Multiprotocol, open source IM client could boost UC

Open source instant messaging tool Pidgin can connect to 16 IM protocols and, save for its weak logging tools, should interest many businesses.

One of the most obvious barriers to unified communications and using instant messaging (IM) as a collaboration tool for those outside your enterprise is the plethora of IM standards. Those standards are, bizarrely, continuing to proliferate with Facebook recently introducing its own IM service.

Pidgin's Buddy List
Image courtesy of Pidgin

Sadly, commercial IM services seldom allow their users to send messages to one another, leading many users to operate multiple IM accounts so they can interact with contacts whose preference is to use different networks.

One way around this unfortunate mess is Pidgin, a free, open source IM client that can communicate across 16 IM platforms (see list below).

Several other applications exist that perform the same function, with Cerulean Studios’ Trillian offering a commercial option. After running Trillian for more than a year, however, we have found its startup routine adds more than a minute to the time required for our main Windows production machine to come to life in the mornings and therefore sought out Pidgin as an alternative.

The software is very easy to install, with a 10.8 Mb download offering few challenges.

The software is a little rough around the edges in the dialogs used to set up an account, which offer the occasional cryptically-named field that could confuse users unaccustomed to entering account details. Overall, however, the software is simple to set up.

Operating the tool will be simplicity itself for anyone versed in other IM clients. Double-clicking a system tray icon yields a list of online IM buddies from all enabled accounts. Initiating a conversation is as simple as double-clicking a contact’s name.

The program logs all conversations, an important issue for enterprise users who may wish to retain records of IM conversations for compliance reasons.

We could not, however, find an option that allows the logs to be automatically saved to a server and the program instead saves them to a folder on the C: drive. This feature could make some businesses think twice about Pidgin’s suitability. Its ease of use and overall functionality, however, make it more than useful for anyone hoping to converse across multiple IM platforms without the hassle of running multiple clients.

 The sixteen IM platforms Pidgin supports

  1. AIM
  2. Bonjour
  3. Gadu-Gadu
  4. Google Talk
  5. Groupwise
  6. ICQ
  7. IRC
  8. MSN
  9. MySpaceIM
  10. QQ
  11. SILC
  12. SIMPLE
  13. Sametime
  14. XMPP
  15. Yahoo!
  16. Zephyr

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