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Matrix is an instant messaging protocal, and is accessed by using a client. Analogously to how email is a protocol, and Gmail is a client. Like with email, there are many clients for Matrix. Different people can use different clients to contact each other. A good client to start using Matrix with is Element. You can use the web version of Element at meet.physik.fu-berlin.de, or use other versions of Android Clients, iOS clients or Desktop clients (Windows, MacOS, Linux) or any other Matrix client to matrix.physik.fu-berlin.de
Our Matrix server is not federated with the rest of the Matrix ecosystem, due to unresolved privacy questions, but we are giving access to external collaborators upon request.
When you first log in at meet.physik.fu-berlin.de, you will see something like this
We will now look at all of these in turn.
When you press the button to start a direct message (the plus button in the People tab) labelled with <color #ed1c24>(4)</color>. You are presented with If you use Matrix for a bit longer it will be filled with suggestions, but for a new user, it is empty. In the box you can type the name or ZEDAT account of the person you are searching for. Press Go to invite the person to chat.
In this example we get an invite for such a direct message session. It pops up in the space where all our conversations are listed. By clicking on it we can choose whether to join or reject the conversation
At the bottom is the message box where you can enter your messages. To the right of the message box there are five buttons highlighted in red for (from left to right)
Furthermore, there are another four buttons on top of the screen highlighted in red and labelled 2. From left to right:
A room is a group chat. You can create a room by pressing the plus button beside the rooms tab labelled by <color #ed1c24>(3)</color>. Here you have the option to choose a room name, and whether the room will be public (searchable) or not. Once the room is created, you can invite individuals to it by pressing on the information button within the room, clicking invite, and then typing in their names.
To create a private room, just give it a name and optionally a topic and press Create Room. At first you will be alone, but you can invite more people via the user list.
But what if you just want to join an exisiting public room. The Explore button (compass icon) <color #ed1c24>(5)</color> has you covered. When you click it you get a window where you can search the list of public rooms by name and room alias.
One such room is ZEDV-Support, where the Physics IT service answers support questions and generally interacts with users. It looks like a direct chat session, only with more people, because that's what it is.
In the Matrix client we provide, you can do more than write simple text (and uploading files and images). You can style your text with Markdown, including Hyperlinks and syntaxhighlighted code. You can also write LaTeX code for math inside dollar signs, e.g.
$\LaTeX$ for inline math and
$$\LaTeX$$ for display math.
Sometimes you have a typo and would like to fix it, with Matrix you can, just press the edit button on the message mouseover.
Have you sent something to the wrong person? You can delete messages via the delete options on the more options (three dots) message mouseover.
One last feature, names tabcomplete. If you start typing
@ followed by the name or username of of a user, a little menu will pop up where you can choose the name by clicking or via the tab key if you are down to a single choice
Other things that tabcomplete are room names (starting with a
#), emojis (starting with a
:) and communities (starting with a
Among these settings are whether and how you want to receive desktop notifications, the theme you want (currently we only have the defaults light and dark), but also how your name is displayed and what your profile picture is.
If you change your name or profile picture, other users will see it right away, but the menu will only show it once you log out and back in.
You might wonder, "I have a group of people, but we also have a set of topics and a single room for that might be confusing!" That is what communities are for, they group people and rooms and can have long descriptions. Unfortunately they are currently not searchable, so you have to know about them to navigate to their group page and join them. This should become more comfortable soon™️.
After starting a community, you can add people and rooms via sidebars, just like adding users to a room.
When you join a community it gets added to your community sidebar. When you left-click on its symbol, your list of direct message sessions and rooms get filtered to members of your community and rooms belonging to your community, left-clicking again reverts to the default. Right-clicking on the symbol gives you a context menu to get to the community page.
Element also offers end-to-end encryption. To see how to enable this, read this page dedicated to it
@followed by their name, use tab to autocomplete.
:followed by the name, choices will pop up.