Pidgin is an open source Instant Messaging (IM) program that allows you to logon to  multiple chat networks such as AIM, ICQ and MSN using a single program. It also works for ‘chatroom’ software such as Yahoo chat and Internet Relay Chat (IRC).

Installation and Setup

Pidgin is a quick install, the only options you’ll need to consider are language based. Pidgin has been translated into a LOT of different languages – quite common for open source software. Once installed, Pidgin takes up around 30MB of space. This may seem like quite a lot for such a lightweight program, but the amount of space which can be saved by using Pidgin instead of several different messaging clients more than makes up for this. Setup involves having to give the program the login details of all your various IM clients.

Ease of Use

Pidgin can be set up to run as many different networks as you like. It connects to most popular forms of instant messaging on the net, although you can take a look at their website for a full list.

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IM clients are designed to be running the in the background all the time, so the amount of memory they use is an important consideration. Luckily, Pidgin handles its resources excellently, using on average around 11MB when idle and 30MB in full use. Compare this to MSN which uses 33MB when idle and can reach highs of 80MB in full use. Keep in mind however, memory usage varies depending on how many different networks the program is running at the time.

Pidgin has a clean interface although those used to Vista style eye candy might be disappointed. It does incorporate most of the ‘visual’ features of its competitors like user thumbnails and graphics showing availability.

If you only use a single IM client already, swapping to Pidgin could still save you system resources as well as removing any adverts the original program might have used. However, it’s people using two or more clients who will see the biggest bonus. Having all of your chat programs in one simple, clean interface saves both memory and boot up time and allows for easier management of lots of different contact groups.

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