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Single-Protocol Instant Messengers

Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup: Communications Apps

The instant messaging clients in this section only handle a single IM protocol, and are therefore generally more lightweight than their multi-protocol brethren from the previous section. Now you may be asking, “why would anyone choose a client that can only handle one protocol when there are several multi-protocol options available for free?” Good question! This section is going to appeal to people who have a limited need for IM, or have legacy hardware and need all the free system resources they can get. Single-protocol clients also make sense for those who live in countries/regions where almost everyone is using the same protocol. Since there is no point in comparing different IM protocols, I have listed each client under a sub-heading for the protocol it uses, descending by the protocol's popularity.

WLM (formerly MSN) Protocol

Emesene (v. 1.0.1)

Emesene is essentially a clone of the MSN Messenger client and--you guessed it--uses the Windows Live Messenger (WLM) IM protocol. Emesene is basically the same as the old MSN Messenger. Remove the four instances of the letter 'e,' and you're left with 'msn'.

KMess (v. 2.0)

KMess is a WLM (MSN) client for KDE. One feature that sets KMess apart from Emesene (which endeavors to be a straight clone) is the ability to 'nudge' (like a Facebook 'poke') your contacts to see if they are really away. You also have the ability to send files to your contacts over the IM protocol.

Jabber Protocol

Psi (v. 0.12)

Being available on all three major platforms, as well as having a simple, user-friendly interface, put Psi on the top of this list. Psi easily has the slickest interface of the Jabber IM clients and a right-click on it's system tray icon will present most of it's options in a drop-down menu. Note that it was written in qt, which makes it great for KDE-users.

Gajim (v. 0.12.1)

This is the lightest and fastest jabber IM client. Setting up an account was not a problem for Gajim, and everything is easily accessible via a right-click on the system tray icon. This app was written in GTK, so If you use GNOME, Gajim is a great choice.

Gossip (v. 0.31)

I can only recommend using this app if you have a Jabber account from the official, domain. While I was able to chat with contacts on other domains, connection wasn't possible. Gossip was unable to connect using a user ID from After much frustration, I retried using an ID from, which connected immediately. Gajim is an all-around better option.

ICQ Protocol

qutIM (v. 0.1)

This app does a good job of cloning the old ICQ client. qutIM even opens in a full-length, thin window on the right side of the screen, which gets irritating. However, it is light and quick. I had no problem getting up and running in qutIM, even though I gave up on ICQ before the turn of the millenium.

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  • 7 Hide
    mitch074 , October 19, 2009 7:55 AM
    I'd like to add something to the article...

    - Skype for Linux is currently in version 2.1 (beta) which differs from 2.0 (final) only in the fact that it is now able to deal with ALSA, OSS and PulseAudio transparently - and it doesn't wreck webcam outputs as much.
    - Skype for Linux has supported video ever since version 2.0 (beta); it does work quite well if your webcam sends uncompressed video to the system (if your webcam streams MJPEG and you have a 2.6.28+ kernel, you will need some hacker-fu; details on demand)
    - a quite well known single protocol IM is aMSN, which is also multiplatform; its other main advantage is that it supports voice and video chats. However, it's not always very stable and requires manual setting up of a TCP port for video and voice to work properly.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , October 19, 2009 9:37 AM
    How about benchmarking the applications. Which ones use more ram vs. functionality? How about responsiveness and stability? Those are questions I would like to see laid out because much of the Linux user base have older hardware and don't like things eating away their CPUs and ram.
  • -4 Hide
    oralward , October 19, 2009 10:41 AM
    You should really cover something with kde desktop as only because of protest by gnome users is it still the default desktop in any of the three versions you are covering. Its also easier for someone coming from windows. There is a version of ubuntu called Kubuntu that uses kde. This is the other main desktop.
  • -2 Hide
    amdfangirl , October 19, 2009 11:55 AM
    I'll agree, kde rules but GMOME s what begineers use often.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , October 19, 2009 12:40 PM
    Great article.

    As far as KDE vs. Gnome, I see no problem with the current format, maybe just do a Ubuntu(Gnome) vs. Kubuntu(KDE) vs. Xubuntu(Xfce) vs. MoonOS/OpenGEU/JAD(Enlightenment) roundup, to show off the different desktops(and the few apps that only work on a particular desktop). Any look good with the right theme and some Compiz/Beryl, but KDE and Enlightenment have an edge right out of the box.
  • 0 Hide
    rrockman , October 19, 2009 1:08 PM
    It's... "Surprising" that you didn't analyze Mercury, one of the most advanced multi-account IM apps.
  • 0 Hide
    haplo602 , October 19, 2009 1:56 PM
    ah gui only options ... well have a look at CenterIM when you have time. It's a great little IM tool that runs in the terminal. This way I can get to my client everywhere with just a simple ssh client :-)
  • 6 Hide
    Anonymous , October 19, 2009 1:57 PM
    "The one major protocol that Empathy supports and Pidgin doesn't is the increaasingly-popular Jabber."
    This is just plain wrong. Pidgin has supported Jabber for a long time. It's called XMPP in the later versions which is the name of the protocol used by jabber clients
  • 4 Hide
    rdawise , October 19, 2009 2:37 PM
    Again, I praise Mr. Overa's coverage of Linux. I am looking forward to the Games section of Linux since I don't have much experience with native games.
  • 4 Hide
    jppayne2 , October 19, 2009 2:55 PM
    "My major problem with Thunderbird is that it will continually ask for confirmation to ignore a security certificate every time it checks for new mail, by default, every ten minutes. Most of the other clients in this roundup give you the option to always accept or ignore."

    Actually, Thunderbird allows you to permanently accept the certificate, which will do what you want. Just pay attention when the confirmation dialog comes up, and select "Accept this certificate permanently". It's the first option (the default is the second option, which is to accept the certificate for the current session).
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 19, 2009 3:19 PM
    I prefer Xubuntu!
    It's a great lightweight Os, without all the frills and gadgets of Ubuntu, runs on low system specs, which means on a regular system it just flies.
    Takes a little of experience over Ubuntu to handle things, but over time you'll get the hang of things.
    Runs good on a USB stick too!
    I like the 'Live' idea, no need for installing; but for a full experience it's best to just remove your HD (which can get messed up in installations), and install the OS on an external USB!

    Some users experience a very good system response on a PCIE SLC SSD. Latest version you can install on 4GB, previous versions you could install on less.
    Takes about 2,75GB in size, with some apps and updates installed.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , October 19, 2009 6:21 PM
    Who's voting all the comments down? I smell a Mac fanboy having Linux-envy-induced menstrual cramps...
  • 0 Hide
    jasperjones , October 19, 2009 8:18 PM
    Thunderbird is quite popular and can be easily extended to be a fully-fledged PIM client. E.g., the Lightning plugin provides an integrated calendar. The very sweet Provider for Google Calendar plugin allows bidirectional access to Google Calendar (i.e., you can make the same calendar visible on each machine which has it installed, no need for manual syncing). Several other plugins consist that, imo, make Thunderbird more powerful than Outlook. Especially if you have an Android phone and use Google Calendar and Google Contacts, you will have the same contacts, calendar, and email available on all your devices.
  • 0 Hide
    WheelsOfConfusion , October 19, 2009 8:50 PM
    Coming from a Windows background and daily use of mIRC, I loves me some X-Chat. It's a pretty great mIRC replacement, supporting those quirky color codes and enhancing readability by displaying your own messages slightly gray by default so you can tell at a glance where your messages are in relation to everyone else's, without having to use a color script.
  • 3 Hide
    Sharft6 , October 19, 2009 9:06 PM
    the ventrilo people are also working on a linux version for their popular voip program.
  • 4 Hide
    heffeque , October 19, 2009 9:53 PM
    JFYI: Emesene is MSN=em-es-en but in Spanish: eme-ese-ene.
  • 0 Hide
    adamovera , October 19, 2009 10:12 PM
    heffequeJFYI: Emesene is MSN=em-es-en but in Spanish: eme-ese-ene.

    Ahh, so that's where they got that name, awesome. Thanks for the tidbit :) 
  • 0 Hide
    Shadow703793 , October 20, 2009 1:28 AM
    Hey toms, could you do a file system benchmark? I want to know how ext3/4 vs Reiser(4) vs JFS. I would also like to see the effect of file system on SSD vs HDD. Currently, there is ongoing debate between which performs best on SSDs, Reiser4 vs ext3/4.
  • 1 Hide
    dingumf , October 20, 2009 1:36 AM
    amdfangirlI'll agree, kde rules but GMOME s what begineers use often.

  • 0 Hide
    adamovera , October 20, 2009 1:58 AM
    Shadow703793Hey toms, could you do a file system benchmark? I want to know how ext3/4 vs Reiser(4) vs JFS. I would also like to see the effect of file system on SSD vs HDD. Currently, there is ongoing debate between which performs best on SSDs, Reiser4 vs ext3/4.

    Fantastic idea! I've got my plate full right now, esp with the gaming guide on the horizon, but I like this a lot. I will begin looking into it for Q1.
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