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Instant Messaging – Trillian

Communication in business, as in any part of life, is important.  These days we have a lot of options when it comes to keeping in touch or passing on critical information.  For Smart Dolphins, the most commonly used technologies for internal communication are e-mail, cell phones, and instant messenger, with land lines as a last resort.  With this combination of technologies, we can reach each other pretty much anywhere.

We’re big fans of instant messaging for its near-real time qualities, combined with how non-interruptive it is.  It’s the true multitasker’s choice for communication methods.  The person you’re messaging could be on a phone call, writing a document, or doing whatever else, and they get to choose how they’ll split their time and attention between them.

Sounds great, right?  It is, which is why we use it so much.  But it also shares a drawback none of the other communication methods have:  You can only do it when the person you want to talk to is at their desk.  There are instant messaging programs for cell phones, but most instant messaging services don’t work properly when you’re signed in from more than one place, and who wants to type on a phone keyboard when the computer they’re sitting at would do the job so much better.  You could sign into your phone application when you’re away, and the computer application when you’re at your desk, but then what happens when you run out the door and forget to hit the button on your phone first?  If only there was a way they could work together…

Trillian is that way.

Two things about Trillian make it different from most other instant messaging clients.  The first is that it is a true metaclient.  Which is to say that it lets you use all your other instant messaging accounts in one program.  There are other clients that do this, of course, but the thing that makes Trillian different is that it combines all your accounts under a single login.  You create an account for Astra (Trillian’s IM service), and then add your accounts to it.  Then, anywhere you sign in with your Astra account, you have access to all of your messaging accounts.  I should note, Trillian isn’t the only client that works this way – Digsby has this feature as well.  Digsby is also an excellent instant messaging client, and I highly recommend it if you don’t need Trillian’s second special feature.

Trillian’s second special feature, made possible by the first, is synchronization.  You can be signed into Trillian on multiple devices at the same time (like your phone and your computer), and what happens on one device is mirrored on all of them.  If someone starts a chat with you, the message pops up everywhere you’re signed in.  Which means you can go from your phone to your computer and never miss a message.  Ty was kind enough to demonstrate:

To summarize, if you use an instant messenger and are looking for a way to use it seamlessly across multiple devices, you’ll want to give Trillian a look.  I recommend downloading the version 5 beta rather than the current “stable” release (4.2) as it works much more smoothly.  Don’t let the “beta” tag scare you off – it works beautifully.

The free version may have all the features you need, but I recommend encouraging development by picking up the Pro version (currently $15 per user).  It brings a bunch of extras to the table, including group messaging and a rich history viewer that makes it a snap to review details of past conversations.

Posted in : Geekdom, Tech Tips
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