Cerulean Studios Trillian Basic
If your instant messaging comrades spread themselves across AIM, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and ICQ, you might go bonkers juggling multiple IM programs on the go. Trillian Basic to the rescue. This free universal application from Cerulean Studios lets you ping your buddies who use AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger. Once you establish your accounts in Trillian, it will grab your existing settings, such as buddy lists and security preferences, so you're ready to rock and roll. Trillian also connects to IRC chat servers.
Overall, Trillian worked well as a universal messenger--and like Google Talk and Qnext, it's refreshingly ad-free. Setting up my connections to three of the Big Four networks worked fine, though initially I did have some trouble syncing Trillian to ICQ. The problem? Trillian would repeatedly try (and fail) to connect to ICQ, without working out a solution. Cerulean Studios later explained that Trillian couldn't make sense of my ICQ information: I had entered my nine-digit ICQ number with a few spaces interspersed (mimicking the format that ICQ itself displays), and the resulting string thoroughly flummoxed Trillian. So I re-created my ICQ account on Trillian--this time without inserting any spaces--and I never looked back.
Of course, the list of all of your contacts from your different IM accounts may be terribly long. But Trillian color-codes your contacts and makes it easy to find them with a quick scan: Beside each buddy's name, you'll see a yellow, red, blue, or green circle, corresponding to AIM, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, and ICQ, respectively.
Basic text messaging in Trillian was smooth and efficient. Right above the text field are some tools you can use on the fly--text size and color, underlining, and URL formatting--along with a link to an alarmingly large number of emoticons. A unique bonus: Trillian integrates your text messaging with Wikipedia look-ups. Simply hover your cursor over a term that Trillian underlines, and up pops a separate window containing Wikipedia's entry on the item.
Trillian's tabbed window arrangement makes it easy for you to stay on top of different conversations across multiple networks. You'll find prominent buttons for Audio and Send File (among others) at the top of the messaging window. Click the History button to view a log of your text messages with that particular buddy in Microsoft's Notepad app or in your favorite text editor.
When my editor and I tried to use Trillian's voice chat, we couldn't get it to work. Every attempt to talk using our MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, and AIM accounts resulted in either an error message or a "nothing happening" situation.
Conspicuously absent from Trillian Basic's repertoire--compared to other IM programs we've reviewed lately--is video functionality. To get video chat, you have to upgrade to Trillian Pro and cough up $25. The Pro version also gives you advanced history viewing options, Jabber connectivity, plug-ins, RSS support, and animated emoticons.
Consider using Trillian Basic as your hub for centralized IM communications--as long as you don't need a video chat capability.
Aoife M. McEvoy
Cerulean Studios Trillian Basic
- Works with AIM, ICQ, IRC, MSN, Yahoo
- Some setup issues; lack of video IM