Instant messaging is one of the many ways we keep in touch with others on a daily basis. Why not choose an IM client that gets the job done right with as little glitzy eye candy as possible? Sure, the likes of Trillian and Digsby are pretty feature-rich messaging applications for Windows. But sometimes, getting back to the basics with a no-frills user interface is the way to go, especially if such a move saves the user some system resources and screen real estate to boot.
Miranda IM, an open source instant messenger client for Windows, sets its sights on minimalism without sacrificing features and expandability. The installer itself clocks in at under 4MB and installs quickly. Unlike the majority of free IM clients out there, Miranda IM doesn't contain obnoxious ads or bloat-ware, which can slow your computer down unnecessarily. Protocol support is wide and plentiful and can be further expanded upon via the addons system. This also includes skins, window behavior tweaks, and language translation tools. The project website offers all the Miranda IM product updates and patches in one place under the Addons menu.
Although Miranda IM was surprisingly nimble and useful during my tests, I felt that the program seemed too abrupt, for lack of a better word. For instance, whenever I got a new message notification (with the application running in the background), by default, I got this loud monotone sound out of the speaker that seemed designed to annoy.
Also, the contacts window can seem too crammed with smaller than usual fonts at default settings, which can be a bit painful for anyone with poor vision. Thankfully, this can be modified in the Options menu rather quickly. I just wish that everything about Miranda IM was better publicized, since the application really has a solid niche of users it serves and could use a larger market share.
Because of the software's simplistic nature, Miranda IM is able to be installed and run on pretty much any 32-bit version of Windows. Yes, this even includes support for the venerable Windows NT 3.51, the first version of the NT lineup that actually was quite rock solid for Microsoft. For the curious, Miranda IM is offered in either Unicode or ANSI versions, for NT-based and 9x-based versions of Windows respectively. With that said, there's not much else to talk about Miranda IM. It's fast, it's free, and it supports a wide range of chat protocols out of the box. If you are still looking for that no-nonsense approach to chat, get Miranda IM today and give it a try.
An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Customer Success Professional for Ultimate Software in Santa Ana, California.