In previous Liu’s Reviews, we started to review instant messenger programs. While it used to be that your best choice was probably AIM with an add-on program, there are a lot of alternatives nowadays, and we’ll be looking at the major clients for Windows.
In our last article, we reviewed Miranda. Today we will be covering AIM–the basic, original, pre-Triton version.
While the old AIM is not available on AIM’s regular site in the U.S., interestingly enough, AIM 5.5 is still the default version in Canada and the UK. Maybe Canadians like a cleaner AIM. Anyways, you can get it from here in the states, through these sites, or through OldVersion.com. For this review, we used AIM 5.5.3599.
Before going on, we should mention the biggest major disadvantage AIM has over most of its competitors; the advertising. Not only does the actual window prominently feature annoying (and sometimes talking) advertisements, even this version of AIM installs unrequested crap onto your computer.
For this version, I removed the extra stuff automatically. You may do the same by following these instructions:
“C:\Program Files\AOD\AolAod.exe” -uninstall
in Start Menu->Run. This will remove the “Free AOL” links on your desktop, start menu, and favorites, all at once.
“C:\Program Files\Viewpoint\Viewpoint Media Player\mtsAxInstaller.exe” /u
This will remove the Viewpoint Media Player.
These are the two main things that will haunt you on an AIM install. Now that we’re done with that, let’s look at the actual program.
The basic AIM works relatively well. Anyone with half a brain can sign in and use it to send messages to people. Setting away messages and changing your profile is easy too.
The most difficult part of AIM is dealing with all the extras that you don’t actually want to see. Do you want the stock ticker or the AIM Today window? Do you want the computer to go ding-dong every time you send a message? If you don’t, you’re gonna have to remove it yourself. If you want the taskbar button to go away when you close the buddy list, you’re gonna have to do that yourself too. The annoying popups in the bottom of the screen are also absolutely obnoxious if you get too many of them. (Plus I think they can pop up during some games).
While AIM’s options are easier than Miranda’s, figuring them out takes some time. While I got so used to it that I never noticed, the menus are filled with ridiculous options. Exactly how many of these does the average person use on a regular basis?
Furthermore, there are some things you won’t be able to get rid of. Don’t want ads? You can get rid of them, but that requires even more trickery. Don’t want to upgrade? You’ll get plenty of nagging reminders with no real way to shut them off.
Since AIM is built on AOL’s own network, naturally AOL’s program works perfectly with all the capabilities built into AIM. You can edit profiles and use fancy fonts without difficulty. AIM also includes special features that you may never use, including:
- Built in video
- Built in audio (I’ve actually used it before)
- Games that I played once or twice (I think they might’ve been sort of fun, but you have to let AOL install extra software)
- AIM “Expressions,” little themes you can add to make your windows have the same annoying postcard look for everyone who talks to you
Some of the features are cool, but most of them aren’t that valuable on a regular basis. If you have multiple screen names, AIM can link them, which might be handy, and the new eye feature (which makes you invisible to others) is cool, if somewhat stalker-ish.
AIM is, for all its faults, a relatively good program at what it does. Unfortunately, its numerous doo-dads do more to annoy people than to make the program more useful.
Ease of use: 3.5/5
You may wonder why I tested 5.5 and not 5.9. From my impression, 5.9 does not offer any new features of much merit, and a significant amount of spyware.