As a business tool, instant messaging blows e-mail out of the water because it affords, well, instant communication. Alas, an age-old problem remains: AIM users can chat only with other AIM users; Windows Live Messenger users can chat only with other Windows users; and so on. (At least Yahoo is starting to get a clue; the latest version of that company's Messenger also supports Windows Live.)
Thankfully, cross-platform IM solutions exist in the form of third-party software and services. ExtremeTech rated six of the latest tools; here's what they had to say about each:
- Adium (Mac only) Adium is the alternative IM client for the Mac. It's highly customizable interface and support for multiple IM protocols are a definite step up from iChat.
- eBuddy Though its tabbed main window containing both buddy list and conversation windows is nice, for web-based IM, we recommend Trillian instead of eBuddy. The upcoming Orgoo, however, may change all that.
- Meebo You just have to see how many pros there are above [there are lots -- ed.] compared with the cons to see that we like this free, web-based IM client a lot.
- Meetro Meetro is a well-designed piece of conceptware, but it doesn't support basic IM standbys like buddy icons and fonts, not to mention voice or video chat.
- Pidgin Pigdin is a good basic, ad-free replacement for the commercial IM client. It supports a plethora of protocols, has a plugin feature for enhancements, and programmers can tinker with its code for customization.
- Trillian Trillian has long been the alternative IM client to beat, and it remains so. For the ultimate multi-IM-service software that even supports video and an excellent message history interface, spring for the $25 Pro version.