Trillian Astra

Trillian Astra... 3.1 style.
Trillian Astra... 3.1 style.
Trillian Astra... New style!
Trillian Astra... New style!

Trillian Astra closed beta is here.  Fans of the popular, closed-source, multi-account instant messaging program are sure to welcome the arrival of this beta.

I’ve used it (under Windows, as it doesn’t run well under Wine in Ubuntu) and it’s a very good program.

The initial download comes with a one month trial of their “pro” version which gives some extra perks, like a special timeline for your chats and (I presume) some special skins.  I’m not sure I’ll pay for the “pro” version of the service, as I’m only in Windows a limited time (games, some MS Office stuff, job related things) so it probably wouldn’t be used as much as Pidgin is on my Ubuntu install.

Anyway, the program is very robust.  I don’t particularly like the new “skin”, but that just is my preference.  You can change it easily to the old version of the skin so it looks like Trillian 3.1.  I think the tabs at the top of the chat window are too big, and the skin is too… I don’t know.  It’s just not to my taste (too busy, I think) but the old version of the skin is perfect.

Other than the cosmetic changes, the program has matured.  For a beta, there are relatively few crashes (twice, and I’ve used it for the past week).  I was expecting more issues with it.

They’ve added XMPP/Jabber to the list of chat services you can run (previously this was only in the pro version; I use gtalk rather regularly, so I can’t NOT have it), as well as Facebook chat (no plugin needed, like pidgin) and the capability to post and retrieve messages from Twitter.

This makes the program much like Disby, but with one huge difference: Trillian is less bloated.  Yes, when I was switching over to Pidgin it was bloated, but the developers have gotten rid of a lot of the bloat.  Digsby seems unreasonably bloated to me, especially when I prefer to run my social networks (twitter, identica, friendfeed, etc) in a seperate window.

The load time has improved from what I remember. You still have to sign up with a “trillian account” but it’s kind of neat, as they store the account information on the web; all you have to do is log into that account, and all your other IM accounts follow you.  Hence, you can have Trillian installed onto multiple systems (home, work, laptop, netbook, whatever) and your accounts will follow you everywhere you go.  This is probably my only beef with Pidgin… I have to reconfigure it every time I reinstall it.

Either way, I think I’ll be using this more often.  Besides the very cool docking feature (I know, it’s available with Pidgin) it’s got a very easy way to create meta-contacts (contacts you talk to over several IM networks): you hold down control, and click the people you want in the meta-contact.  Name it, and there you go!  Your buddy John who has accounts on Yahoo, MSN, Gtalk, ICQ and AIM is now one “person” instead of five.

I’d recommend this program to anyone running Windows and needing a multi-protocol IM program that looks very slick and has lots of features that they can enable without downloading a bunch of extra things (toaster popups are included!)