Despite intense popularity of the BitTorrent system, Gnutella clients aren't dead yet. LimeWire 5 for Windows, Mac, and Linux keeps its hand in the file-sharing pot by borrowing your Google contacts to create a friend network and a snazzy redesign that surfaces the most important information first.
If you're not a fan of the Gnutella file-sharing protocols, I doubt this will be enough to grab your eye. Torrents run faster, depending on the number of seeders, and torrent content is rarely faked in the way that plagues the Gnutella networks. If LimeWire lights you up, though, there's probably enough here to excite you, and definitely enough to make it worth upgrading to.
The new interface is very Web 2.0ish, with two search bars on top and two left-side navigation bars. The uppermost search bar is the global search that scans what everybody is sharing over the P2P network, while the secondary one on the right searches your library.
The sidebars are set up in a similar way. Both are on the left, with the outer one offering three options: your library, the global P2P network, and your friends. Click on My Library and your inner sidebar shows your collection of music, movies, and documents.
The P2P Network option shows what you're uploading and downloading, while the Friends option is a hard tack toward social networking. It lets you share your library specifically with your Google/Jabber and LiveJournal contacts, which you can import. Search results themselves can be presented in both the new Web 2.0-style that surfaces just the most relevant information, with an Information button to dive deeper or the "classic" spreadsheet view.
The Advanced Tools feature is also new, letting power users drill down and get highly specific information about who they're connected to. This basically takes the kind of information that torrent clients like uTorrent have been surfacing for years, and applies it to the Gnutella world in a clean layout. This data includes IP addresses, bandwidth, the program being used, and its version.
LimeWire 5 makes it easier to see which files you're adding and to configure library-scanning behavior. From the Tools menubar, go to Options. Big icons greet the user, making it easier to discern what you're changing. Once you've chosen a directory to add, you can configure LimeWire so it adds only specific file types from that directory, or only adds the files currently in it. This can restrict mixed-use directories from accidental oversharing, as well as prevent files added to the directory from automatically becoming available to all.
The new features and overall functionality make this by far the most mature version of LimeWire to date. Despite the typical performance flaws found in all file-sharing clients and the need for users to be exceedingly cautious with both sharing and downloading, LimeWire 5 continues to offer solid performance and good looks across the board.