Updated 23 May, 2013, 8:16 pm IST
Top 5 free all-in-one messengers for Windows
| by Rossi Fernandes
The number of instant messaging services have exploded, since the first instant messaging service, ICQ was launched, back in 1996. Since then, there have been several others in the scene and users have chosen more than just one as their messenger of choice. Unfortunately, this means that those users need to run several clients at once and juggle between different Windows, while chatting with their contacts. To address this issue, third-party developers started working on all-in-one messengers that supported a variety of protocols. These clients are usually ad-free, offer better customizations and features, while staying relatively lightweight, in comparison to the bulky native clients developed by instant messaging services, themselves.
Windows being the most used operating system around the world, we’ve decided to compile a list of the top, free all-in-one-messengers you should check out.
Compact, portable, tweakable messenger client
Miranda IM is a personal favourite for a number of reasons. It’s free and is extremely lightweight in comparison to some of the others available on the web. The installer, for example weighs in at around 3.1 MB and the entire application takes a couple of megabytes of memory on idle. It supports pretty much every popular instant messenger protocol on the web, out of the box. Its low dependence on system resources comes from the fact that its interface is quite basic and the plug-ins are really small. Of course, if you want a fancy looking user interface, the add-ons section of the site has countless number of skins and themes and interface modules that you can install. For example, you can set it up as your RSS feed reader or even a Facebook chat client, by installing a tiny plug-in that takes no more than a minute to install. All this makes it one of the most customizable all-in-one instant messengers out there. If you like tinkering around with the software, you’ll like this even more.
A simplistic all-in-one instant messenger
Pidgin has come a long way from its early days. Development started more than a decade ago, and it had previously been known as GAIM. Unlike Miranda IM, Pidgin is available on a number of other operating systems, such as Linux OS and OS X, besides Windows. Like Miranda IM, there’s no shortage of plugins here. Pidgin’s third-party plug-ins are neatly categorized and listed on a Wiki page, but lack screenshots and other details, like the plugins found on Miranda. It’s also a slightly heavier package overall. Pidgin uses the GTK toolkit on Windows, so the look of applications is different from the rest of the Windows applications, in terms of design and user interface aesthetics. Some might not like the look of the client in general, but in terms of functionality, it’s undoubtedly feature-rich.
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