I mentioned in an earlier post that I was getting irritated with GoogleTalk. I decided to go back to my old friend GAIM to give it another try. GAIM was the name of an open source instant messaging application that allowed you to communicate on a variety of messaging networks at once. GAIM has since changed it's name to Pidgin. The concept is still the same though. If you find yourself running multiple instant messaging clients (such as GoogleTalk, AIM, MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, ICQ, etc.) this single client can eliminate a lot of clutter for you.
Pidgin doesn't expose the full feature set of all of the IM clients. Instead, it focuses on the messaging portion. So while you can't play games, share a white board, voice chat, or use any of the other sophisticated features that each individual client might supply, you can write text back and forth. And really, this is 99% of what I'm looking for out of an instant messenger.
Pidgin is not the easiest software to use. It does attempt to simplify the process of setting up accounts and getting connected, but if you are behind a firewall you'll need to do some experimenting to get each client setup. If this doesn't frighten you, Pidgin is a pretty useful app for condensing all of those IM clients into a single interface. Pidgin isn't the only player in this space. Another popular app is Trillian is also quite popular. Just like Pidgin, it permits you to communicate to folks on your buddy list from a variety of IM networks. Trillian has a free client, and pay-for Pro client as well. I used Trillian a few years back, and it was a good tool. I may give it another try to see how it compares with Pidgin.
For you typing social butterflies, Pidgin can be a pretty useful tool.