While just about everyone uses Instant Messaging, many people use different services, including AIM, Yahoo, MSN, Skype, and Gchat. You do not often have a say in the matter of what IM services your friends, peers, and colleagues use, especially as such groups of people can be starkly divided among age groups and geographical location.
Fortunately, however, you can combine all of your IM applications into one by using services such as [Adium] (for Mac), [Pidgin] (for Windows), or Meebo. All of these applications work very similarly; they allow you to combine all of your IM contact lists into one application, so that you can manage your IMs more effectively. After all, it is not any fun to juggle dozens of windows and several IM programs just to find one contact.
Adium and Pidgin
[Adium] and [Pidgin] are essentially the same application, but for different operating systems — Pidgin is for Windows, Adium is for Mac. These programs are closer to the traditional desktop IM application than online web applications such as Meebo are.
When you install Adium or Pidgin, you are prompted for your IM login information. You can add any or all of your accounts through a clean, easy-to-use interface. Once you have provided your account information (which is encrypted and stored securely, so you don’t need to worry about account security), all of your account information will be instantly accessible via one IM window.
Pidgin and Adium also bring with them the added benefit of storing all of your IM conversations as searchable transcripts. This means that if you forget something that a friend or coworker says, you can look it up at a later date.
Meebo is slightly different, however. Meebo is based on a Web site, and there is nothing to install. This brings with it some benefits and some downsides. On the positive side, you do not need to update Meebo and it will not take up space on your hard drive. On the negative side, Meebo will not work without Internet access; this makes searching for transcripts challenging to do.
Meebo is, however, a great option if you have an iPhone, iPad, or Android smartphone. With these phones, you can sync the free Meebo app with the web service, so all of your IM windows are always in sync. In addition, your transcripts will always be in sync.
Which IM Application is Best?
Whether you go with Adium/Pidgin or Meebo depends on your needs and preferences. Do you like native desktop applications? Then go with the former. Are fully-synced web services more in line with your preferences? Then Meebo is probably more along the lines of what you are looking for.
Once you pick an application, though, it’s best to stick with it. It can be very challenging to migrate your data from one application to the other, and in the case of Meebo, this is even more true; it does not provide an easy way to migrate transcripts into or out of the web application.