In my Internet job, the chat client
is possibly one of the greatest software innovations of all time. I mean, think about it. This fairly simple program lets me send messages in real time with people anywhere in the world. And even more importantly, I can send quick messages to people at work without having to worry about dealing with the formality of an e-mail client. In truth, I use a chat program at work several times a day; I couldn't work without one.
A lot of you might already have a favorite chat client that works for contacting your friends, family, and coworkers. But is your choice the best one for the job? It's important to know that some chat clients have exclusive features that might be more to your liking. For example, some chat clients offer file sharing, and others give you the ability to use emoticons--those little smiley faces that convey emotion. Still others let you connect to multiple chat programs from one interface.
How often do you instant-message, and which client is your favorite to use?
I realize that for many people the chat program they already use is the only option because it wouldn't make much sense to get a new one if none of your friends could reach you. But if you've been wondering what else is out there besides MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, or iChat for Mac, I have some chat clients for the PC and the Mac you might like. Who knows? You may find one that will make you cross over to something new.
ICQ is a longtime favorite of mine and has one of the largest user bases. Aside from obvious chat capabilities, you can send URLs to single people or to groups, share files, and install third-party applications designed to add skins and other features to ICQ. There is also a version for Mac. (Free/Windows/Mac)
Trillian is my most-used chat client because it connects to several chat networks simultaneously--AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo Messenger, and IRC. It takes away the clutter of having several chat clients open at once and lets me communicate with almost everyone from one program. I also can change the look of Trillian with downloadable skins. (Free/Windows)
mIRC is probably the best Internet Relay Chat client available for Windows. IRC clients such as mIRC are a bit more advanced than the widely used clients such as ICQ and AOL IM, but the sheer number of special-interest chat rooms, the huge feature sets, and adless chatting might be reason enough to master it. (Free/Windows)
If you want a great IRC chat client for Mac, Snak is hands-down the best in the category.
For quick messages to friends, family, and coworkers, chat clients are the way to go. If you're looking for something different in your chat client, chances are one of these programs will have what you're looking for.
Want to surf the Web in style, use a unique MP3 player, or get rid of some nasty spyware? Jason Parker
of Download.com handpicks software downloads for every occasion.