The software we examine here lets you hook into any of these three services, and usually more besides, like Jabber. Not all of these applications will offer all of the features youll find on the big guys—video and voice chat come to mind—but most of them do a good job of unobtrusively keeping you in contact with your comrades.
Many of them even add their own tricks. Meetro, for example, mingles location info with IM, and Meebo is a purely Web-based client (or should we say "Web 2.0-based"?), eBuddy adds a mobile phone version, and Adium gives Mac users a free, highly customizable, multi-service option. Heres the whole list of products we put through their paces:
We looked for features like services supported, tabbed message windows, grouped buddy lists, message history, chat text formatting, group chat and interface customization. Read on to find out whether youd be better served by using one of these enticing alternatives than that bloated standard IM client.