Review: Digsby IM, multi-protocol IM client

Digsby is a newly launched multi-protocol instant messaging client.It is available for Windows, Linux and Mac. It works across AIM, MSN, Yahoo, Google Talk, Jabber and ICQ networks. It supports GMail, Yahoo Mail, Windows Live Mail, AOL, POP-based and IMAP-based mail services.

Digsby is one of the hottest apps currently available, and is currently invite-only (as of February 10th). It works seamlessly across all the above-mentioned networks, and is more than just an IM client. Its ‘extra features’ include mail notifications, in-line email replies (without you touching the mail interface), and integration with social networking sites (MySpace and Facebook) to show messages, friend requests, invitations etc. In-line email replies mean that, when you are alerted of a new mail, you can immedeately reply to it from within Digsby.

Digsby: Design and features

I came across Digsby first on Digg (a strange coincidence, I know). Since then, I have downloaded it, and I have been impressed. Weighing in at just 15 MB (which is very good for all the features that it supports), Digsby is a worthy application. On first looks, I was surprised by the in-line mail replies – one of the few innovations in IM clients.

Design

Generally, IM clients are either too dull (Pidgin, Trillian etc.) or too gaudy (Windows Live Messenger). However, Digsby sports a cheerful, bright interface, without being too cheap and overloaded with web 2.0 effects. It has two skins (each skin has several variations). I chose the QuickSilver skin that mimics Mac OS X’s interface. A dark skin is also bundled by default.

Configuration and Ease of use

Currently, Digsby is invite only, which means that you will need an invite code to use Digsby. Digsby has offered TechZilo with 2500 invites. The invite code that you should enter is techzilo (disclosure: I do not get paid for you using this code)

Upon completing installation, you should register a new account (just to access Digsby), and enter a username, password, email ID and the invite code. You can then add new IM, email and social network site login credentials.

Supporting multiple protocols would immediately mean that ease of use is slightly less for non-geeks, because of the sheer number of options available. However, Digsby’s options dialog box neatly tabbed and has various tabs like Accounts, Profiles, Skins, Buddy List, Privacy, Notifications etc.

Digsby features

Digsby has several extra features like:

  1. Mail and social networking integration.
  2. Inline email repying.

As you can see, inline email replying is quite new, and has some convenience factor going for it.

Email notifications

Similar to other programs, Digsby features notifications when the client is minimized. The notifications feature rounded corners and gradient effects, which are great if you are a fan of such effects. However, effects are not over-used – so you will not get tired of them very quickly.

Tabbed Chatting

When chatting with multiple friends, they are not held in separate windows, but rather different tabs in a single window. This is very useful if you chat frequently with multiple friends, and even do other things in between.

Auto-dock, auto-hide

Another useful feature of Digsby is autodocking and hiding. If you are like me and have 10 or so windows open at a time (Firefox, NotePad++, Windows Live Writer, Digsby, FileZilla etc.), then keeping check of your IM while browsing/reading can be a trouble. Luckily, Digsby features a useful option of auto-docking when near the edge of screen. Basically, it means that it will snap to the edge of the screen if you bring it near the edge. You can also auto-hide it when not in use.

Problems

Digsby is not yet released to the public. I found it to be bug-free. If the internet connection is not reliable, or in other words, drop data transfers without actually disconnecting, Digsby reconnects to the accounts immediately, which may cause temporary blocks due to large number of sign-ins. This can be prevented by checking the auto-reconnect feature in Preferences menu.

Feature wishlist

Digsby already includes one drool-worthy feature: inline email replies. It also has integration with social networking sites, albeit only Facebook and MySpace.

My wishlist would be integration of Orkut (Facebook and MySpace are used by Americans more than others), a Twitter client, a Digg/Del.icio.us widget (so that I can get rid of Top Digg stories widget on Adobe AIR), more skins and speedy login.

Ratings

Total Stars: 4 out of 5 (minus marks for slower connections of lack of skin choices, though the default skins are better than those of any other IMs out there).

So, will you try Digsby, or have you already tried it? Did you like it? Any counter-arguments to this post are welcome, as I really like Digsby and did not really disect it for any problems/bugs.

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