One generally uses (at least) four messengers every day, and signing into each of these can be quite a bother. There’s always a chance that one may forget. Also, it’s a tough task to download all four messengers and install them. These eat into your computing power and precious desktop space.
There are, however, ways to get around this problem. An all-in-one (AIO) messenger can be the solution. These messengers allow you to sign into most of the popular services through just one window and even combine your contact list into one.
The advantage is that you can see all your messengers at one go and even choose to be online or offline in selected ones.
Windows multi-protocol messengers
Trillian, from Cerulean Studios, is among the best tools available. Currently, Cerulean is working on “Astra,” the next version and successor of the hugely popular Trillian for the Windows operating system (OS). Trillian is a paid version software and allows access to messenger programmes such AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo Messenger and IRC.
You need to do some amount of configuration before using Trillian, but these are fairly similar to (and almost as simple as) configuring a desktop email client. Trillian is specific to Windows, and Astra promises better user-interface and ease-of-use.
It supports IM, MSN, Yahoo and ICQ, but there are more features to Meca than most other clients can boast. At the top of this list are customization options, enabling you to create your own themes using photographs you want. You can also share these with contacts you chat with.
Another new feature that would interest the social networking buffs is the Word2U Messenger. It is a personalized messenger that lets users design, promote and invite their community on supported services to be a part of their personalized messaging experience using simple web tools. So, a community can be created through the messenger.
It is an open-source multi-protocol messenger that is said to be among the lightest universal messengers, with over 350 plug-ins (codes that allow the programme to have functions that it originally did not) to extend usability. It supports AIM, ICQ, IRC, MSN, Yahoo, Jabber and a few other lesser-known messenger services. The other advantage of Miranda is that it works on virtually all versions of Windows, including 95, 98, ME, even Vista. That it is open-source emphasizes the fact that it has a decent-enough community to aid development and support. Miranda is not the most popular service but, with the support for older OSes and a light footprint, it’s a good choice for those who still have slightly older computers.
Formerly known as Gaim (which was formed by the combination of GTK+ AOL instant messenger), the project was recently renamed Pidgin after a barrage of legal action from AOL . They were unable to release any new versions during their legal battle with AOL, but normal service has now resumed.
Coming to the product, Pidgin works on Windows, Linux, BSD and other Unixes. It supports AIM, ICQ, Jabber/XMPP, MSN Messenger, Yahoo, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, IRC, Novell GroupWise Messenger, QQ, Lotus Sametime, SILC, SIMPLE and Zephyr. You may not have heard of some of these, but they exist, and support for these is what made Gaim (Pidgin) so popular.
Mac OSX multi-protocol messengers
Adium is one of the more popular messaging AIOs for the Mac platform. With a strong community behind it, there is plenty of customization, including the contact list layout, message window template, emoticons, sounds and even the option of staying invisible in Google Talk (an option not available on the client offered by Google).
On Adium, it is possible to create groups of contacts that are across messenger platforms. You can also merge two contacts, or combine a contact using more than one service. This will make it easier to have only one entry or friend on your contact list.
Fire can handle simultaneous connections to AIM, ICQ, Yahoo, IRC, MSN and Jabber (the Google Talk technology) and is a good alternative to Adium should you not want it for some reason. Its look and feel (the only real reason you may want to use this) is not much better than Adium’s but it is cleaner and slightly lighter (on the central processing unit resources).
A strong community that was built by the creator helped keep it going. Unfortunately, there won’t be any more updates to the client after version 1.5. The good news is that version 1.5 is good enough to last a while.
Here’s some trivia about the name—the name Fire was chosen since it follows AIM in the expression “Take aim…”. AIM of course stands for America Online Instant Messenger in geek.
Mac & Windows multi-protocol messengers
It’s not exactly a tongue-twister and you could pronounce it as “item” with a slight American twang. Ayttm is an acronym for “Are You Talking To Me?” Those techies do have a sense of humour, don’t they?
The successor of the “Everybuddy” programme (that supported AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo and Jabber), Ayttm adds IRC to the list of services.
One of the main features that sets Ayttm, apart from other such messengers, is what is known as “fallback messaging”. It allows users to group multiple service accounts of the same person under a single contact identifier. So, if your friend X is using Yahoo and MSN, you can just combine the two and have X show up only once on your contact list.
In case one of the two services he is using to chat fails, the messenger automatically falls back on the other active one to ensure uninterrupted service. Very nice feature for compulsive chatters.
Web-based multi-protocol messengers
With the operating system being no limitation, Meebo is one of the best options to go online without downloading anything. It is a very simple interface that lets you sign into services of your choice (options available include AIM, Jabber, ICQ, Yahoo, Google Talk and MSN) with just one password.
There is also a Meebo sign-in that lets you use the site’s own messenger service (if you and any of your friends are on it), but the real advantage is of getting started on just any computer. Meebo also imports your contact lists from all the services you sign into and offers incredible portability. No set-up, no configuration. Just a log-in and you’re good to go.
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