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You Don't Need to Be Running Multiple IM Clients

Technology
Wil Alambre
Wil Alambre Senior Programmer
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I have several people I talk to through instant messages. Some of them exclusively, as they live in different cities and provinces (and in a handful of cases, countries). One thing I discovered was they all used different IM clients. Some preferred MSN Messenger, some used Yahoo messenger, some jumped on the Google Talk bandwagon, and some even use AIM or iChat. Even worse, many of my contacts had the same problem I did, and were running multiple IM clients to keep in contact with their friends and family.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone you knew used one IM network? Or, barring that, there was one IM program that could connect to all these different networks? As a do-not-care-about-the-technology user, all we see is half a dozen programs that all do the same thing but refuse to co-operate.

Turns out, if you’re willing to sacrifice some of the more esoteric features in those IM programs, there is a solution!

The bird mascots of Pidgin and Adium

Pidgin is an all-in-one instant messenger program that works on Windows. It’s mascot is the purple pigeon above :)

Adium is an all-in-one instant messenger program that works on Mac OSX. It’s mascot is the green duck above :)

I’m not going to going to go into the technologies behind them, or the fantastic open-source developers putting their time into building these programs. There are excellent "about" pages and developer "blogs" on each site that will tell everything you’re interested in knowing. The important thing they both do, however, is that they connect to multiple IM networks and combine all your IM contact lists into one manageable whole!

In both Pidgin and Adium, you fill in any and all your IM accounts (your logins to MSN, Yahoo, AOL, etc). The IM client will connect to each network and work exactly like any IM client you’ve ever used: a contact list window, chat windows, various alerts, etc. the difference is that you are running one IM client, all your contacts across multiple IM networks are in a single contact list.

Better yet, in both Pidgin and Adium, you can combine contacts that have multiple network accounts. If your friend Joe has a GTalk and a Yahoo account, by default, he will appear twice in your contact list (once for each network). In both programs, you can combine those two listings into a single Joe contact... so when he connects as either or both accounts, it will simply appear as "online". I personally have two or three contacts who log in and out of about four networks each, and I tell you, it’s nice not having to figure out which IM program they are using on any given day; as far as I care, they are either online or not. :)

There is a downside. Don’t expect the extra "flair" from the individual IM programs to appear in either Pidgin or Adium. MSN’s giant animated emotes (that knocking hello guy, for instance), live streaming video chat, etc. Personally, I never used those elements anyway. Some I even found annoying. If you’re like me, who just needed a contact list and a chat window with text in it, these will do you just fine.

So if you’re like I was, juggling contacts between more than one IM program, I recommend either Pidgin or Adium, depending on your OS of choice. And hey, if you need me, I’ll be online! :P