Before the Web 2.0 revolution made contacting friends and colleagues via social networking sites infinitely simple, there was another method of keeping in touch: instant messaging. It has allowed us to chat and videoconference with others at virtually any hour from virtually any location, but its one limitation has been the lack of interoperability between different chat clients. Adium, a Mac-based instant messaging service, consolidates several of the most popular (and some of the more obscure) services into one sleek interface. It may not be as feature-rich as other IM clients, but there's plenty to like.
Chat with Virtually Anyone
Downloading the 20.8MB file from Adium's Web site took a relatively long 3 minutes using our Wi-Fi connection, but setting up our contact lists was far swifter. After we began the installation process, Adium prompted us to key in our various instant messenger usernames and passwords, and we were immediately logged into each service. Adium supports just about every messenger client around: AIM, Apple Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, LiveJournal Talk, Lotus Sametime, MobileMe, MSN Messenger, MySpace IM, Novell Groupwise, QQ, and Yahoo. If your contacts have more than one IM account, their handles can be merged together into a single entry. Mousing over a contact launches a pop-up window that shows all of their IM clients, the ones they're signed into, and an enlarged buddy icon.
Easy to Use, but with Limitations
Contacts appear on a single, highly customizable buddy list, for which users can select from a number of skins, the window layout, menu bar icons, status icons, service icons, emoticons, and opacity level. When an IM is received, the cute Adium duck icon, which resides in the OS X dock, flaps his wings to grab your attention and displays the number of unread messages (you can turn the animation off if it becomes annoying). Conversations appear in a tabbed window, and you can toggle through them by holding the Apple key and pressing the left and right arrow keys.
While you can send files and links to contacts, we would've liked the ability to send e-mail or check our Facebook pages directly from the chat client, as you can withDigsby, another IM aggregator (which isn't yet compatible with Macs). Adium does not currently support voice or video chatting either, but according to the company's Web site, it's in the works. It does, however, offer Off-the-Record Messaging, which encrypts conversations with a password, so no one else can read your exchanges. In addition, numerous plug-ins such as Adium Time Zone (which let us specify a time zone for each contact) and Skype (which let us chat using the popular VoIP service, so long as Skype was running) give Adium extra functionality.
If Web conferences are essential, we recommendMeebo, a rival multi-IM chat client that's also available for Macs, and one that makes use of a notebook's webcam and mic. Otherwise, Adium is a cool, basic way to stay in touch with buddies online. Its laundry list of compatible IM clients separate it from the competition, and it is a useful tool for those looking to communicate with friends, family, and colleagues.