, sends you a message or comments after you on a post. To view your notifications, you can go into the program and click on the notifications icon, or just right click on the taskbar icon and see them in the jumplist — and open them up in Fishbowl right from there. Also, the Aero Peek view has small buttons that allow you to navigate directly to the Home, Friends, Profile or Photos sections of Facebook in Fishbowl.
When you're not actively browsing through Facebook (hey, you have to work sometime), Fishbowl has a great mini-mode window that shows you the most recent status update on your news feed — you can also scroll through the last 200 or so entries to catch up if you stepped away — but it's a nice way to keep your news feed open while you're doing other things.
The only issue I had with the client is that in full view mode, some pages (the news feed especially) are a bit slow to load. Not slow enough to make me not want to use it, but slow enough that I tap my foot for a few seconds in mild boredom. Also, for some reason, the news feed view only shows the live feed; it won't show Facebook's new news feed (which attempts, and does a good job I might add, of giving you updates for only the people you stay in contact with). It's definitely a great client, though, and a fantastic use of Silverlight (especially considering it was designed as a trial application to demo Silverlight). Until more people jump on the bandwagon and start making desktop clients for Facebook, it's definitely worth a look-see from avid Facebook users.
Fishbowl is a free download for Windows systems, requires Silverlight to use.