Pidgin, Trillian, Miranda or Digsby: “Which IM app should I use?”

bestimappLets be honest here: who does not instant message (IM) nowadays? Heck, I walked into the advising office at my university and the front desk secretary was IMing my adviser to see if she was available. So most of us, if not all of us, IM. The problem is the whole world can’t agree on which IM service to use. AIM? MSN? Yahoo? Gmail? [Insert IM service here]? To address this we-can’t-make-up-our-minds issue, programs where created where you could use multiple IM services in one program instead of having to download the client for each service individually. If you ask in public “What IM application should I use?” a turf war will be started between the Pidgin, Trillian, Miranda and Digsby fans. All this fighting prevents the important question from being answered: “Which one should I use?”. Well I am here to try to help you solve that problem.

Each of the four mentioned above have their advantages and disadvantages:

Pidgin

Pros

  • Universally supported – works on more then just Windows.
  • You don’t need to create a server side account to use.
  • Has intensive plugin support.
  • Supports many IM services out of the box.
  • Fairly lightweight.

Cons

  • When it comes to Windows, it lacks basic functionality without plugins.
  • File transfers do not work a lot of the time.
  • Does not have an eye candy interface.

Trillian

Pros

  • Works out of the box.
  • A good balance between computer resource use and aesthetically pleasing interface.
  • You do not need a server side account to use.
  • Good plugin support.

Cons

  • Free version has limited support when it comes to IM services.
  • File transfers usually never work if other person does have not Trillian.
  • Only for Windows (have a Mac version in the works).

Miranda

Pros

  • Very lightweight.
  • Extensive plugin and skinning support.
  • Fully customizable.
  • Supports many IM services out of the box.
  • You don’t need to create a server side account to use.

Cons

  • Takes a lot of customization/setting up to get it to be how you want it.

Digsby

Pros

  • Beautiful interface.
  • Supports many IM services out of the box.
  • Has intensive support for emails and social networks.
  • Fully featured out of the box – no need for plugins.
  • File transfers usually work even if the other person does not have Digsby.
  • Developers are constantly releasing patches and updates.

Cons

  • Has its fair share of problems every now and then with email notifications.
  • Uses slightly more computer resources then the alternatives.
  • Only on Windows (a Mac and Linux version are in the works).
  • Little to no plugin support.

I have used all four mentioned about so I know for a that, as mentioned earlier, each of the four have their advantages and disadvantages. If you are looking for an IM application that is very light on computer resources, go with Miranda. If you want an IM application that is light on resources but needs less customization then Miranda, go with Pidgin. If you want a good-looking application but would rather not have to create a server side account, go with Trillian. If you want an application that is very aesthetically pleasing, supports more then just IM services out of the box go with Digsby.

If you want my personal opinion, I say while all of the IM apps are good, Digsby is an awesome IM application that surpasses all the rest. Sure it may use a little more computer resources then the rest, Digsby is very easy to setup and works out of the box – no need to install plugins or anything. Also, besides allowing you to connect to AIM, Windows Live Messenger (MSN), Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, Facebook Chat, ICQ, and Jabber IM services, you also have the ability to monitor multiple emails from different email services (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL/AIM Mail) or even a custom email service (via IMAP or POP) and social networking (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn) accounts. Digsby is very easy to setup and works out of the box – no need to install plugins or anything. It has a very aesthetically pleasing interface and file transfers usually work no matter what IM application the other person you are talking to is using. The only drawback to Digsby is that you must create a service side account. However if you ever travel anywhere if you download Digsby and login to your account you don’t need to readd all your IM services – they are already there. As you can tell I currently use Digsby :). My favorite feature in Digsby is the ability to have Digsby monitor my @dottech.org emails and alert me when I get new ones.

Here are download links for all four:

Pidgin

Trillian

Miranda

Digsby

Which application (if any) do you use? Post below so we can segregate dT readers by their choice (or lack of choice) of IM applications and start our own sectarian violence.

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33 comments

  1. Don't destroy the English language

    Learn to use the word ‘than’.
    It’s ‘than’… not ‘then’.
    “needs less customization then Miranda”
    “supports more then IM services”
    “more computer resources then the rest”
    Sheesh. Disgraceful.

  2. ?2

    Miranda IM. Pidgin would be a good choice if it supported invisibility on GTalk (plugins don’t work). I’d use Empathy but that’s for Linux only and I can’t port it. The others want me to register all the things on their server and I won’t do that.

  3. Andrew

    I also use Digsby but am always cautions when they push updates because there was at least one where they tried to use my computer’s processor (when idle). The TOS said “The Software will use your computer to solve distributed computing problems, such as but not limited to, accelerating medical research projects, analyzing the stock market, searching the web, and finding the largest known prime number.” It was the “searching the web” part that really caught my attention.

    Article about that debacle here: http://lifehacker.com/5336382/digsby-joins-the-dark-side-uses-your-pc-to-make-money

  4. kit

    Dear Ashraf,
    Would you PLEASE check the difference between ‘then’ and ‘than’!
    Thank you for an otherwise intelligent and informative comparison. I used Trillian but found it didn’t support video and the emoticons were often irregular or missing.
    I tried installing Meebo but it didn’t support two of my IMs.
    I’m now thinking of Digsby after your thumbs up for it.
    Thanks!

  5. Pali Madra

    I have used digsby and have been a fan since a long time. Recently I started looking for alternatives because of the memory usage. Dibsby at times uses memory as high as 80,000 K plus which is not acceptable. It is nearly like running another browser!

    Therefore Digsby slows down other things. However the digsby features are the very good and therefore at times you do not mind the additional resource usage.

    However, I installed Miranda and the memory usage was 6000k. There are disadvantages biggest being that chat history is all mucked up which is not good. Therefore I’m not too thrilled with miranda but surely the memory usage impresses me.

    Next I’m going to try qnext and see how it goes

  6. Jenny

    Trillian has done email updates for any of the services you have an IM login set for. Has done for a very long time.

    So liking Digsby because it notifies you of emails can now be expanded to others that do the same ;)

  7. John Doe 32

    Pidgin
    Cons
    Does not have an eye candy interface.

    Are you kidding me? that’s a pro not a con! A contingent system theme is something to be desired, the rest (icons, font, text size, colour, etc) can still be edited in pidgin. I have yet to see a nice theme for any IM client. I happen to think Pidgin looks great with windows 7 theme or plenty of 3rd party win7 themes. Better than any other IM client out there, feel free to convince me otherwise. Thanks

  8. Hugo

    I wonder why anyone would want to use Digsby:

    - it tries to install a ton of other tool on you PC, you have to be very diligent to avoid that
    You have to store all account data incl. password on their server! Why should I give all this to them? It defeats the idea of a local client -if I’m happy to disclose all my IM account passwords to some company, I might as well use Meebo and not need any local software installed.

    Unfortunately this was not mentioned here, so I installed Digsby and wasted time for installing & removing…

  9. Jasmine

    I am thinking of installing an IM. From the text and reading the reviews, I am stuck with Trillian Astra. I might possibly tryout Digsby but it doesn’t sound the best. Currently, I am wondering about Trillian Astra, MSN, AIM, meebo or yahoo messenger? I have used MSN before and is perfectly fine with it. Also, has anyone tried out QQ chat before? is http://www.qq.co.za/ the same as http://qq.bur.st/ or http://chat.qq.com/??? (I might ask my friend about the QQ question but please tell me soon about which IM!!!)

  10. TrentR

    A little late, but wanted to post that Trillian Astra is the newest version of Trillian, and they are accepting beta invites now.

    I’ve used both Trillian, then Gaim, then Pidgin (formally Gaim), and now Trillian Astra. Astra contains everything you describe in the final paragraph about Disgby, and is a very stable beta. VERY stable.

    ~Trent

  11. Alexander Deliyannis

    That seems to be the theory. However, when I declined, though Digsby appeared to complete installation I was left with no application at all. No shortcut, no program directory, nothing.

  12. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    Alexander,

    Digsby has started using a new “InstallQ” installer so that they can earn some revenue. However you have to manually opt in to install other programs besides Digsby – you can just click “Decline” if you don’t want them.

  13. Alexander Deliyannis

    I proceeded to download Digsby following the thumbs-up here, as it looks like an interesting application and covers much of what I need to follow.

    However, I was appalled by its install utility which, besides offering to make my.freeze.com my homepage (something I was at least given an option on), proceeded to install two additional programs with no warning, namely Registry Power Cleaner and some other security thingy. I may assume that this was mentioned somewhere in the license agreement I OK’d by I nevertheless find it unacceptable.

  14. Liam K

    I haven’t used anything but Pidgin, but with plugins and a low memory usage, it works fine for me and I’ve stayed with it for years.

    Digsby sounds nice, but I absolutely hate memory hogs.

  15. jevvv

    I use Trillian, works on old slow computers (not everyone is able to upgrade) never had problems with file transfers
    Notifies me of email updates, connects to all the services I want to use
    Don’t need to set up more accounts
    Don’t have to pop the hood to make it work

  16. Shill Sycophant

    I have a google android G1 cell phone. Can you view a webcam on your cell phone with any of these programs? Or, beyond these IM’s, is there any software programs that will allow me to view a webcam on my cell phone. For example, While I am at work is there a way to view through my webcam at home? I tried the program called ‘orb’ couldn’t get it to work

  17. Gedrean

    I have to say I am always highly suspect of any service where I give THEM my login credentials for another site, and dislike such behaviors. Miranda is perhaps the only multi-IM client with a good file transfer system. Plus it will support a lot of the features the others lack (Trillian supports all the needed features but damn is it ever bulky, and file transfers are a pain).

  18. Jean-Luc Picard

    Ya know, i opt to use online alternatives such as Meebo. It supports:
    AIM
    Yahoo
    Gtalk
    Myspace
    Facebook
    MSN
    ICQ
    Jabber
    and Flixter.

    I only have AIM, Yahoo, Gtalk, Myspace, Facebook, and MSN, so it’s perfect for my needs.