All-in-one IM

Trillian's multinetwork IM client has a lot going for it, including social networking and e-mail features.

If it isn't enough to chat with friends from Google, MySpace IM, Skype, and Facebook, as well as AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, and IRC on Trillian't multinetwork IM app, you can comfortably count the app's deep hooks into Twitter and Facebook alerts and checking e-mail (both POP3 and IMAP varieties) as reasons for switching from your current messenger.

Among its best social networking traits, Trillian will automatically shorten URLs in your tweets, and handle direct messages, re-tweets, and replies. Twitter Trends can show up in your contact list, and you can get tweets to appear in tooltip form. Facebook features include news feed integration, Facebook in-box checking, and synchronized message updating in addition to Facebook IM. Just on these features alone, Trillian Astra offers a bit more than its IM competitors.

In addition, there's support for drag-and-drop file transferring, skins, notifications, and all sorts of tweaking in the preference menu. Trillian earns a thumbs-up for previewing a Web site when you hover the cursor over a URL in the conversation window, but the same feature is less effective and less accurate when applied to looking up definitions of terms found within the chat window (luckily, you can turn the helpers off.)

Legacy users will be pleased to know that Trillian Astra (code for version 4.0 and up) runs lighter than previous versions, and you're less likely to notice system slowdowns because of memory leaks. Video chat gets basic support. The paid upgrade gives you browser-based IM from Trillian.im, full-screen video and filters, many more visual customizations, multiple simultaneous file transfer, and themes, as well as tech support. These features are available for the first 30 days you use the free version, then they deactivate. The biggest changes, besides the reskinned interface, are the long-needed performance improvements and support for a broad range of IM protocols. Longtime fans won't be disappointed with the changes, though those using the free version clearly won't get the full effect of Trillian's more-advanced features.

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