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.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.