Your best friend's on Yahoo!, your daughter's on AIM, and now your co-worker wants to connect with you over Windows Live. Before you know it, your desktop is overflowing with buddy lists and message windows. Mismatched alert sounds are dinging and buzzing incessantly. Your computer has become a disorganized, stressful place to be.
...but it doesn't have to be that way. I'm about to share with you one of the best tools a social butterfly can use. Behold the universal chat client:
A universal chat client is a single application that can use all your IM accounts at once. All of them. All your buddy lists are compiled into one. All of your conversations can be tabbed in one tidy little window. And not only can you manage just about every chat client known to man from one of these beauties, but you can log into your other social networks, too. Chat with your Facebook and MySpace friends. Send and receive tweets. Some programs even include email support.
Mind blown? Mine was, too.
You've got a number of options when it comes to choosing a good chat client. I've chosen three tried-and-true programs to feature here. From left to right, we have Trillian (Windows and Mac OS X), Pidgin (Windows and Linux) and Adium (Mac OS X). Obviously, your choices will be narrowed by the operating system you are using, but all three of these are good, solid options. If you're a Windows or Mac user trying to choose the best of two, my advice would be to try each of them out for a week (all of them are free). As they all offer very similar features, making your choice really comes down to a matter of preference. And if you don't like the way they look, no worries. They all have downloadable skins and color schemes to help you achieve that perfect desktop aesthetic.
If you don't fancy downloading extra software, or if you'd like to have access to your buddy lists from any computer, Meebo might be a good option for you.
Meebo is a browser-based IM platform. It simulates desktop-style chat right within your internet browser window. And it doesn't take over your entire browser, either. You can put Meebo in a new tab or window while you visit other websites.