Video and hands-on review: Digsby IM

Move over, Trillian and Pidgin. Digsby's stylish chat app combines multiple instant-messaging accounts with Web e-mail, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, and throws in file transfers and SMS, too.

The shouts of indignation from defenders of the two big multiprotocol IM apps, Pidgin or Trillian, are a bit more hushed these days. The newest chat client in town makes them both look passe.

Digsby is a free beta release of a supercharged communications client that gathers up major IM networks like Yahoo, AOL, MSN, Google Talk, Jabber, and ICQ with Web mail and social networks. From a single skinnable interface, people can chat, check e-mail, update Twitter, and view MySpace and Facebook activity feeds. Instant messaging, e-mailing, texting, file transfers, and voice and audio chat can all be launched from within the conversation window.

As an aside, Digsby's got some good-looking emoticons that resemble bubblier versions of Yahoo IM favorites. Although they're mapped to a range of character sets meant to be compatible with a variety of networks, some things are still lost in translation. (An emoticon for a kiss on the cheek I sent from Digsby transformed into a sloppy wet one right on the smacker when it materialized on a co-worker's screen. Oops.)

The wealth of preferences lets users rein in the number of activity notifications that pop up and customize privacy settings and most aspects of the display. I highly recommend ripping out the system-tray icons, which only add clutter, and shutting out strangers in the privacy settings. I accidentally let the latter lapse the first time I evaluated Digsby and was pestered by spim (spam IM) that I couldn't immediately quash.

When you've got your preferences just so, including some splendid skins, you, too, may begin to see Digsby as a perfect example of where integrated services are going. Based on my imagination, I predict a basic mobile version and integration with image editing and video playback next.

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