Inveterate IM-ers know about GAIM, the cross-platform, Open Source IM client. Many years ago, when the project was begun, GAIM was known as GTK+AOL, the GTK referring to the library used to produce the graphical user interface (GUI).

Relax, we’re mostly done with the letters.

AOL, of course, took exception to the use of its name in someone else’s application, especially an Open Source app. The developers changed the name to GAIM (G-AIM, get it?) while their lawyers talked to AOL. In the meantime, everyone agreed it was best to keep the negotiations quiet.

After several years of threats and arguments with the Big Guy, all kept under wraps, the issue was settled. The Little Guys could continue building a client that communicated with the AIM platform, but they had to change the name so that it didn’t reflect anything about AOL’s trademark. (To give you an idea of what an egregious trademark violation it was, I used GAIM for two years without catching on to the “AIM” part. Of course, I’m sorta dense.)

Anyway, the application formerly known as GAIM is now Pidgin, and you can have your very own copy by following the preceding link. I’d suggest you wait a couple of days, however, until v. 2.0 is released (finally, due to the AOL settlement).

There are versions of Pidgin for Windows, Linux, BSD, and other Unixes. (It — or, rather, GAIM — is the default IM client for Ubuntu and several other distros.) You can talk to your friends using AIM, ICQ, Google Talk, Jabber/XMPP, MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, IRC, Novell GroupWise Messenger, QQ, Lotus Sametime, SILC, SIMPLE, and Zephyr.

You can log in to multiple accounts on multiple IM networks simultaneously. This means that you can be chatting with friends on AIM, talking to a friend on Yahoo! Messenger, and sitting in an IRC channel all at the same time.

Pidgin supports features of the various networks, such as file transfer, away messages, and typing notification. It also goes beyond that and provides many unique features, such as Buddy Pounces, which give the ability to notify you, send a message, play a sound, or run a program when a specific buddy goes away, signs online, or returns from idle.

There are also plugins, consisting of text replacement, a buddy ticker, extended message notification, iconify on away, spell checking, tabbed conversations, and lots of other stuff. Pidgin is skinnable, and there’s a HUGE community of users who are constantly producing new goodies for the basic platform.

There’s no getting around it: Pidgin is sort of geeky. If, however, your life revolves around instant messaging, chat rooms and IRC like some folks (you know who you are) then it just might be the tool you’re looking for. I have it on my dual-boot machine, so that when I go back and forth from Windows to Ubuntu I have the same client. I rarely IM, but my entire family and many friends use either AOL (What can I say?) or Gmail, and I like to know when they’re on line. Even though I’ve finished testing Ubuntu and am getting ready to uninstall, I’ll keep Pidgin on the Windows side. It does a good job.

And no ads.

[tags]IM,GAIM,Pidgin,cross platform,aol[/tags]