Truth be told, you probably don’t need a desktop instant messaging client. Chances are pretty good that you’re already in your browser, hooked in to any number of Web-based communication platforms with all your contacts – Facebook, Google Chat, Skype, etc. Since you’ve already got such quick access to all your contacts right from your browser, switching over to a desktop chat client isn’t always necessary, but we realize that they do still come in handy in certain situations.
For example, here at Digital Trends we use chat for quick inter-office communication to save our email inboxes from getting clogged up with countless brief messages, and we don’t have to get up from our desks to ask somebody in another room a question. We don’t all use the same chat clients, but these instant messaging clients combine all the services we use into one simple communication tool.
We’ve all got different preferences, and after taking a quick office poll, we’ve come to a general consensus on the five best instant messaging clients – no matter what operating system you’re on.
Adium is a multi-protocol chat client for Mac OS X. Among the handful of Mac users here in the office, Adium is the client of choice. It includes a Cocoa interface that’s clean, simple, and designed for maximum convenience. As with any multi-protocol chat client, Adium supports dozens of services (AIM, Yahoo Messenger, Gtalk, etc) and allows you to chat with all of your contacts, no matter which client they happen to be using.
Much like Adium, Pidgin is a chat program that lets you log in to accounts on multiple chat networks simultaneously. This means that you can be chatting with friends on MSN, talking to a friend on Google Talk, and sitting in a Yahoo chat room all at the same time. We like it because it packs one of the best interfaces we’ve seen in a chat client and it runs on nearly any operating system that isn’t OS X.
And now to address the large elephant in the room: Gtalk. If you already have a Gmail account, you’ve probably used the Web-based version before – it’s built into the sidebar of your Gmail account. Download the desktop app, and you get all the simplicity and advanced functionality you’d expect from a Google service. It’s multi-protocol and allows you to log in with other chat accounts, but also has the drawback of only working on Windows-based computers.
Continuing the parade of excellent multi-protocol instant messaging programs, we now come to Trillian. In terms of functionality, Trillian isn’t all that different from the others listed here. However, it does have a few unique features that you can’t get with other programs – stuff like custom skins and a mobile app that lets you IM on the go. The basic version is free, but Trillian also offers paid-for Pro accounts if you want extra features.
Digsby is a great chat client, but it does more than just that. The app touts itself as a unified place for all your social networking, email, and instant messaging needs. Sure, some of the other programs listed here also boast social media and email integration, but Digsby was the one who started the trend. And since they’ve been offering this type of unified service for longer than anyone else, they’ve had more time to work out the kinks and make it extra simple and convenient.
Did we not mention a service that deserves to be named among the best instant messaging clients? Leave a comment below to fill us in on what program you use and why you like it so much!