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Paltalk offers all-in-one communications

Paltalk Messenger streamlines communication by putting instant messages, video chats, voice calls, and SMS all into a single user interface.

Paltalk Messenger streamlines communication by putting instant messages, video chats, voice calls, and SMS all into a single user interface. While it may not be the most user-friendly program out there, it's certainly one of the more powerful.

If you've used an IM client like Trillian or Pidgin, then Paltalk's interface should feel familiar, with its vertical towerlike orientation, list of contacts, and status bar. The difference is that Paltalk does a lot more than those programs do--which is good. So, in addition to the typical IM contact list, there's a Chat Room panel, as well as a Phone & SMS panel, which lets you make voice calls and send texts. The problem is that using all of Paltalk's features is not always intuitive. The program has tons of drop-down menus, icons, and tabs cluttering each window, and very few explanations of functions. Also, watch out for the promotional content that Paltalk often serves up. For instance, I got messages telling me to Like Paltalk on Facebook, join specific chat rooms, and upgrade to a paid version. And then there's the Paltalk Today and Paltalk Notifier windows that sometimes make appearances. It can get a bit annoying, to say the least.

The Basic (free) version of Paltalk is ad-supported (banners) and comes with five texts and 100 voice call minutes (within the US and other select countries), all for free. For more texts or voice minutes, you'll have to pay on a per-use basis. In addition, you can upgrade your account to a Plus, Extreme, or VIP tier to get more features.

Paltalk's wide selection of chat rooms and active user community is among its best attributes. You can jump into G (general), R (rated-R), or A (adult) chat rooms, or create one of your own. Unfortunately, if you're on the free version of Paltalk, video in chat rooms is pretty much useless, since you only get a quick 10-second taste of Webcam functionality before it shuts off and asks you to upgrade. But what's great is you can video chat within a private message window, even with multiple participants. Also, there's a feature called SuperIM, which lets non-Paltalk users chat with you.

While Paltalk is certainly a versatile communications tool with tons of features, I think it's biggest strength is its chat. If you're interested in exploring chat rooms--public or private--or exchanging video instant messages with friends, I highly recommend you check this program out.

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