You’re organizing a weekend road trip and chatting with your friend using MSN Messenger when you decide to check with your other friends about their availability.
But you know that some of them don’t use MSN, or don’t always login to the service. So you connect to Facebook to see if anyone’s available on chat there, and then you login to your Gmail account to look for contacts on Google Talk. Next you fire up the AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, Yahoo! Messenger, and then you just lose your mind because of the mess of windows and incoming notifications you’ve created.
There’s such a plethora of instant messaging (IM) programs available now that it’s hard to keep all your contacts consolidated in one place. But the problem can be solved if you’re willing to make just one more free download.
What you download depends on what operating system you’re using. Digsby from dotSyntax LLC. is a free IM client on PC that will bring together your IM contacts, social networking accounts, and Web mail accounts. Digsby plans to make a Mac release in the near future.
Mac users can download Adium, an open source application that connects you with multiple IM accounts simultaneously. Adium doesn’t have social networking features – so you can’t check your Twitter feed or Facebook stream, but you can chat with your Facebook friends. There’s also no support for checking e-mail.
While these services allow you to group all your chat contacts together, they don’t let you jump into a service without an account. You’ll still need an MSN Messenger account to chat with other contacts on MSN, a Facebook account to chat with Facebook contacts and so on.
This free download will only take minutes to install and will replace several clients that you typically run on your desktop. The client is a familiar IM interface that gives you a long vertical strip listing contacts from your various services. You can change the look and feel of the application with some skins, and preferences that let you toggle the look of the contact list by allowing avatar icons, status indicators, and service icons.
The program is highly customizable so you can be notified by pop up windows or sounds as little or as often as you like. You can group your contacts either by status, by service, or in groups that you create.
At the bottom of the Digsby window you’ll see bars for each of your social networking or email accounts. Next to the account name, a number indicates how many new messages or notifications you’ve received. Clicking on this area pops up separate windows that handle services like Twitter and Facebook quite astutely.
The Twitter window alone is a decent client in its own right, offering you the ability to Tweet, reply to users, send direct messages, and retweet right in the program.
You can sort your incoming messages into replies, direct messages, and all the users you follow.
IM chat windows are well-designed, providing icons for all the functions supported via the different services you use. You can send a file to a friend, for example. But not all functions are supported — for example you can’t invite multiple contacts into one chat window, and you can’t start a video chat.
Multiple chat windows are organized into tabs of one box as they pop up. This keeps your desktop clear of clutter.
Here’s a list of supported IM services for Digsby: AOL Instant Messenger; ICQ; MSN Messenger; Yahoo! Mesenger; Google Talk; Jabber; Facebook Chat
You can use the following e-mail services you can keep tabs on with Digsby: Gmail; Yahoo Mail; AOL/AIM Mail; IMAP and POP accounts
Social networking sites supported by Digsby include Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn
If you find that MSN Messenger for Mac is too buggy to put up with, don’t fret — it’s Adium to the rescue.
This IM client is very similar to Digsby for its ability to group contacts from various services, but it doesn’t support social networking feeds or e-mail accounts currently.
Still, many chat users will appreciate the customizable options and various skins available with this client.
Adium also has Growl support built in, meaning notifications can pop up in bubbles at the corner of your screen. Clicking the bubble before it fades out causes the message window to appear.
Adium is supported by AOL Instant Messenger; ICQ ;MobileMe (formerly .Mac); MSN Messenger; Jabber; Google Talk; LiveJournal Talk; Yahoo! Messenger; Yahoo! Japan; Bonjour (iChat); MySpaceIM; Facebook Chat; IBM Lotus Sametime; Novell GroupWise; Tencent QQ; Gadu-Gadu