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Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

By Razvan T. Coloja on February 26, 2008 (4:00:00 PM)

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Instant messaging helps us connect with people online in real time. Many Linux users IM with either Pidgin (formerly Gaim) or Kopete, two applications that handle multiple IM protocols. Here are three alternatives to the top names that each focus on one of the major IM protocols, and offer some pretty cool options.

Gajim for Jabber

Gajim is a lightweight instant messaging application written in PyGTK and GTK+ for use with the Jabber messaging protocol. Its strength lies within its multiple options embedded within a simple and resource-light user interface.

Gajim's main interface resembles that of Pidgin, with a buddy list structured into groups. Since Google Talk runs over Jabber, you can use Gajim to sign on to it. Just add a new account, enter your Gmail username and password, then in the Server box enter "gmail.com." You can edit your personal information and add an avatar from the Edit -> Profile,Avatar menu item. Other preferences you can set include being able to minimize the application to the system tray upon close, sort contacts by status, display the avatars of your contacts in the roster, or choose a different icon set and theme. You can edit theme colors and fonts and pick from 11 different smiley sets. You can have Gajim play a sound or pop up a notification when you receive a message or on other events. Gajim can manage file transfers and notifies you of newly received Gmail messages. If this isn't enough for you, you can use the advanced configuration editor to further tweak the application. If you are sensitive about your privacy, you may assign OpenPGP keys to your contacts with just a right-click on the roster.

Gyach for Yahoo!

Gyach Enhanced, whose philosophy is to bring all of Yahoo! Messenger's features to Linux, might just be the most feature-rich instant messaging application for Linux. Too bad the project hasn't been active since 2006. Despite this little inconvenience, Gyach Enhanced provides better Yahoo! connectivity than Pidgin, offering webcam access, voice functions, and environments. The overall look of the application is a little rugged and the first impression it creates is "complicated," but once you customize the fonts and get used to it, Gyach Enhanced works well.

The main window is structured into tabs. The Chat tab notifies you of new messages you received in your Yahoo! email account and briefly displays the status of your contacts when you log in. The Buddies tab lists your contacts and can display their Yahoo! avatar, but only that; custom avatars are not shown. A pop-up message in the lower right part of the screen notifies you of actions like buddy logins or new messages. Using the button bar below the tab, you can get information about the currently selected contact, view his webcam, edit his details, send him a file, or invite him to a chat room. The My Yahoo! tab displays various types of information: a preview of your personal inbox, weather information, news headlines and RSS feeds, the Yahoo! TV Guide, your Yahoo! photo album, Calendar, Notepad, tips, and guides, all from a dropdown list above the main window. The fourth tab, Contacts, works like an address book.

The main chat window allows you to IM a contact, view his details, block the current contact, and view the contact's webcam. Gyach Enhanced even has support for Yahoo! Messenger audibles. The list of audibles that it supports is old, but at least it's there. You can choose from among 64 audibles from the button next to the one that brings up the smilies set. There are also about 20 "TUXVironments" to choose from -- preset backgrounds and styles, each uglier than the other. There's a text configuration bar in the upper part of the chat window that lets you configure text effects.

Speaking of configuring Gyach Enhanced, the Setup window allows in-depth tweaking of the user interface and application options. You can show or hide the quick access toolbar, reposition the main window tabs, and set up your webcam device. In chat rooms, you can filter users based on criteria such as age and gender.

One of the best features of Gyach Enhanced is the fact that it offers good spam protection. You can set the application options in such a way that only people you know can contact you. Furthermore, you can set it to ignore consecutive messages coming at regular intervals, duplicate chat messages, messages that begin with an URL, and so on.

From the Options tab you can choose your default Web browser, Flash player, and MP3 player, among other things. The application also has XMMS and encryption plugins.

KMess for MSN

If you have to chat with friends who use Windows Live Messenger (formerly MSN Messenger), you might want to install KMess, which is written with the Qt toolkit and integrates perfectly within KDE. Like Gajim, KMess provides email notifications, offers file transfers between users, and some emoticon themes. The application can display pop-up messages whenever someone contacts you. If you click your avatar image on the main window, you are taken to the main configuration dialog, where you can change various settings ranging from the display picture to the default login status, and modify the font size, pick an emoticon theme or install a custom one, and choose a chat style. KMess has a plus here over Gajim, as it can display the title of the song a user is currently listening to. On the minus side, KMess doesn't have any plugins.

Conclusion

Many Linux users like Pidgin and Kopete not only because they allow users to connect to multiple protocols at once, but also because they are in active development. However, Gajim, Gyach Enhanced, and KMess all are worthy alternatives to those noteworthy names. Other Linux IM applications you might find interesting include Gabber, Psi, Jabbin and Fama IM (for the Jabber protocol), Mercury Messenger, aMSN and emesene (for MSN use). People using AOL can give naim a try.

Razvan T. Coloja has published more than 150 Linux and IT-related articles in print and online magazines. He is an editor for a Romanian magazine and one of the maintainers and editors of www.mylro.org, a Romanian Linux/OSS portal and community.

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on Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

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Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 213.39.186.118] on February 26, 2008 05:11 PM
PSI!

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Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.109.249.7] on February 26, 2008 06:29 PM

Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.244.102.52] on February 26, 2008 06:51 PM
Worth to be noted is that, thanks to jabber transports, one can connect to other IM networks with pure jabber clients. I do it for MSN with gajim.

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Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 62.129.33.182] on February 26, 2008 07:04 PM
What about SIM???

http://www.sim-im.org

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Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 83.237.53.118] on March 10, 2008 07:41 AM
sim dead

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Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 148.63.8.134] on February 26, 2008 08:11 PM
Don't forget about aMSN! It's a great pluggable desktop-manager independent MSN clone with a nice installer. Supports webcams and many other features, only drawback is that it can't do full duplex voice chat, but does allow voice clips to be sent. It has a lot of nice plugins (like an Eliza chatbot that can be easily rewritten to use the MegaHAL engine or anything else that can be used as a perl module) http://www.amsn-project.net/

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Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 80.126.0.74] on February 26, 2008 08:59 PM
Don't forget about bitlbee, using multiple IM protocols from your favourate IRC client. www.bitlbee.org

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Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 202.155.92.60] on February 26, 2008 09:15 PM
center-icq

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Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 125.60.189.10] on February 26, 2008 11:11 PM
gyach-enhanced died a long time ago, thus Gyache-Improved(aka gyachi) was born and is currently maintained.
http://gyachi.soureforge.net , gyachi has tons of improvements internally compared to gyach-enhanced.

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Re: Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.248.89.66] on February 27, 2008 08:07 PM

Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 64.231.78.235] on February 27, 2008 01:16 AM

Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.113.252.32] on February 27, 2008 01:45 AM
Instant Messaging clients are a serious weak spot of Linux. None of these clients are really viable alternatives to Windows or Mac apps.

I think IM clients represent a big disconnect between developers and end users. Developers seem to only use IM clients to instant message and nothing else; whereas end users use IM clients for webcam chats, voice chats, phone calls, games, etc.

It might seem minor, but it is a really big issue to many users. I, myself, (an avid Kubuntu user) will switch back into Windows in order to use ICQ to play games and video chat with my friends. The functionality is just not there in Linux. Will it ever be? It doesn't seem that way. :(

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Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.252.21.116] on February 27, 2008 02:06 AM
On the horizon, www.digsby.com they have an excellent Windows Messenger and promise to build a Linux and Mac version.

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Comparison

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 169.233.25.59] on February 27, 2008 02:55 AM
How about an objective comparison of the clients rather than a generic plug for each?

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Skype

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.69.99.90] on February 27, 2008 09:18 AM
Although it's not open source, Skype works with text, video and voice just perfectly. There is an open source variants (I think Wengo phone is one) that just don't seem to work. aMSN is great for video if so low to boot.

The poster three posts above is overly pessimistic. Linux will definitely get there and the available messengers works just fine for general text exchanges.

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Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 80.96.178.2] on February 27, 2008 01:04 PM
Wengo Phone works just fine for me. I prefer it over SkyPe, and not only for being open source.

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Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.31.30.126] on February 27, 2008 03:33 PM
What about Pidgin? Pidgin works great.

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Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 206.165.101.124] on February 27, 2008 04:18 PM
Unfortunately kmess does not support http connect, so does not work through a lot of corporate firewalls. Pidgin is the only client I've found that fully supports this.

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Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.163.143.75] on February 28, 2008 01:40 AM
To compete in the enterprise, Linux needs a competitor to Microsoft Office Communicator with features like application sharing, implicit authentication, and integrated presence (connects to Outlook).

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Three alternative Linux instant messaging applications

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 81.165.211.155] on February 29, 2008 12:11 AM

I de clair busy

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.122.165.196] on March 02, 2008 10:54 PM
click..click...click click pop! I noticed the samsung black jack and how the keys look like an HP calculator and how if rotated 90 degrees and everyother collum of keys removed a full featured qwerty keyboard could fit on a device the size of the blackjack if it folded like a clam shell. Also there are switches that use a tumbler weel like inbetween the left and right mouse keys that also can select a scrolled choice when depresed. Using such a swich feature a row of keys could be placed on as small of board of 4" by 7" in a " V " shape. To access other rows on the keyboard the tumbler weel would be rolled up or down. A touch pad could be placed like " super-mans " escutchen just above. These designs would allow smaller applications of lap top devices (if they could be called that once reduced to that size). Thumb straps could be used to allow portable typing. However, one would have to place there fingers close together and may want to rest there elbows on an arm rest if they were like one who has a relish for conversation. And while more usefull than hunt and peck, would probably lend itself to fatigue.

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KF is nice

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: unknown] on March 05, 2008 12:45 PM
I usually use Gajim, but I have also used KF > http://kf.jabberstudio.org/ - it is very good for basic IM'ing. I don't use a camera, play games or anything like that. I send and receive text, an occasional (rare) smiley.

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Instantbird

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 58.179.216.170] on March 16, 2008 11:50 AM
If you're looking for something ultra-simple (perhaps for a Barely-Computer-Literate friend?), Instantbird is worth a look. It works with MSN. Also, you could use Meebo (www.meebo.com) to do instant-messaging when it's not possible to install a program.

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