Pidgin Instant Messenger

Pidgin in actionFormerly known as Gaim, the name Pidgin was borne into existence because of the similarity between the names Gaim and that of America Online's instant messaging service (AIM). Pidgin is a program which allows users to be logged in simultaneously to multiple chat accounts. It works with a total of 16 different services (more can be added with additional plugins), including Google Chat, AOL instant messenger, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger. This is a useful service to provide, especially nowadays when everyone is using a different instant messenger.

Pidgin is convenient, letting you talk to people on different chatting services at the same time. This also saves memory, since you don't have to install separate messengers.
Pidgin runs on many different operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and other UNIX systems.

Preferences and other extras (such as buddy icons, emoticons, text settings) that are used by the people you chat with should still show up in Pidgin.

Pidgin supports most if not all of the features that other messengers have, such as file transferring, text preferences, and security and privacy settings, just to name a few. Some features however, like saving previous conversations in the chat window, are not in the original program itself. This can be easily fixed by simply downloading additional plugins. Plugins on any program are always a bonus; you can more easily customize your instant messenger to fit your needs and wants.

Pidgin supports up to 70 different languages. You can also install spell check in 22 languages.
No commercial ads show up in Pidgin. This removes clutter and potential eyesores.
The design is simple, clear, and easy to use. Almost everything on their menu is for functional purposes, with one of the most useful pathways: tools --> preferences. The design is very standard and easy to adjust to.

Pidgin does not support voice or video chatting, nor is there a plugin for these features, which is definitely a blow. If you use these features often, Pidgin may not be the service for you.
Pidgin's user interface is, at best, classic. There is no feature to change the theme, and it frankly has an ugly format. If unappealing chat windows bother you, Pidgin may not be the ideal choice.
Some components on the different instant messaging services may not show up. For example, Pidgin users cannot send or receive "nudges" from MSN users. Problems like these could easily be fixed by installing plugins, however.
If you own an Apple Mac, installing Pidgin is a complicated process. On their website, Pidgin recommends that you use Adium, an instant messaging service designed for Macs.

 Pidgin does include some unique features, such as Buddy Pounce. Buddy Pounce lets you set up a system that can perform any action (sending a message, playing a sound, popping up a notification) when a buddy's status changes. For example, you can program it to automatically send a message as soon as your buddy comes back from his/her "away" or "idle" status. An interesting plugin that we found is called Psychic Mode; this automatically pops open a chat window with any buddy that has begun to type to you.

The bottom line is that Pidgin is a free, convenient, ad-free, easily expandable, all in one instant messaging service. It is not very fancy or streamlined, but it is completely functional as a text-only messaging system, since it does not support voice or video chatting. I would recommend that you give it a try, along with some other composite IM services, such as Trillian or Digsby, and see for yourself which one you prefer.

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