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Communications Software The Internet

What Makes a Good IM Client? 649

thesaint05 asks: "So I was sitting here at my job where and IM is a pretty integral part of communicating intra-office. However, I have 3 different clients installed, and each has a different user base. Within the office we have an SIP server and use Windows Messenger. The Google Talk client is for colleagues and friends on the cutting edge, and AIM is used by pretty much everybody else (including a bunch of clients). So, after holding 3 different conversations simultaneously on all 3 clients (Windows Messenger with a colleague, AIM with my girlfriend, and Google Talk with a friend at a different tech company) I got to wondering, what are the strengths and weaknesses of all of these clients? Which do you use and why? If you could combine features from all of the IM clients out there, what would they be?"
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What Makes a Good IM Client?

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  • by duerra ( 684053 ) * on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:14PM (#14151199) Homepage
    I was asked this question a few days ago, my response was that there is a little something from every network that I would like to combine for use into one standard.

    MSN - Ability to change your nick. Ability to accept or decline others from adding you to their buddy lists.
    AIM - Ability to set auto-reply messages. Direct connect for quicker file transfers.
    Yahoo! - Ability to send messages to people that are offline that they will receive next time they sign on. Ability to go invisible.

    There's stuff I'm missing, no doubt, and I didn't cover every protocol out there, but those are the major things for me.

    I'm not sure of all of the Jabber specifications, but I know there's things in there that specify encryption stuff, among a number of other nice things.

    Right now, I think strong encryption (like with the gaim-encryption plugin) between client to client (not client to server) is one big thing that all of the major players need to address.
    • lol (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:19PM (#14151264)
      aside from the encryption, icq had all of these and more in 1997
      • Re:lol (Score:4, Insightful)

        by duerra ( 684053 ) * on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:23PM (#14151332) Homepage
        Yeah, it's too bad that ICQ has that stupid number instead of a username, though. Numbers are hard to remember, hard to give to people on a whim, etc.

        ICQ was so close to being perfect!
        • numbers are good (Score:3, Interesting)

          by gullevek ( 174152 )
          - you could change your nick anytime
          - I still remember my ICQ number :)
        • Re:lol (Score:5, Interesting)

          by troll ( 593289 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:00PM (#14151731) Journal
          I'd rather everyone have a numeric id, but not sequential. Unique id should be the hash of your public key, which is then used for verification/encryption.
          You then do the rest icq style. I still don't remember my uncles icq uin, nor do I know his aim screenname, but I know if I type his name in the Find User dialog, I'd find his icq account. Long aim screennames are no easier considering aols db is merged with netscape/compuserve/a few other services by now. The number of unused old accounts wasting space is astonishing. I couldn't even register my full name as a screenname because it was already in use.

          Unique numeric ids keep people from fighting over that stuff, and rarely have to actually be displayed, you just display the nick they set as the displayname. Then only show the numeric id in case of duplicate names when trying to find people. Even then you dont have to show the full digits, you can use graphical representation of the key. Forgot the name of the tech, but it looked promising when used for PKI.
        • Re:lol (Score:5, Funny)

          by AoT ( 107216 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:27PM (#14151953) Homepage Journal
          Yeah, I never give people a contact number on a regular basis.
    • I worked for HAL++ for a while and I liked the alphaWorks SameTime client (I forget the name exactly) but it would talk, which freed me up to walk away from my desk. I was working remotely, so when things got really slow (or not), I could go watch TV and not worry about missing someone trying to get ahold of me via IM... (Think CYA)

      Anyway, I'd like the client to have speach capabilities... Even better would be to assign different voices to known contacts, but that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.
      • by cheezus_es_lard ( 557559 ) <cheez17 AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @09:01PM (#14152597) Homepage
        I'd like to see the ability for you to have speech recognition, but also text to speech... I mean, if you're using the same client, you can train your client to recognize your voice, and also record the information on it; timbre, pitch, tone, etc... store that in a profile and have the client transmit it automatically (if desired) the first time your buddy tries to text-to-speech your incoming IMs. The recieving client could apply the settings from your profile to your incoming messages, reading them in a voice similar to your own (I'd expect eerily similar as the technology developed). I can't imagine this being that difficult, and with modern processing capabilities, rendering speedy text-to-speech isn't that hard, so I don't see why it couldn't be reasonably usable.

        Aside from the obvious creep-out and privacy invasion issues, are there any technical reasons this would be hard, and is anyone working on something like this?

        just curious ;-)
    • Send messages to receive when the come back and the ability to go invisible are both possible on AIM as well. Use GAIM [] to be able to do these things.
    • by slavemowgli ( 585321 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:27PM (#14151394) Homepage
      If you want strong encryption with nice properties, do look into off-the-record [] messaging - there's both a GAIM plugin (works with all protocols) and an AIM proxy. I think AdiumX also has support for this built in.

      It's got some nice properties like perfect forward secrecy and plausible deniability, and it's GPL/LGPL-licensed. (GPL for the AIM proxy, toolkit and GAIM plugin; LGPL for the library)
    • AIM also has the ability to become invisible, but that's all I can think that you're missing...

      Also, I don't think that any of the major players will ever fully support end to end encryption. Firstly, that's a treasure trove of information they can play with and use. Secondly, at some point, the FBI is gonna come knocking and demand IM records, which they'll need to be able to provide. Finally, if they do provide it, it'll only be for 'premium' users (AOL has this kind of service, I don't know about the oth
    • A good protocol is useless if the people you are trying to keep in touch with aren't using it. I use AIM solely because that's what all of my friends use. Chat_Client_X might be better but if the people I need to keep in contact with aren't using it, what's the point?

      • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:47PM (#14151614)

        A good protocol is useless if the people you are trying to keep in touch with aren't using it. I use AIM solely because that's what all of my friends use. Chat_Client_X might be better but if the people I need to keep in contact with aren't using it, what's the point?

        By your logic the only way to switch protocols would be if all your friends did so simultaneously or if you got new friends. Thus you are locked in forever. Here's an out. Set up your own Jabber server for you and your friends and configure it to have a bridge to the protocol you are currently using. Then you can still chat with the same people over the same protocol, but you can also chat with people over Jabber and if both you and the other person are using Jabber you can have end-to-end encryption and a secure server. If enough people switch over via this method, we can all ditch these proprietary walled gardens and everyone will be able to chat with everyone using the client of their choice.

    • Aside from the encryption, the ability to create group chats is nice on several protocols. The ability to host your own servers (ala Jabber) is vital to small businesses. An easy tie in to VOIP, and video conferencing is very convenient, ala iChat's extensions to AIM and Jabber. Having an open standard so that custom clients and specialized devices can be easily and legally created (again Jabber) is useful. The ability to bridge to other protocols (yup another Jabber feature) using your server is convenien

    • by Atario ( 673917 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @08:16PM (#14152316) Homepage
      A filter that slaps you in the face if you start typing in IM-speak.

      "u" for "you", "4" for "for", etc.
      More than one instance of "lol" per minute
      More than two exclamation points (possibly mixed with ones) in a row
      Smileys on more than one quarter of your messages
      And so on.
  • Fess up (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:14PM (#14151203)
    This was just an excuse to use the words "my girlfriend" in a Slashdot story.
  • well... (Score:5, Informative)

    by daeley ( 126313 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:15PM (#14151209) Homepage
    If you could combine features from all of the IM clients out there, what would they be?

    Adium []? ;)
  • Go with GAIM (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anarke_Incarnate ( 733529 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:15PM (#14151210)
    and be done with it all. Googletalk is just Jabber which works with GAIM. Windows/MSN messenger and AIM work, as do Yahoo and ICQ.
    • I would have to second's a great client! And it does all the major protocols.

    • Re:Go with GAIM (Score:5, Informative)

      by kryten_nl ( 863119 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:21PM (#14151296)
      From the GAIM news page:
      Summer of Code

      Meanwhile, Google's Summer of Code has drawn to a conclusion and we are very happy with what our students accomplished. Support for Apple's Bonjour protocol, UPnP NAT traversal, AIM and ICQ file transfer proxying, and support for the SIP/SIMPLE protocol are a few of the additions. See the news post at the top of our Summer of Code page for a detailed list.

      Working at Google

      I (Sean) have been hired by Google, moved to Seattle, and have been working on the Google Talk team for about a month and a half. The goal of Google Talk is to make real-time communication as open as possible, and in that regard, I've been working to offer all of Google Talk's features into other clients. Currently, I'm working on making it as easy as possible for other clients to use Google Talk's voice features. You can expect Gaim and other clients to be interoperable with Google Talk's voice features in the near future.
    • I will throw in a great big Me Too. Gaim makes things so much easier, especially since I do not need an add on to sign in to my multiple AOL IM screenames, not to mention my MSN, Google Talk and Yahoo! Does the Google talk voice chat work under gaim yet?

      One gaim to rule them all,
      One gaim to find them,
      One gaim to bring them all
      and in the darkness bind them

      (Sorry, slow day at work.)
    • Re:Go with GAIM (Score:3, Insightful)

      by slavemowgli ( 585321 )
      Unfortunately, though (and this is not intended as a GAIM bash!), when you go beyond the basic feature of being able to talk to people etc., GAIM frequently breaks in annoying ways. I've used GAIM since its 0.5x days at least (not sure if I tried it before that), and there's *always* something - file transfers are a frequent problem, for example, as are direct connects, inline images, etc. Depending on the version, it's also rather prone to crashing - versions around 0.59.x were best, IMO, then things degra
    • Re:Go with GAIM (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Jotii ( 932365 )
      Personally I hate GAIM's user interface. I prefer Trillian, with it you can use as many protocols as with GAIM.
  • Two major ones (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bananatree3 ( 872975 ) * on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:15PM (#14151219)
    Two commonly used ones are (and fairly good ones I might say) are Trillian [] and GAIM []

    GAIM is an Open Source program, and therefore is completely free. Trillian has a free and Pro versions, but the free version is still quite capable.

  • Simplicity.
  • Easy. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Sax Maniac ( 88550 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:16PM (#14151223) Homepage Journal
    Trillian for Windows, gaim on Linux. Next question?
    • Why not Gaim on Windows []?
    • Re:Easy. (Score:2, Insightful)

      Beat me to the Trillian punch by a refresh. Trillian is great -- the free version is nice, the pro version is worth the money (IMO). Pro is the only way you can using GoogleTalk with Trillian (ala the Jabber plugin), but look beyond that to the fact that Trillian was written by two guys. Two random guys who sat down and created one of the best darn chat clients available. That deserves a $25 high-five. :)
  • Hmm... (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheSpoom ( 715771 ) * <> on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:17PM (#14151239) Homepage Journal
    Sounds like you're looking for Trillian [] with the Jabber plugin [] (and some instructions []) to be able to connect to all three.

    Anyway, I abandoned having more than one IM client installed a while ago. ICQ, for example, has always taken up gobs of RAM, and was one of the main reasons I wanted to consolidate a few years ago. I used to use Gaim [], which is a good open source client that can connect to most networks (including Jabber, so it'll work with Google Talk). For whatever reason though, it kept crashing on me whenever I'd send a file, so now I'm using Trillian [] (Pro), which has worked very well for me. (Much better than the 1.x version I tried several years ago, if anyone hasn't tried it in a while.)

    As for the networks themselves, I have contacts on the major four (ICQ, AIM, MSN, Yahoo) and really, the features of each aren't that different when they're all in the same client; it's all mostly small things. ICQ doesn't have the thing that shows when you're typing, for example. But for me, if they can do text chat well and can send files, they're fine for my usage.
    • The newer versions of GAIM have become much more capable and stable.

      I almost switched back to Trillian at one point, but now I'm glad I stuck with GAIM.

  • by beejhuff ( 186291 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:17PM (#14151242) Homepage
    That's pretty beneficial, and as far as I know that's the reason we use it at Dell, at least for internal IM needs.
    • Jabber can intergreat with LDAP.
    • SIP is just a protocol that a lot of people implement. SIP is implemented by Polycom for phones and by a number of other companies. It handles voice quite well apparently.

      Office Communicator / Messenger / Microsoft Live Communications Server is only one implementation.

      As far as I am concerned, having rolled it out to a thousand and a few people, although it scales quite well, the fact that you have to pay per user per month for federation out to the other networks (AOL/ICQ, Windows Messenger, Yahoo!) I thin
  • by under_score ( 65824 ) <{moc.gietreb} {ta} {nikhsim}> on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:17PM (#14151246) Homepage
    I actually haven't seen this in an IM client, but it would be cool. Tie in to a networking system like LinkedIn or build in the capacity so that if you choose, you can browse and create connections through your friends list.
    • Let's think about social networking for a second. I as a college student use The Facebook, and Livejournal. Livejournal lists people's instant messaging identifiers, but no way from Livejournal to send people an instant message. Why not? Second, if I pay my phone company $50/month for unlimited communications, why can't my IM client use that line to make calls and let me talk on a headset?

      The computer needs to be the Rolodex of the future, with phone, e-mail, and text messaging built in.

      They still haven't p
  • Any IM client/server system I use must be able to connect with a SIP server like Asterisk, so that I get automatic phone presence information and phone control in my IM client. Jive Messenger has this, so far, and so does Microsoft Office Communicator (though I'm not sure if that actually works with Asterisk - I doubt it ;)
  • by jandrese ( 485 ) * <> on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:20PM (#14151291) Homepage Journal
    The advantages of ICQ (over AIM) with the default clients are:
    1. Offline messages. Extremely handy for a lot of things.
    2. Stored History. Unbelievably useful when trying to find something someone mentioned to you 6 months ago. Grepping through the licq history has been a livesaver for me. AIM clients can of course implement it too, but a lot of them don't for some bizarre reason, or they require you to manually tell it where to store files.
    • I like GAIM because it stores the history for all of the protocols, and has a built in search feature. I use it all the time.

      I wish all the protocols supported offline messages, and more importantly reliable message confirmation, so that you get notified if a specific message didn't go through. I want to send off a message, have it be assigned a unique ID, then have the other client repsond back (in the background), "yep, I got message ###". If your client doesn't get back that message after so many seco
  • As a great big dweeb, pasting multimedia into the chat window and having it come across nicely is rad. It is one of my favorite methods for conveyance of stolen music, and funny/apropos pornographic images.

    No chat client does that perfectly. Hello is great for pictures. iChat & GAIM & AOLIM are good if you're both running the right client and have the right network topology, which is rare.

    Maybe the Skype client gets it right. Dunno. Never used it.
  • Client: Miranda (Score:2, Informative)

    by Semok ( 935159 )
    I think this one is a pretty nice client:
    Cool thing: all major protocolls are supported via plugins AND you can set it up to use gnupg! Not a common feature in the big programs ...
  • i use all at once. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ilf ( 193006 )
    just get [] (with irssi on a screen, yeah!).
    or miranda..
  • Userbase (Score:2, Insightful)

    The one thing i'd like to add from all clients is a userbase. ;) The multi-im clients come close to this functionality and as far as I'm concerned it is the only important feature they need to share. Text messaging everyone I know without inconveniencing them by asking them to switch to a network of their choice is ultimately the point of im. Open interfaces for enhanced features like games, picture and file sharing would also be nice but there is little reward for each of the hosts of these services if th
    • Re:Userbase (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Miros ( 734652 ) *
      This is absolutely true. IMs are like the phone system. The more people on the system, the better it is for the user, because by far the strongest aspect of any IM system is how able to find your friends on it you are. This is why the instant messanger business has been historically extremely hard to penetrate (with new networks) and the dominant player (aim) shows no signs of being dislodged. I like the "my sister" test. My sister is not a techie, she doesnt work for a corporation that uses its own in
  • If you could combine features from all of the IM clients out there, what would they be?

    Trillian. It has MSN, Yahoo, AIM, ICQ, and irc clients, along with encryption you can use for anyone else who uses Trillian over AIM and ICQ. That's really the best part (besides the fact it's much nicer than the AIM, ICQ, MSN and Yahoo clients combined and free for the basic version).
  • Gaim (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Finnegar ( 918643 )
    I've got Gaim ( []).

    Includes basic (text only, if you use things like voice, video and sending files often, it is not for you) support for AIM, MSN and a whole bunch of others. There is a way to make it work for Google Talk via their Jabber client, but I can't tell you first hand how well that works.

    As for features, I like the tabs the most. You would be having your three conversations as three tabs in one window, with color coded notification if they are typing or have posted someth
  • by illtron ( 722358 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:25PM (#14151350) Homepage Journal
    A good client will handle multiple protocols.
    A good client has a beautiful, well thought out interface (including the prefs)
    A good client does not have games.
    A good client does not have a stock ticker.
    A good client does not have a giant SUBMIT button (Everybody knows enter/return sends).
    A good client will let you organize/arrange your contact list to suit your needs (Sorry iChat -- yes, even in Tiger)
    A good client is extendable.
    A good client has a no-brains-needed logging feature.
    A good client plays well with others (Growl, baby)
    A good client has tabs (Nobody wants a dozen chat windows).
    A good client will not try to reinvent the wheel (Why does control+Z minimize the chat window in Gaim?)
    A good client will let me effortlessly send files (uhhhh....)

    I'm thoroughly sold on Adium, but since I'm stuck on Windows at work, I use Gaim there, because it is the simplest. Trillian is extremely overrated. AIM is absolute adware garbage.

    On the Mac side, only iChat lets me transfer files without issue (official AIM might, but I won't install it to find out).

    Proteus and Fire are nice, but Adium is *nicer.* I won't fault anybody for trying the others, but I think it's worth anybody's time to give Adium a day or two to win them over.
    • Trillian does all of these things, and much more. Instead of just saying things it SHOULD NOT do, how about moving those things into prefs or optional plugins, via a rich api for plugins.

      I think Trillian is by far the best I've seen. I bought the pay version (like $25) because I loved the free version. The pay version is even better, with the best logging/activity history I've seen.
    • by kobaz ( 107760 )
      Why does control+Z minimize the chat window in Gaim?

      For the same reason that emacs minimizes when you hit ctrl-z. In the unix world ctrl-z is suspend, they are just following the convention. Gaim wasn't ported to windows until much after it's initial release.
      • by John Nowak ( 872479 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @10:50PM (#14153191)
        This isn't at all a reason. When you port software, there should be a basic effort made to follow the conventions of the target system. The truth is Gaim is just a mess in this regard on every platform, even Gnome. Trillian also craps all over conventions. The only solid AIM client out there that behaves itself is Adium, and it goes so far beyond that is well. Things like Adium, Quicksilver, etc, will keep me on the Mac platform for a long time.
    • Pseudo troll alert (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dustpuppy ( 5260 )
      > Trillian is extremely overrated.

      How about saying why?

      I have used GAIM, Trillian Basic and Pro versions and found all were pretty good. In the end, I found GAIM to be a bit too 'clunky' and settled on Trillian Pro (of which I have been very happy with it's performance and stability).
  • Did you make it out of that 3-way alive?

    You didn't acidentally send an IMissive about your girlfriend's nipples to your client, I hope.

    Hmmm... that might have made for some interesting extra-business activity. A 3-way, becomes a THREE-WAY.
  • by hubbah ( 635375 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:26PM (#14151368) Homepage
    I think the poster is asking what makes a good IM client, not which IM client we happen to prefer. Related questions to be sure, but not the same.

    Contrary to folk wisdom, IM clients can be specialized, they're not all trying to outdo each other at the same tasks. So it's important to ask yourself what you're looking for. Fun & features? Try Yahoo's 'IMvironments' (or whatever silly thing it's called), sharing pictures? 'Hello' has some picture oriented, well-designed UI affordances in their chat client.

    Personally, I look for the following things in a client:

    - Simplicity (I want to think about IMs as little as possible)
    - Universal compatibility (I don't want to run more than 1 client, I don't want to ask my friends to get xyz client in order to talk to me)
    - Configurability
    - No ads

    I haven't tried every available client, but Gaim fits the bill for me. It's small, simple, highly configurable and speaks pretty much every lingo out there. It's not strong in its file-transfer capabilities and its ability to send pictures, but those features are not as important to me.

    Plus, it's open source.

    • I agree with your list of "let's keep" or what to look for, as an MSNM user I think the worst things in the world are the ads and the freaking Nudges!

      What I would really like in an IM client.

      A simple IM interface, text only no silly animations no cutesy icons no flashing ads or brightly colored atrocious text or font no nudges, must have the ability to file transfer send/recieve live audio/video that is my dream IM.
  • 1. Any IM client that isn't secure could one day prove to be a huge problem for a company or a userbase. Fortunately, there hasn't been widespread IM viruses, but who knows?

    2. The ability to VoIP, change nicknames, block certain types of users, send images, create smilies and a variety of other features are always fun to have. But they can't be intrusive. I hate MSN's interface, way too many useless gadgets that try to be cool. On the other hand, Google Talk is very clean but Jabber isn't the most featur
  • I've always loathed real-time chat, including IRC and instant messaging. I'd rather people just e-mailed me in general, since then I can respond whenever I feel like or just ignore it. The moment I was hired at my current programming job though, I was required to set up a work specific AIM account from day one. The owners were overseas in Spain, and it turned out that AIM was their primary means of communication between Spain and the U.S. I've slacked a bit in the three years after that as far as my gen
  • by crlove ( 857212 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:27PM (#14151389) Journal
    And for those who want to use these IM clients but can't from work, there's always Meebo []. Pick on AJAX all you want, but I can IM on MSN, Yahoo, Google, and AIM through port 80.
  • gaim (Score:2, Interesting)

    by know1 ( 854868 )
    i've heard there is a windows program that does the same,. i'm sure someone here will telly you, but i like gaim when i ever do use IM as it handles msn/im together. i should imagine google talk might be included in the next version of it or at some version in the future as they seem to be quite friendly towards OSS.
    oh and the worst aspect of any instant messenger is if it pops up and steals your windows focus and you end up typing half a url into a message window or whatever. best feature is integrated em
    • AIM steals focus (Score:5, Insightful)

      by British ( 51765 ) <> on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:30PM (#14151978) Homepage Journal
      The worst aspect of AIM was the "focus stealing" aspect, also present in MSI Installer. NO program EVER should pop up a window and instantly put focus to it. Never, No. Flash it, but don't come up to the front.

      Imagine you are talking dirty to your girlfriend in a long typing message, and then an unexpected IM from your grandma pops up, and it's too late, you hit enter. Your message of "....and I'm gonna lick your clit" ends up being sent to grandma.

      Yeah, it's never happened to me(happened to someone on, but a good IM client wouldn't let you do that.
  • by WhiteWolf666 ( 145211 ) <> on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:28PM (#14151411) Homepage Journal
    to be Kopete, for KDE. []

    It's fast, easy to use, very elegant. It suffer from the same problem most KDE apps have, far too many options, but once you get it setup the way you like it, its fantastic.

    Video for Yahoo chat, as well. Jabber, MSN, ICQ, AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo, others that I haven't even heard of.

    It's really nice; but only for Linux right now.
  • Because it's on my iBook, which has become my primary desktop machine, and because it's what all of my friends who IM use.

    As for work. I hunt down and hurt people who IM on my network. Although I do think setting up a secure jabber server might be worthwhile at some point.
  • by dominux ( 731134 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:29PM (#14151416) Homepage
    yes, it isn't a consumer grade service, it is a service you have inside the corporate firewall. It was 5 years ahead of the competition 6 years ago and they haven't done much to it since, but on the plus side you can integrate it with Notes applications so every time a name appears anywhere on a form in a Notes database (expenses form, discussion database, document library etc.) it grows a little green icon you can click on to chat with the relevant person. Buddy list does not belong in a little window all by itself, IM awareness should be spread over all applications, anywhere there is a name I want to click to chat or mail, or VOIP or screenshare or webcam etc.
  • by irregular_hero ( 444800 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:38PM (#14151529)
    Trillian Pro [] can do that -- including SIP messaging with Live Communications Server -- with the (very alpha) SIP plugin for Trillian located here [].
  • by bergeron76 ( 176351 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:39PM (#14151541)
    That's probably going to be the "best" integration of the technologies.

  • by Paralizer ( 792155 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:39PM (#14151545) Homepage
    Gaim [] takes the award in my book for ease of use and simplistic design.

    I use Gaim to connect to the AOL IM servers, and I've found it surpasses the traditional AOL AIM client by far, as well as alternatives such as Trillian (bloated and graphically immense.)

    The Gaim interface can be customized down to being nothing but a window with a list of user names (customizable names can be introduced for your list), and has optional buttons on the bottom of the user list for quick action. Bottom buttons can be graphics, textual, or removed entirely. This is a user list interface at its best.

    The user list spawns a traditional 1-on-1 chat window with a remote client, and supports tabs allowing switching between conversations easy, as well as noting other conversation changes without needing to reference another window.

    Gaim is portable, and runs on Linux, Mac, and Windows.

    Gaim is modular. I have quite a few nice little plugins that do interesting tricks. For example, if I'm too busy to respond to someones IM (this is rare), there is a plugin to set your idle time. Sure it may be a little cheap, but it allows me to avoid talking to someone if I'm deep in writing code without making them feel like I'm just ignoring them if they see I've been idle for say, 20 minutes or so.

    I also find Gaim's logging system efficient. The AOL IM client tends to save all logs in HTML format, including all the color tags and formatting. This seems to me to be a waste in hdd space (granted it's small, it's still annoying.) Gaim saves only the textual information, and provides a nice interface to viewing and searching logs based on the user you're searching for and the date of the conversation.

    Being a developer myself I think it would be beneficial if there were some sort of drawing utility on the client, similar to a traditional chat window but with graphical point-and-draw type interface. A feature such as this would help in discussing new ideas for programs between developers, or perhaps go as far as drawing driving directions for friends.

    Of course if we're talking "chat rooms" where the communication line is more than 1-to-1, IRC is always the best :) In that case I would recommend X-Chat [].

  • by Crimsane ( 815761 ) <> on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:47PM (#14151617) Homepage
    Bitlbee [] is an irc gateway to all the messenger clients. This means that I can communicate with my MSN contacts over (what appears to me to be) irc.

    This means I can run screen+irssi+bitlbee on my home server, and will never disconnect from any of my msn,aim,irc,etc and will be able to rejoin my clients from wherever in the world I am (very important for a laptop user like myself).

    It organized all of my streams of communication into one single, easy, clean interface (irssi, really, but still) and allows me to manage my time much more efficiently then before. (not to mention the benefits of never logging off, so people can send you messages and you can pick them up without having to be "on line" at that moment.

    I'm looking forward to naming my firstborn after it.
  • Miranda (Score:5, Informative)

    by eddy ( 18759 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:57PM (#14151688) Homepage Journal

    Miranda [] is one app that keeps me on Windows... and it keeps reminding my why all other clients suck. Every now or then I'll try GAIM, but I actually prefer CenterICQ....

    Miranda is small, modular, has simple & coherent interface (looks like a native application, not some sort of freakish eXXXTreeeme-Teeenage-Mega-Skinzz-application), protocols galore, etc.

  • by francisew ( 611090 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @06:59PM (#14151718) Homepage

    Useful features:

    1. Cross platform (First and most important!)
      I expect the chat program to tackle at the very least windows, mac and linux.
    2. Small footprint
      Way too many IM's are bloated to the point where the system is appreciably slow.
    3. File transfer utility
      We all need to send a zip, or gif at some point. Though I find the 'user pictures' cute, I think they add significant bloat.
    4. Accept/Decline contacts
      This is critical. If you can't keep someone off your contacts, IM spam ensues.
    5. Contact notifier window
      A list of who is online & offline.
    6. Low bandwidth
      Low bandwith usually results low latency, when the connection is slow.
    7. Audio connection
      I'd like to be able to have a voice conversation, with text IM's.
    8. Video connection
      I'd also like to be able to add a video stream.
    9. Open standard, and open network
      Way too many clients lock their network, and so we have this huge network fragmentation. I don't mind if my friends want their own clients which have the nice bubbly windows and 'user photos', I just don't want to *have* to run them myself.
    10. Extensibility via modular plugins.
      If someone want to play a game via their IM, then go right ahead.
    11. Conferencing ability
      I'm not sure how often I would use this, but it would be very useful when I do need to use it.
  • BitlBee + rcirc (Score:3, Informative)

    by bkhl ( 189311 ) <> on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:23PM (#14151920)
    I use BitlBee [] in rcirc []. All the protocols you mention, plus IRC, ICQ, Jabber and Yahoo, all from a unified interface within the comfort of Emacs. BitlBee also works with your IRC client of choice, of course.
  • by vga_init ( 589198 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @09:11PM (#14152643) Journal

    Granted, I've always been a huge jabber advocate, but I honestly don't see why more people here don't recommend it. A lot of features that are cited in other posts that are foudn in the more popular protocols that make them unique from one another are already present in jabber: permissions, offline messages, various status options, logging (not really a protocol feature). The protocol is easy-as-pie XML, and the is open and standard so that the sky is the limit as to how clients can choose to interact with one another. I've always found the protocol to be very flexible, and there are a lot of tiny little features that make it a pleasure to use (subscription management, anonymous chatting, etc etc).

  • by merreborn ( 853723 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @10:03PM (#14152933) Journal
    It's the people on the network that keep me signing on. My family uses Yahoo, a few friends use MSN, and a few use AIM. (In the past AIM was great because you could use it to talk to AOL users for free, but these days, I don't know any)

    If I want to talk to all of them, I have use all three clients. In my experience most people install IM clients for the same reason -- a friend says, "You should download [AIM/Y!M/MSN] and chat with me! My screenname is veronica696969". No one really cares how many custom smilies any given client supports -- they're mostly all Good Enough at their basic job -- rapid transport of small snippits of text.

    On a completely unrelated note, the following AOL screennames are already taken:
    veronica69696969 ...Appearantly, the Veronicas of the world are a rather uncreative bunch.

    Don't ask me why I know that.
  • by slaker ( 53818 ) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @10:31PM (#14153071)
    I have said this before when the subject of IM software comes up:
    There is no such thing as good IM software. Everyone has a perfectly good, universal "instant message" protocol. It's called SMTP.

    What's wrong with IM?
    Well, to talk to everyone you might want to talk to, you need multiple sign-ons for each of the incompatible networks. And you have to configure either a universal client that's going to be borked periodically by official protocol updates, or you have to load five or six "official" clients on your computer.

    Plus you have to be willing to trust each company whose IM software you want to use. Is their software secure? Are their servers? How much information is leaked out your PC when you use their protocol? Will they give you a date with an advertising bot?

    No thanks.
    E-mail is universal, not controlled by any single company and can easily be secured. What's not to love about that?
  • GAIM and GAIM-VV (Score:3, Informative)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @02:28AM (#14154544) Journal
    Just FYI, if you're not a GAIM user but like the videoconferencing etc features of your various IM's, keep a watch. The 2.x version of GAIM is supposed to re-merge the GAIM-VV (Voice+Video) forks so that it not only supposed multicliented goodness, but many of the media features as well.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger