Pidgin IM Review

Get All Your Accounts in One IM App

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Pidgin IM is a multi-protocol IM (instant messaging) app that is basically developed for the Linux environment, but with also a version for Windows. With Pidgin, you can log on to your numerous accounts using the same interface and communicate with different protocols, like AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo, IRC, MSN, ICQ, Jabber and many other IM and chat networks. It is a great tool for heavy communicators with popularity across the networks and even for office environments.

Pidgin is open-source and therefore free.

Pros

  • Supports a lot of chat and IM protocols
  • Full of features, including all that is needed for a good instant messaging tool
  • Supports a great number of third-party plug-ins, which can be installed to enrich the app more and extend the number of features
  • Clean and powerful interface

Cons

  • Not primarily a VoIP application
  • Carries one security threat: passwords are stored in plain text
  • No version available for Mac, and for some Linux distributions

Review

Back in 2007, GAIM (GTK+ AOL Instant Messenger) was renamed Pidgin after complaints from AOL. Pidgin has since then been very popular as a communications tool for the Linux platform, although facing competition from tools like Ekiga and Empathy. There is now a version of Pidgin IM for Windows, Unix, BSD and many distributions of Linux. Mac users have not been served, though.

Pidgin is not primarily a VoIP application under Windows, but there are numerous ways in which it can serve well as such.

One way is through SIP – Pidgin does not offer the SIP service, that can be obtained from many SIP providers for free, but it does offer the possibility to configure the app for SIP calls. Another way of using VoIP is through the installation of third-party plug-ins for the purpose. As for Linux, there is integrated VoIP support through the Jabber/XMPP protocol.

This includes voice and video over IP.

Pidgin IM manages no less than 17 protocols, and by the time you read this, more may have been added. Some of the protocols supported: Yahoo! Messenger, XMPP, MySpaceIM, MSN Messenger, IRC, Gadu-Gadu, Apple Bonjour, IBM Lotus Sametime, MXit, Novell Groupwise, OSCAR, Omegle, SILC, SIMPLE, and Zephyr. You can have a separate access/account on the app for each protocol.

Skype is not (yet?) supported, but it can be used through the installation of third-party plug-ins. An example is Skype4Pidgin. A Skype plug-in will be useful for many as Skype is not something to sacrifice these days. Besides, it keeps us wondering why Skype is left out.

The installation file is relatively light (around 8 MB) and when it runs, it is not greedy on resources. The interface is quite light and easy, and it keeps discreet on the desktop, without claiming much of the real estate, as Skype would do for example. The download is free from pidgin.im and installation is a breeze.

Once installed, the Pidgin app has customizable interfaces and options that make it very flexible. You can organize contacts, custom smileys, customize file transfer and group chats. Moreover, you can set preferences for any feature you normally use in apps of this kind, including the look and feel, the connection, audio, presence, and availability, chat logging etc.

Pidgin has one thing that many other IMs of its kind lack – a lot of plug-ins that make it very powerful and that make it possible for users to tailor it to their tastes. I find the following plug-ins useful if not necessary:

  • The Purple plug-in pack. This pack consists of no less than 50 plug-ins, some of which are very useful (some are quite useless too).
  • Guitifications. A plug-in for notifications of all kinds.
  • Facebook chat plug-in
  • Skype plug-in
  • Send SMS plug-in

Check the entire plug-in set available for Pidgin and download and try the ones you like, there.

On the down side, Pidgin IM is absent from the Mac platform.

Also, Skype is not supported. But what bugs me more is that it is not natively a VoIP app. That would make it a great tool for VoIP, which the new way to go for voice and video communication.

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