Chatting with your buddies online is one of the most convenient ways to stay in touch. However, not all your friends use the same instant messaging service, and having to many applications running at the same time can be a hassle as well as a big strain on your PC's resources. This is why I've decided to write an article in which I show you some of the best alternative chatting tools which can help you manage all your different accounts from a single window.
As far as I'm concerned, Digsby is the best free multi-protocol instant messaging application you can find. This tool offers support for a lot of chatting services such as Facebook, Hangouts, Yahoo Messenger, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. Furthermore, the application also works with POP and IMAP email protocols, which means that it is capable of notifying you whenever a new mail arrives to your inbox. Being totally honest, the GUI design could be a bit better, but the tradeoff is low resource requirement, and that is a big plus in my book. Even though it was believed to be dead, Digsby has been recently purchased by Tagged, so the team behind it has resumed updating the application.
Trillian is another popular multi-protocol chatting application with tons of handy features, support for a large variety of services and many customization options. What you may not like about it is that the free version of the application is ad-supported, so you will have to put up with banners from various products as you chat. The premium version costs $20 per year and provides an ad-free environment, support for POP and IMAP mail protocols and cloud history. This (soon-to-be) 15-year old service also offers a business version, which gives its customers access to several better security features.
Miranda NG (the new version of Miranda IM) is an open-source tool, which takes up amazingly few system resources. The application offers support for pretty much every messaging service on the market and tons of customization options to make it more visually pleasing. An additional advantage is that the app is backed by a huge community, so if you require some extra functionality, you will easily find a large collection of plug-ins to choose from. Unfortunately, I recommend installing the application in a sandbox as I'm not sure it's completely clean. Miranda IM (its predecessor) comes with a bunch of crapware, and after scanning the setup file of Miranda NG I found out that it may also be infected, so I recommend caution.
Also an open-source multi-protocol client, Pidgin may not look as pretty as the rest of the applications on this list, but it's just as functional. The tool allows you to connect to a wide range of services including Yahoo Messenger, Facebook Messenger, Bonjour, etc. It doesn't offer too many additional features or too much visual customization, but what's cool about it is that it doesn't require its users to create a master account, so you can start using Pidgin as soon as you install it on your PC.
Jitsi is a tool focused on video calls and video conferences. Don't get me wrong, this open-source application also supports services like Facebook, Google Talk, AIM, Windows Live, etc. but it works best when using VOIP protocols with SIP support such as Skype. (Paying users of Skype Connect will have a blast using Jitsi). As far as downsides go, the interface isn't customizable and it can't work with IRC or MySpace, but who uses those services anymore?
The last, but definitely not the least, Nimbuzz is a great alternative for standard chatting applications. This Java-based tool works with a great variety of devices (including many older phones that don't support iOS or Android), but unfortunately only offers support for Facebook Messenger and Google Talk (Hangouts). This means that, if you're using other services like Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, etc., you will need to find a different solution. Even though the app looks nice and offers some extra functionality, such as the ability to meet strangers or search for jokes, I can't get past the fact that it's ad-supported and doesn't have a paid version in which the ads are removed.