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How All-in-one Instant Messenger Works


All-in-one Instant Messenger Providers
Trillian's home page lets you download the Windows client, visit the Apple App Store for the iPhone version or log in to chat on the Web.
Trillian's home page lets you download the Windows client, visit the Apple App Store for the iPhone version or log in to chat on the Web.
Screenshot by HowStuffWorks.com

There are many different all-in-one instant messengers out there, most available for free. The following are some things you might to consider when choosing which all-in-one messenger you want:

  • Is there a version for my computer?
  • Does it connect to all the instant message services I want to use?
  • Does it have the features I use for each protocol (like video chat or voice messages)?
  • Is the interface too complicated? Too simple? Not intuitive enough?
  • Can I connect to multiple accounts on the same service?
  • Is it okay for me to install this on my computer at school? At work?
  • If other people are using the same computer, is my account information safe?

Here's a list of some popular all-in-one instant messengers along with some of what makes them unique:

Trillian has been around since 2000, and its user interface and features have evolved a lot through the years. Trillian has been available for Windows since its launch. It's now available as a Web application at trillian.im and an iPhone application from the iPhone App Store. A Mac OS X edition is currently in development. Cerulean Studios, the group behind Trillian, boasts that its newest release, Trillian Astra, has more than 400 features that include instant messaging, social networking, and video and voice calls.

Pidgin is one of several all-in-ones that use libpurple, a C library that takes care of all the different protocols behind the scenes so developers can just focus on the user interface. Pidgin started as an application called Gaim, developed in the late 1990s as a way to use AOL Instant Messenger on Linux [source: Herper]. It's still free, open-source software, and is now available for Windows and for several popular Linux distributions.

Adium and Proteus are all-in-ones for Mac OS X that use the libpurple C library like Pidgin. They support Growl notifications, so you can read each new message alongside other notifications when they pop up in the corner of your screen.

Digsby has a playful look and a built-in notification system. You can personalize Digsby with application skins and conversation themes. The latest release of Digsby is only for Windows, but the Digsby Web site promises future releases for Mac or Linux.

Meebo is a Web application that lets you enjoy all the features of an all-in-one instant messenger without downloading and installing any new software. Plus, Meebo lets you sign in from anywhere, instantly connecting you to all your services with only one username and password.

IM+ and BeejiveIM are mobile phone applications that let you take the all-in-one features anywhere you go.


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