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.
There’s not too much to talk about with the fundamentals. Trillian does everything the same way a program like AIM does, but with a little more visual flair. There are no ads to get in the way, no unnecessary buttons. It’s almost too simple – where do you go to set an away message?
The options window, however, is quite graceful compared to its counterparts. You can actually open it and have a non-horrible chance of finding what you’re looking for.
There are a number of little details that Trillian just gets right. Compulsive away message checkers, for example, have always been able to look at away messages just by putting their mouse over a user name:
The history logging is also quite useful. If you ever have an important conversation that you’ve forgotten, you can look up what you said just by pressing a button. (On the flip side, Trillian isn’t careful to keep these logs secure.)
Other little features that are sorely missed in other AIM clients include the automatic lookup of words in wikipedia, being able to copy text by highlighting it, and being able to click on an aim window and start typing. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to talk to someone in AIM, clicked on a window, and started typing, only to find out i had clicked in the wrong part and nothing showed up. These incredibly subtle things might seem stupid, but together they add up to a very well-designed program.
But this part doesn’t work with AIM!
While Trillian may get a lot of things right, there a lot of annoying nags that come up while using it. For example, if you add a contact on Trillian, it’s hit or miss whether it’s been saved anywhere else. While this starts out simple, if you use more than one screen name, or you use instant messenging in more than one place, it can become quite difficult to manage, and you may lose all your contacts if you go somewhere else.
Chat rooms also tend to be more trouble to start than they should be, and direct connections can sometimes be hard to establish.
In general, Trillian does a good job of defining what a good instant messenging program should do. Its interface may be too abstract for some, but once you get used to it, it never gets in the way.
Ease of use: 3.5/5
This concludes Liu’s Reviews of AIM clients for now. While I obviously still have to get to GAIM, the other major Windows client, I don’t really feel like dealing with it yet.