|charactersrus (charactersrus) wrote in rp_tutorials,|
@ 2009-08-30 20:51:00
|Entry tags:||resources: general, tools: messaging|
A Review of IM Clients (Windows)
I've been through a lot of IM clients lately, and I've discovered advantages and disadvantages to lots of them. I finally decided to summarize all of this knowledge and perhaps save my fellow roleplayers the trouble of all the frustration I went through trying to find the perfect client for me.
Now, I know everyone has different preferences, and what I may love in an IM client you may hate. I'm going to try to give you the Pros and Cons as unbiasedly as possible so you can make an informed decision for yourself. Of course, I haven't tried every client available, and I have only tried clients available for Windows. Feel free to leave your own reviews/impressions in the comments for other operating systems or even the clients I discuss!
AIM 6 - availble here
The standard in IM clients. AIM is one of the first instant messengers that was available for wide spread use. It's also the protocol used most often by roleplayers.
Pros: It allows for independent control of buddy lists, status messages/settings, buddy icons, emoticons, etc. It really allows you to reflect your character's personality, if you use it for IC chatting. It also autologs all activity, once you set that up in your preferences! You can also save and upload buddy lists, which can be helpful in large PB games, as most mods provide a buddy list for you to upload.
Cons: Reliability is an issue, but that will show up in nearly every IM client, particularly since most of the others use the AIM protocol to transmit information. It also only allows you to link up to seven screennames at a time. If you play LOTS of characters and each of them has their own screenname this can be a problem. A minor, but fairly annoying problem has to do with formatting text - I sometimes use different text formats to help me identify characters. AIM has been known to change text formats if I backspace to the beginning of a message, and other times at random. This can be annoying or lead to me mixing up characters!
Why I stopped using it: Mostly the maximum linked screennames thing. Otherwise, I was using it fairly happily!
Trillian Astra - availble here
Trillian was the first multi-protocol client I tried (meaning that it allows you to hook up AIM, Y!M, MSN, etc, etc, screennames and run them from one app), and I used the old Trillian Basic for years. I switched to the new release Trillian Astra when I got my new laptop.
Pros: It supports everything from AIM to Google Talk to Facebook. You can operate all of your various screennames from one application. It allows independent control of all screenames so that you can choose which ones are signed on at which times - there's no actual linking of names. It supports auto logging. All of your various buddylists are combined into one, so there's no clicking from one buddy list to the other like in AIM 6. It is skinnable and very customizable.
Cons: For starters, you can't have status messages if your character is showing as "Available", which is a feature available in AIM. You CAN NOT upload/save buddy lists. The only way around this is to upload while signed in to AIM 6 and THEN sign into that name on Trillian. This can sometimes create duplicates on your buddylist and be a pain. In the old Trillian, if you set up buddy icons for each character in AIM it would use THOSE icons when you signed in to Trillian. That feature is gone now, and it automatically assigns all of your screennames the same buddy icon. Though it DOES automatically log, the way it stores/sorts the logs is annoying (all IMS with the other person's screenname is stored in one logs; so if I have two characters both talking to joesmith their conversations are intertwined in the log), and there doesn't seem to be a way to access the logs outside of the program. If there is I can't find it!
Why I stopped using it: The icon thing ticked me off as the last straw, and that's why I went searching for other IM clients.
Pidgin - availble here
After I decided to ditch Trillian Astra today, the first thing I tried was Pidgin.
Pros: It supports multiple IM protocols, personalized status messages, and individual buddy icons for each of your accounts. It also supports a built in spellchecker - though I didn't test it to see how well it worked.
Cons: The big one for me is that every single person on every single buddy list is listed seperately, but still on one buddy list. Further, when you sent a message it doesn't tell you which of YOUR screennames you are sending it from. For example, if I play two characters at the same game, they usually have the same IM buddy list. JoeSmith would be listed on my pidgin buddylist twice - once for CharacterOne and again for CharacterTwo. When I click on Joe's name to send him a message, I can't really tell whether I'm sending it from CharacterOne or CharacterTwo until after the message has been sent and they've responded. That could lead to some sticky IC situations.
Why I stopped using it: To be honest, I didn't use it longer than ten minutes. The fact that people appearing on multiple buddylists would appear multiple times was a deal breaker for me. I've been known to play up to seven characters in the same game - that could be a HUGE headache.
MirandaIM - availble here
My second attempt at switching from Trillian. It didn't even last as long Pidgin.
Pros: It supports multiple IM protocols and doesn't take up a lot of memory.
Cons: The buddy list has little to no information other than the chat client and the screename and I'm not even sure if it allows you to sort buddies into different groups. It didn't last longer than two minutes, thoughk, so I may be unfairly judging it.
Why I stopped using it: It reminded me of a mobile chat client. Actually, I've seen mobile clients with more features than this one. It might be an okay back up if I had to go back to using a computer with almost no memory, but I definitely couldn't use it on a daily basis.
Digsby - availble here
My third attempt at switching from Trillian.
Pros: It offers many of the same features as Trillian by supporting tons of chat protocols and several e-mail protocols and social networking sites. It's skinable and customizable, though not to the extent that Trillian is. The setup is very close to Trillian, AIM, MSN, and Y!M so switching from one of those to it should be easy. Like Trillian, all of your buddy lists are combined into one list, so there's no clicking through multiple screens. It allows independent control of all screenames so that you can choose which ones are signed on at which times - there's no actual linking of names. If you set up buddy icons through AIM it WILL keep those when you log into Digsby. It doesn't seem to have the text formatting problem that AIM has. It supports auto-logging and a log search that seems much more user friendly than Astra's.
Cons: You can read status messages and set your own, but setting DIFFERENT status messages for each account seems to be a pain in the butt. It DOES seem possible, but I haven't yet mastered it. It appears that if your screennames are disconnected it automatically changes you to one that wasn't, so if AIM is being unreliable you need to watch your message window and see what the last screenname it went to was. For example, I was on my OOC name and was disconnected just on THAT name, it cycled through to my next available character name to send my next message from. LUCKILY, I was talking OOCly to someone in that game so it wasn't a big deal. Now I know to be more careful! You still can't upload/save buddy list, so I'll still have to keep AIM 6 around to do that.
ETA: The BIG fail of Digsby has been discovered. Groups chats are not supported.
Why I stopped using it: I haven't, yet. So far, I think this is the IM client for me... for now. I'm still getting used to it, though, so check back here for updates on features/issues with it.