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What Makes a Good IM Client?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the no-skimping-on-the-features dept.

Communications 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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Each Protocol Has Its Good Points (5, Insightful)

duerra (684053) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151199)

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 (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151264)

aside from the encryption, icq had all of these and more in 1997

Re:lol (3, Insightful)

duerra (684053) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151332)

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!

Re:Each Protocol Has Its Good Points (1)

markwalling (863035) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151297)

in the meantime, you could use a got-it-all client like trillian

Re:Each Protocol Has Its Good Points (1)

duerra (684053) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151357)

I was referencing the native capabilities of the protocols, not the owners' clients.

And I use gaim ;)

Re:Each Protocol Has Its Good Points (2)

omnix (124024) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151314)

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.

Re:Each Protocol Has Its Good Points (1)

freakcgi (871513) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151363)

Yahoo! - Ability to send messages to people that are offline that they will receive next time they sign on. Ability to go invisible. Actually the new MSN messenger allows you to login in invisible mode just like yahoo

Re:Each Protocol Has Its Good Points (2, Informative)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151376)

Send messages to receive when the come back and the ability to go invisible are both possible on AIM as well. Use GAIM [sourceforge.net] to be able to do these things.

Re:Each Protocol Has Its Good Points (1)

SillySnake (727102) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151387)

Anyone remember ICQ? Didn't it have all of these things? Like way before any of the others we really even popular, it seemed like ICQ used to dominate..


Of all the random numbers and passwords I've come across in my online days, one of the only/oldest ones I remember, is my ICQ UIN :)

Re:Each Protocol Has Its Good Points (4, Informative)

slavemowgli (585321) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151394)

If you want strong encryption with nice properties, do look into off-the-record [cypherpunks.ca] 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)

Re:Each Protocol Has Its Good Points (1)

bucky0 (229117) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151428)

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 others...)

Fess up (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151203)

This was just an excuse to use the words "my girlfriend" in a Slashdot story.

Re:Fess up (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151462)

Girls, eeeeuuuuuhhhhh.....

why worry? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151208)

don't be concerned about things like these, just be thankful you have a girlfriend!

well... (5, Informative)

daeley (126313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151209)

If you could combine features from all of the IM clients out there, what would they be?

Adium [adiumx.com] ? ;)

Re:well... (5, Informative)

JazzCrazed (862074) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151294)

Or Gaim for the Linux/Windows users, the core library of which Adium uses.

Yup! (1)

JoostSchuttelaar (863737) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151345)

Indeed. Adium is by far the best IM client I have ever used. Very slick and clean interface. Very solid protocol support thanks to its GAIM core. Developers who are very active on the project. The only thing left I wish for is MSN webcam support ;)

Re:well... (2, Interesting)

MyDixieWrecked (548719) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151425)

Adium is actually the BEST IM client I've ever used. Not only the best multi-protocol client, but the best client all-together.

I'd say that the features that stuck out the most when I first started using it were the tabbed IMing and the extremely compact design. Those are still a huge plus, but the newer version now has a very nice CSS-based IM styling thing and buddylist skins, IM encryption (which is compatible with my GAIM using buddies), support for nearly every IM protocol in wide-use, aliases, logging, and meta-contacts(being able to group multiple screennames into a single, virtual, buddy).

Go with GAIM (5, Informative)

Anarke_Incarnate (733529) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Go with GAIM (1)

farrellj (563) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151280)

I would have to second that...it's a great client! And it does all the major protocols.

ttyl
          Farrell

Re:Go with GAIM (5, Informative)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Go with GAIM (1)

DrWho520 (655973) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151339)

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 (1)

djsmiley (752149) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151407)

This is another WOOP for gaim.

however, i haven't found how to stop the windows stealing focus when they first spawn (i.e. someone talks for the first time in a long time) as this interferes with UT2004. Not sure if its Ut's or gaims fault (no other games have such a big problem, but they aren't full screen.

Oh and im lazy, how do i use google talk with gaim?

Re:Go with GAIM (2, Insightful)

slavemowgli (585321) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151450)

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 degraded pretty seriously, and the current release (1.5.0) has recovered again for the most part.

GAIM is a nice program, and I certainly prefer it over closed-source clients who might do goodness-only-knows-what on my box, but it does have its flaws, too.

GAIM for the win... (1)

hitech69 (78566) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151213)

See Subject line.

Two major ones (5, Informative)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151219)

Two commonly used ones are (and fairly good ones I might say) are Trillian [ceruleanstudios.com] and GAIM [sourceforge.net]

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.

Re:Two major ones (1)

joemawlma (897746) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151353)

Miranda [miranda-im.org] is another that's a lot like GAIM and TRILLIAN but is much more basic and smooth running in my opinion. Works with all major clients as well and is a very small install.

Re:Two major ones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151420)

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.

Last time I checked, Trillian Basic doesn't have Jabber support, thus can't be used with Google. That's why I chose GAIM for Windows. Though the Linux version has been great for a long time, the Windows version has just now become very stable (wasn't so in the past which kept me away from it, probably because of the GTK+ port not being very stable).

what's in a good client (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151221)

Support for all of those seperate networks eliminating the need for multiple clients.

They do exist (although I'm not sure about the SIP support).

Google Talk (1)

MrNonchalant (767683) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151222)

Simplicity.

Easy. (2, Funny)

Sax Maniac (88550) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151223)

Trillian for Windows, gaim on Linux. Next question?

Re:Easy. (1)

wiggles (30088) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151252)

Why not Gaim on Windows [sourceforge.net] ?

Re:Easy. (2, Insightful)

Evil Closet Monkey (761299) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151334)

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. :)

uh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151224)

You could try using gaim [sourceforge.net] ?

Ummm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151229)

The author of the question is the one that uses all three IM clients. Shouldn't he be telling us the strengths and weaknesses of those clients?

Stick with Windows Messenger (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151230)

You'll just need to break up with your girlfriend and cut ties with that other guy, and everything should work OK. Let me know if you have problems.

The "differences" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151231)

MSN is a resource hog, GoogleTalk lacks quite a few "standard" features, and the newer AIM gets, the worse more bloated it gets.

luckily (1)

cyberbob2010 (312049) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151237)

I don't have to worry about which is better.

Trillian suppports them all.
With Trillian I can have my MSN, yahoo, AIM, and google names all up (and ICQ if I wanted to).

Re:luckily (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151319)

Yes but Trillian does not support all the features of the stand alone clients and if it currently does..next month it wont.

Hmm... (4, Informative)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151239)

Sounds like you're looking for Trillian [trillian.cc] with the Jabber plugin [trillian.cc] (and some instructions [smashsworld.com] ) 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 [sourceforge.net] , 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 [trillian.cc] (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.

Re:Hmm... (1)

DigitalRaptor (815681) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151295)

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.

SIP has encryption integrated with AD (3, Informative)

beejhuff (186291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151242)

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.

Re:SIP has encryption integrated with AD (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151322)

Jabber can intergreat with LDAP.

Re:SIP has encryption integrated with AD (2, Informative)

bernywork (57298) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151445)

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 think Jabber is a much better option. It's what they run internally at HP.

One Simple Thing - Social Networking (3, Insightful)

under_score (65824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151246)

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.

Re:One Simple Thing - Social Networking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151356)

Xfire has something similar to this - you can see the games that friends of friends are playing.

Re:One Simple Thing - Social Networking (2, Insightful)

osssmkatz (734824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151392)

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 perfected that yet, because all the IM providers are wasting time on a feature war, and the computer manufacturers (excepting Apple) have not built capable hardware for voice and video communications into their boxes.

So that's the feature I want: communication that works and is free, whether by phone, or IM.

--Sam

Why don't you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151247)

Try Trillian

I like GAIM (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151251)

Personally I just stick with GAIM because all my other friends are on AIM. It's also compatible with a host of other protocols (which I don't really use). And it's free. I like free.

Asterisk (1)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151255)

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 ;)

AIM with girlfriend? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151256)

I never heard the Eliza Chat Bot called "girlfriend" before.

I too Yahoo! (1)

dr_nik (843876) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151263)

I use Yahoo! IM simply because a large number of my friends and contacts are on Yahoo!. That seems to be the #1 reason people go with an IM client. I also like the fact that I can log on as invisible- as I don't like it when people use IM to keep track of where I am.

AIM Has Invisibility (2, Informative)

JoshDanziger (878933) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151435)

Just to clarify, the AIM protocol does allow you to go invisible. There's a little eye-ball looking thing at the top of your buddy list in the AIM client. Click it, and the eye closes. Voila! You are invisible. In GAIM, the same can be done under GAIM. Tools->Away->Invisible.

Three things for me... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151266)

1. Timestamps, because I may start a chat with someone and then leave the window open. If they add something as an afterthought an hour later I'll be able to distinguish that from the older conversation.

2. Logging to a text or HTML file, because I use chatting/conference rooms during meeting to capture ideas. It's wonderful get this all into a file and then post an URL to it for the meetings attendees.

3. Plugins to support various other IM protocols. This allows the client to be extensible to anything new that comes along.

All these can be found in GAIM.

http://gaim.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

Games! (1)

cralewyth (934970) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151267)

Because of my really fast box, I can play all the games on the IM client! Exactly what I need in an _Instant Messaging_ client!

IRC (1)

Jupix (916634) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151268)

IRC [wikipedia.org] is the ultimate IM protocol. Although at least Messenger does support multi-user conversations, IRC has always been the king of the hill of multi-user chat. Brilliant for in-office use.

And of those three you mentioned, I only know local users for Messenger (not taking into consideration that nearly all of them use MSN Messenger, not Windows Messenger). So that makes AIM and Google Talk pretty useless - no users, no chat program.

What kind of question is this for Slashdot?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151269)

Since this is Slashdot, answering this question is mighty easy. A good IM program has to be open source. Then, it is automatically the greatest invention known to man kind.

what do I look for? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151273)

what do I look for in an IM client? no teeth, flat head and about 3 feet tall...

Perfect IM Client (1)

netkid91 (915818) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151275)

1. Jabber! 2. Webcam(MSN) 3. Voice Chat(GTalk) 4. Custom Emotions(MSN) 5. Offline Messages(ICQ) 6. Games(ICQ/AIM/MSN) 7. File Transfer(Almost everything) 8. ??? 9. PROFIT!!!

Adium (1, Informative)

iangreen (793707) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151281)

like trillian, except with a pretty UI :) and growl makes it easy to read IM's without actually switching apps. Gotta love OSX.

What Makes a Good IM Client? (0)

caluml (551744) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151285)

What Makes a Good IM Client? One that does what you want it to.

ICQ, the forgotton protocol (4, Interesting)

jandrese (485) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151291)

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.

Re:ICQ, the forgotton protocol (1)

DigitalRaptor (815681) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151343)

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 seconds, it lets you know the message didn't go through.

Hello ftw with pretty pictures (1)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151293)

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 (2, Informative)

Semok (935159) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151299)

I think this one is a pretty nice client: www.miranda-im.org
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. (2, Insightful)

ilf (193006) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151300)

just get http://bitlbee.org/ [bitlbee.org] (with irssi on a screen, yeah!).
or miranda..

3 IM's and working???? (1)

SmellTheCoffee (808375) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151302)

Which do you use and why? If you could combine features from all of the IM clients out there, what would they be?
Seems like a question asked after a whole afternoon of pondering with a belly full of lunch. Seriously, if you have 3 IM clients going...I don't know what to tell you but good luck with the job.

Userbase (2, Insightful)

prurientknave (820507) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151303)

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 they can't guarantee commercial advertising.

Combining features for free (1)

oobob (715122) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151305)

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).

Probably get modded down for this.. but... (0, Offtopic)

Blackforge (8018) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151310)

The quantity of girls who'll get naked on their webcam for free.

Thanks and try the fish!

file sharing ... (1)

rush3k (911291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151318)

GAIM I use it on my linux box because it rocks all the different instant messengers and so I can be connected to all my AOL, Yahoo and MSN at once. You cant use a webcam or do voice and I've not experimented with file sending features. MSN I use on my Windows box. Ability to change names is good. Most people in Europe and Asia are on MSN. Yahoo More people in Africa and Middle East rock yahoo. Has a music feature. Doesnt eat up that much RAM if you care about that type of thing. AIM Most Americans use AOL. The preference setup is not user friendly. File transfers well, even when MSN and Yahoo fail because of firewalls.

Re:file sharing ... (1)

Korexz (915405) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151338)

Yeah... someone smack this guy... GAIM is everything.... Trillian isn't bad... it used to be better.

Miranda IM (1)

codehead (14804) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151336)

Personally, I use Kopete under Linux, but I recommend Miranda IM [miranda-im.org] to every Windows user out there. Miranda has a plethora of plugins for everything from IM protocols to a very useful boss key, including message encryption and voice support.

The same as any other software (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151341)

What makes a good IM client?
What makes a good *insert type of software here*?

Answer:
Ease of use, low learning curve for basic operations, intuitiveness, "it just works," nothing that gets in the way, customizable, safe and bug-free, etc. etc.

As for IM-specific:
Supports all options of the network I am on, e.g. 3-way conversations/rooms, type-styles, etc.
Supports common options like send, ignore, copy-text, etc. very efficiently
Protects as much as possible against known flaws in the IM networking protocols, i.e. graceful failure and if possible, recovery.
Multi-protocol.
Local ignore list.
Local spam protection.
Local security options like administrator-enforced logging, etc.
Support command-line commands like "/msg" or "/pm" for those of us who like to stay on the keyboard.

Cutting edge? (1)

natedubbya (645990) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151342)

The Google Talk client is for colleagues and friends on the cutting edge

Perhaps this is nitpicking too much, but is Google Talk really "the cutting edge"? I can understand maybe the author is talking about having "the latest product", but that definitely doesn't equal the cutting edge. As far as I can tell, Google Talk doesn't make any major advancements in technology whatsoever, in fact not even its GUI is very original. It looks alot like Apple's iChat. I think it's one thing to have the latest product, but that certainly doesn't mean you have the best product. Bad products come out all the time, and the people who grab them up shouldn't be considered cutting edge.

Gaim (2, Insightful)

Finnegar (918643) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151346)

I've got Gaim (gaim.sourceforge.net/ [slashdot.org] ).

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 something new. All chats can be logged, so you can easily go back and see what was said. There is also a built in spell checker that I haven't yet bothered to get working. Finally (that I can think of now), if you've got folks with multiple accounts you can have them on your buddy list as only one name, cutting down on clutter.

As a big plus, a new version (if I did my math right from their announcement) should be coming out pretty soon, for which they promise many great things on the website...



If you don't like Gaim, might be something on here? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_instant _messengers [wikipedia.org]

Adium, Adium, Adium (5, Insightful)

illtron (722358) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151350)

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.

miranda-im.org (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151351)

It's lightweight, sleek and easy to use. No bloat, no nag and no fee.

Miranda supports ICQ, AIM, MSN, Yahoo!, Jabber, Gadu-gadu and IRC.

Oh, and it's published under the GPL.

http://www.miranda-im.org/ [miranda-im.org]

Use all of them- Meebo.com (1, Informative)

tezzer (558085) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151352)

If you want to juggle several accounts and not worry about firewalls, go to Meebo [meebo.com] , which does Gmail, Jabber, AIM, ICQ and MSN in a browser window.

You didn't mention... (1)

writermike (57327) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151366)

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.

Use Trillian (1)

rossjp (688204) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151367)

It has plugins for almost every IM protocol out there including Jabber. Might have trouble integrating Google Talk with that, but I'm sure it's in the works. And you can have secure IM sessions via AIM, which is a big plus for me. You can get the Pro version of the software from your favorite bit torrent sites.

Did we read the question? (5, Insightful)

hubbah (635375) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151368)

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.

Hubbah

Re:Did we read the question? (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151401)

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. He also asked which client we use and why.

regnessem (1)

rush3k (911291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151370)

Regnessem This is an Japanese GAIM-type software ... It runs on Windows and you have to use plugins. Lots of cool features ... one of which is you're able to know if someone clicks on your name and opens a chat interface. PS Notice anything interesting about the name?

Security, Solid Features, Stability, No Ads (2, Insightful)

Fearan (600696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151379)

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 feature-full system.

3. I don't want to see ads when IMing. I don't want to get popups from using software, and I don't need daily news. Google Talk is awesome for this, as is Trillian and Adium.

AIM from the moment I was hired (2, Interesting)

shawnmchorse (442605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151383)

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 general loathing of it, but I still have yet to ever use instant messaging at home. The thing that's always scary to me is the sheer number of confidentail business conversations that have taken place over unencrypted AIM over the years. We've tried getting people to use GAIM with the encryption plug-in, but that's generally only used by the technical people and not the business people.

Patent Question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151388)

Can anyone tell me first hand, who is running or has creatd a software business, are there risks that you will write some code that some silly company owns the patent to, and thus get sued? I mean, has anyone run into a situation where they started a company, then turned out some "process" they wrote turned out to be patented? The whole intellectuial rights deal seems screwed up to me.... thanks

The Meebo Alternative. (5, Informative)

crlove (857212) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151389)

And for those who want to use these IM clients but can't from work, there's always Meebo [meebo.com] . Pick on AJAX all you want, but I can IM on MSN, Yahoo, Google, and AIM through port 80.

gaim (2, Interesting)

know1 (854868) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151391)

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 email delivery notification for me. would be nice to have that for gmail as well as aol/hotmail.

What about... (1)

bad jerkface (930612) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151400)

What about IRC? Don't geeks use IRC anymore? <sarcasm>Besides, X-chat will probably have video and voice before any decent AIM or Windows Messenger clients for linux do.</sarcasm>

IRC. (1)

James A. Y. Joyce (877365) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151405)

Duh. Most IM clients are inflexible and generally kludgy compared to the power of customisable IRC clients like X-Chat.

I've found the best on Linux (2, Informative)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151411)

to be Kopete, for KDE.

http://kopete.kde.org/ [kde.org]

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.

iChat (1)

SquadBoy (167263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151414)

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.

None of the above, Lotus Sametime with Notes (2, Interesting)

dominux (731134) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151416)

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.

End-to-End encryption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151434)

End-to-end encryption is a killer feature. After all, do you really believe the large networks will NOT keep a log of your conversations if they can?

Psi, the jabber client implements the PGP/GnuPG encryption for Jabber. Awesome stuff.

Erhm.. ya.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151440)

Going to have to say Trillian = bloat + not completely free... and slow to develop. (And for my own irritation... skins so mottled that you have to re-learn how to use the app with each new skin or design your own) Gaim = slim + completely free... as in beer... as in open source and speedily developed... except for -just- recently as they are trying to get to 2.0 and add all the features and new code from the google summer of code team that was working on GAIM. Not to mention you have three flavors of security... gaim-encryption.. best one out there... gaim-e which I don't have any experience with.. and Off-The-Record encryption.. which is kinda like that little kid that lived down the block and spray painted his bike black so he could be cool like you... but is ok encryption and what AdiumX for OS X is stuck with thanks to no native GTK for OS X (but not for long! http://developer.imendio.com/wiki/Gtk_Mac_OS_X [imendio.com] ). Anyway.. Gaim is a bit more ugly, for sure.. but if you're practical and admire utility and inginuity... GAIM is the way to go. http://gaim.sf.net/ [sf.net] However, if yer mr. money buckets and like having to add stuff like a Jabber PLUG IN in order to use the jabber protocol and like lots of confusion because theres no UI guidelines when people make skins and you're not too concerned with the fact that AOL/Time-Warner actually sells a product to capture text sent over their instant messaging networks, and sells them to corporations... or that about three lines of PERL will do the same thing for another 'tech savvy' guy that sits three cubes down from you... well obviously security/privacy isn't anything important to you.

Nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14151442)

I have to say that for an IM protocol/client there are many features that make it 'good' the only problem with your question these features are not what cause widespread acceptance. The only thing that causes widespread acceptance is 'all my friends are on it'.

ssh + screen + console (1)

bagofcrap (260283) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151447)

For serious geeking out, there are numerous ncurses-based im clients: naim [ml.org] , pork [ojnk.net] , centericq [konst.org.ua] among others. Using screen, not only can you be online all the time, but you can also retrieve messages sent to you while you are 'away' from any computer you can log into. Start a conversation, switch computers, and continue exactly where you left off.

Go Screen!

miranda/kopete (1)

vhone (921330) | more than 8 years ago | (#14151453)

windows: miranda im. tiny footprint, native controls, and you can make it look as basic or as advanced as you want

linux: kopete. the latest version supports video (and maybe audio), global identities, and the ability to see people's status on icq who haven't authorized you (for some reason kopete and miranda are the only two clients I know of that do this)

gaim, I find, is far too basic. but some people like that in a client. and I have no idea why everyone suggests it for a windows client when miranda is there. aside from the fact that the last time I checked, miranda had bad support for the AIM protocol.

as for what makes a good IM client, well, I'm only not getting into the "merge contacts" function. having only one entry on the list that combines a friend on gtalk, msn and icq is great. and the ability to copy that contact (kopete) to another group for even more management.

group support, obviously. and sub-groups. informative/customizable tooltips. avatar support in the list itself. the ability to rename a contact.

these features and what I pointed out above are what makes an IM client good to me
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