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When people start a new convo with me, all I see initially is that the message indicator is lit. This isn't quite obvious, so I'd like the new chat window to just pop up in my face. How can I do this?

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I'd suggest not doing that as it will be distracting when not running a full screen application. For example you are writing a document or playing a game, and a chat window pops up grabbing your attention and the controls to your annoyance. – Oxwivi Mar 9 '11 at 15:50
It's not distracting if your window manager is configured to make new windows less obtrusive. Mine is set up to place new chat windows in a background workspace and to set the urgent hint. – Jesse Hallett Dec 3 '12 at 22:31
up vote 11 down vote accepted

Edit ➜ Preferences ➜ General ➜ Behavior ➜ Uncheck Display incoming events in notification area.

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The Messaging Menu indicator will no longer change color/brightness when you someone tries to talk to you, but that shouldn't be needed because the window will open automatically.

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I would NEVER suspect this checkbox to work this way. – m01 Oct 4 '12 at 7:53
With Empathy 3.8.6 running on Ubuntu 14.04 this solution does not work anymore. The only "Behavior" option left to me it whether to auto connect on startup :-( – Christoph Grimmer-Dietrich Nov 10 '14 at 10:40

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