So, I’ve heard a lot about Pidgin from the folks in the Live Chatroom. I’m not entirely happy with Miranda (they suffer the same problem that every open source product suffers from: piss-poor UI), and once I saw the Slashdot article on Pidgin, I decided to give a try. And, so far, so good.

Before I touch on the good points (and there are plenty), let’s get into the bad points of Pidgin, which is mainly the use of GTK+.

  • I run Windows XP Classic Mode, and I hate GTK+. I hate the layout. I hate the button configurations. I hate the overall UI. It’s downright ugly, and for a UI toolkit, that’s a bad thing.
  • Buttons in Pidgin, thanks to GTK+, are enormous! I run at 1600×1200 and the buttons in Pidgin are crazy-huge! At this screen resolution, buttons should not be this damn big.
  • Everything else is the standard butt-ugly windows gray.  Since I’m running in classic mode, there’s not a whole hell of a lot I can do about that. Still, does everything need to be this color? It’s a minor point, I’ll admit, but it’s still a point.

I’m told that Pidgin was developed with Windows Vista in mind, so take the UI complaints with a grain of salt. If you’re running Windows XP Classic, and you don’t want to use an ugly UI, then stay away from Pidgin. If, however, you can get over the UI, you’re going to end up using one hell of a great IM application.

  • By default, Pidgin does not have sounds or smilies enabled. Thank you God! I almost cried when I saw the “enable sounds” preference disabled by default. It’s about time someone figured out that we don’t need our computer making random noises every time one of our friends gets an amazing idea.
  • Tabs, tabs, tabs. Everyone has a tab, and every tab opens in one window. You may not like this behavior, but I love it: now my Lockergnome contacts, friends, and IRC chats are all in one window. The less desktop space I have to use, the better.
  • Customizations. This might be a drawback for some people, but Pidgin is customizable to the Nth degree. There are some things I can’t customize — like button sizes! >:( — but most everything else is customizable. And, thanks to the plugin system, I’m sure to be able to fix and enhance things I don’t like. Sweet.
  • Multiple Account Support. When I was suing Miranda I was only able to have one account of each protocol running. I could only have one ICQ account, one Jabber account, etc … Since I use multiple Jabber protocol systems (specifically Google Talk and Jabber.org) I was not happy. Thankfully, Pidgin allows me to have multiple accounts on the same protocol. So now I can happily have my 3 ICQ accounts and 2 Jabber accounts running at the same time with little effort. 🙂
  • Minimize minimizes. Close puts it in the system tray. Oh, how I love this feature. It’s just a little thing that, as a developer, has bugged me for quite some time. Pidgin minimizes when you tell it to minimize, and closes to the system tray. 🙂

There are some things that I wish Pidgin had by default, here’s a quick list:

  • If you want some of the features I wrote about in this article, you’ll need to enable some plugins (Iconify Away, Pidgin GTK+ Theme Controls, Release Notification, Windows Pidgin Options). I really thing some of these (like “Windows Pidgin Options”) ought to be enabled by default.
  • As far as I can tell, there’s no support for a default telnet connection. It would seem to me that when you support so many complicated protocols, you should at least be able to support a default telnet window 😉
  • Since Pidgin.im is down, I was unable to install the spell check software that comes with the installer. There does not seem to be a simple way to enable/download/install it from within Pidgin. I hope I don’t have to reinstall everything just to get spell checking to work properly. If I do, that’s a very bad bug >:(

I’ve only been using Pidgin for an hour, but overall I’m very impressed. Once I got passed the butt ugly UI (and, let’s be honest, Miranda’s UI was disgusting too) I was able to enjoy the features provided by the program.

So, if you want a feature-rich IM application that ties almost every damn protocol together, give Pidgin 2.0 a shot.

[tags]pidgin, instant messaging, review[/tags]