Yo, guys (and gals), I've been listening to what you've been saying about the site's new app bar, and I have some news for you regarding it.
First off, you can now minimize the chat room (and consequently a lot of the other apps because of the way the functionality was written). To do this, you should click the button circled in the picture below:
It's real easy. You'll still hear the chat indicator sound (unless you have clicked the mute button, also in the pic above) if you have the chat minimized, and the bar will look something like the following picture:
You'll notice the chat link is colored differently (with the new site accent color you may have noticed in the activity feed seperation). Chat is not the only window that can be minimized, and the button is in a similar location on the windows that can. Fairly soon, individual IMs will be added to that list of windows that can be minimized, but for the time being, that feature has not been implemented yet. Remember that a minimized app (like chat) will only remain active for as long as you stay on the current page. It is being worked on, however, and a fix is expected soon.
Also, smilies have been re-added to the chat room, and fairly soon, I will have all the custom smilies you know and love from the forums available there as well.
One more thing I've heard from people is that some people love the IM indicator sound, and some people don't. And some people want to be able for a sound to come when one person says something, and not play a sound when someone else talks. So, check this out, now, in an IM, highlight the person's name as in the picture below and you will have some available options:
From that menu, you can browse to the same page on the site your buddy is looking at, go to his/her profile and check out their hot pics or whatever, or turn the sound off for this individual.
Thanks for reading, hope you like the new features.