Google Apps

Five chat client apps to make business collaboration easier

Efficient communication within a business is vital if you want your users to get the most out of collaboration.

Not everyone likes to use the phone or email to communicate. Some prefer a more instant means of communication, without all that hassle of having to hold a phone to the ear. To that end, chat is still king. With chat applications, you can connect in varied ways with users. Some applications allow you to quickly connect to users within your LAN while others allow you to connect to other chat services, such as AIM, Google Talk, Facebook Chat, and more.

But which of these apps is the right one for you and/or your business? Dare you venture out into the world of Google Apps? Or does a more localized tool better suit your needs? Let's examine five different chat tools - on different platforms - that can help make the task of communication more efficient.

Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.

1 Google Talk

If you use Google Apps for your business, you're already there. Google Talk (Figure A) not only has the ability to do standard chat, but can also handle video chat. What's nice about Google Talk is that you can enjoy the service from within your Google Apps page, or using an installable desktop application. And with solid integration into Google Apps, Google Talk will help you to collaborate in ways most other chat services don't allow. From the Windows client, you can transfer files and with seamless integration into your Google Contacts, you can easily add users into your chat lists.

Figure A

Google Talk

2. Trillian

Trillian (Figure B) requires you to create an account with their service; but once you have, you can then connect their very user-friendly client to Google Talk, Facebook Chat, AOL, Bonjour, ICQ, Jabber, Skype, Windows Live Messenger, and many more. Trillian offers two versions of their services: Free and Pro. With the pro version ($24.99/year) you enjoy cloud storage of chats, tech support, and no advertisements. Trillian clients can be found for Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and as a web-based app.

Figure B

Trillian

3. Pidgin

Pidgin (Figure C) is referred to as the "Universal Chat" application - and with good reason. Pidgin can connect you to a host of services (such as: AIM, ICQ, Google Talk, Jabber/XMPP, MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, IRC, Novell GroupWise Messenger, Lotus Sametime, SILC, SIMPLE, MXit, MySpaceIM, and Zephyr), is cross platform, and can be extended with plenty of extra plugins. Pidgin also integrates into the Windows system tray as well as the GNOME 2, KDE 3, and KDE 4 notification areas.

Figure C

Pidgin

4. Empathy

Empathy (Figure D) is one of the few single-platform chat clients (Linux). Empathy offers a large range of features (such as file transfer for XMPP and local networks as well as Voice and Video calls using SIP, XMPP and Google Talk) and can connect you to your Google Talk (Jabber/XMPP), MSN, IRC, Salut, AIM, Facebook, Yahoo!, Gadu Gadu, Groupwise, ICQ and QQ, and many other accounts.

Figure D

Empathy

5. Beebeep

Beebeep (Figure E) is a unique chat client in that it's primary use is chatting within a local area network. What makes this tool really great is that it doesn't rely on a server. Anyone within a LAN can install Beebeep and immediately see one another. Beebeep allows you to create password protected chats as well as send files (securely) and even offers plugin support to extend the feature set. If you're looking for the fastest route to inter-office chat - Beebeep is the solution.

Figure E

Beebeep

Efficient communication

People often don't believe me when I say how important it is to have efficient communication within a business. And when messaging is mentioned as one of the most efficient means, the floods of doubt open up. However, until you've tried messaging within the company, you don't know what you're missing. Give one of these tools a chance to help you and your end users get the most out of collaboration and communication.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

15 comments
pcarmitchel
pcarmitchel

There are a bunch of newer SaaS apps that are built on a chat interface like hall.com, HipChat.com and Glip.com - they are using conversation to drive team collaboration.

psoft
psoft

We are using CD Messenger for internal office communication in secure environment. Its all in office messenger with lots of features. www.cdmessenger.com

Wildfire365
Wildfire365

I have been using Trillian but do need something else. Trillian is always loosing connection on some of my accounts and its nothing but a pain you go to open an account and have to wait till it decides to reconnect, you think they would run better sense it has been around for a long time. But Facebook IM is always doing it to so I'm just wondering how many others do that also. www.ctsalescomputers.com

athanbjr
athanbjr

for me Trillian works perfect for when i dont want many running tabs

geod.usa
geod.usa

Yes it was fast, not as intrusive as a phone call not as likely to be missed or delayed a email. The serious downside however is tracking. Actually lack thereof. When used with clients, issues, followups, requirement changes and other critical information was lost. When used internally not only were the same items lost but discussions leading to design decisions, assignment of action items and other critical information was lost. At least with email the item or thread can be cc'd or forwarded to responsible parties. Chat or IM in an enterprise setting without logging and tagging leads to (usually unintentional) bad practice and loss of critical information. ~GeoD

flukeslap
flukeslap

I read that it was bought, and then went open source. Anybody still using it?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"People often dont believe me when I say how important it is to have efficient communication within a business. And when messaging is mentioned as one of the most efficient means, the floods of doubt open up. However, until youve tried messaging within the company, you dont know what youre missing." I've had MS Communicator on my desktop for a couple of years now. Chat / instant messaging (is there a difference?) may be efficient, but I don't know of a situation where it would be my first choice from my available communications tools. Holding a phone to my head may be inconvenient, but to me the speed of voice communication more than makes up for it.

boulders78
boulders78

Another to try is OpenCHAT. It is a portable Java app - simple to install and use. Thanks for your nice blogs, Jack...always helpful!

slobodan.hajdin
slobodan.hajdin

I have tried a lot of chat applications (and first 3 from this list), but what I don't like is creating master account so I can use protocols I need... and then log to them too. Trillian and Pidgin were fighting a long time on my PC, and I ditched both. Reason was that I needed multiprotocol on the move - on my mobile device. So I tried Beejive and IM+ on my Blackberry and IM+, IMO and Beejive on my Android. Guess what stayed? IMO. Has all protocols I need and does not require master ID. And it has web interface...

Atharton_CB
Atharton_CB

I wonder why Skype is not in the list, seems like they haven't really considered Microsoft in this list. Just hoping that they come out with Conference video call. BTW CollateBox could be very soon in the list, for making spreadsheet collaboration filled with social engagement features like notifications, alerts etc Athar

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

What is your preferred chat client? Which chat client features are most important to you and your organization?

coolspam
coolspam

You can set Google chat to record all conversations. They are then kept in your email account. You can even reply to an email via chat and it keeps the conversation thread as one.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I don't have much use for Communicator but it does keep copies of each conversation in my Outlook client.