For a 12.1MB download, Pidgin doesn’t half manage to solve a problem or two. Over a decade after instant messenger software started to creep into our lives, many of us still experience the problem of having some contacts who talk to us through Yahoo!, some through MSN Messenger, others through AIM, and even a little bit of IRC.
The aim of Pidgin? To bring all of these together under one client (and many more), so that you can be nattering on Google Talk, MSN and MySpace IM all at the same time should you so wish.
Traditionally, programs that have tackled this job in the past have come a cropper by dumbing things down, stripping away features and suchlike that mean there’s a real trade-off for the convenience that they offer. Pidgin does have a little bit of that, and it’d be folly to pretend otherwise. Yahoo! and MSN users, for instance, won’t feel immediately at home in the Pidgin interface, but it doesn’t take too long to pick things up.
However, there’s been a real effort made here to replicate some features, and it’s welcome work indeed. For instance, you can transfer files in the same way you would over MSN, you get on-screen notification that someone is typing a message and you can set up your ‘buddy’ list, too. An avalanche of smileys is, of course, all present and correct. Feel free not to send them our way!
If we had to pick a favourite feature, and one that the many IM clients Pidgin effectively amalgamates could learn from, it’s the Buddy Pounce idea. A pounce effectively triggers an action when the buddy in question does something you specify, from signing on, logging off, starting to type or becoming idle.
When that happens, you can then customise what happens next. Options include popping up a customised notification, playing a sound or even selecting a program to launch. It’s great fun just to tinker around with, but it’s also got some real practical value to it.
Pidgin is the kind of program that may require a little unlearning of what you know before you can fully appreciate it, but it’s very much worth the effort. It works well in practice and, thanks to its impressive level of support and options of its own, it stands a decent chance of becoming your IM client of choice, even if you don’t natter across multiple accounts. The fact that it’s entirely free makes things even better.