As anyone who uses multiple public instant messaging networks knows, running multiple clients on the desktop is too much of a hassle—or was until last month. Thats when the Gaim open-source, multiprotocol IM client project released Version 1.0.
Gaim supports not only the three main public IM networks —AOL, Yahoo IM and MSN Messenger—but also IRC, Jabber, Gadu-Gadu and Zephyr. Although translating individual proprietary client features and usability in a unified client is a tall order, I found Gaim 1.0 does so admirably.
At the core, Gaim does what an IM client needs to do: send text messages with all the attendant goofy IM features, such as emoticons. I liked the buddy pounce feature the best because it allowed me to set an action, such as send an IM message as soon as a buddy logged on.
Gaim also includes useful client features for managing what can be a large number of IM sessions, including the ability to organize multiple sessions in a single window using tabs.
Plug-ins fill many feature gaps. For example, I used a plug-in to run the client in the Windows system tray and to encrypt communications using RSA encryption. Theres also a nice Apple iChat-like time-stamp feature that some people will find helpful, although logging also captures time stamps on chats.
One of the more interesting plug-ins now under development is a tool to bring IBM Lotus Instant Messaging protocol support to Gaim, including the ability to launch Web conferences from the client.
However, Gaim is still missing some features relative to the clients that it replaces. Among these is the ability to integrate with Web conferencing services, such as WebEx Communications WebEx.