Submit A Tip Alternative Tip Form

Instant Bird – ‘Firefox meets Pidgin’ Hybrid chat Client

Why do you get when you cross Firefox and Pidgin? InstantBird.
 
No, That wasn’t a joke without a punchline but an introduction to one of the more interesting applications I’ve tried in a while a while: A messaging client that is a curious hybrid of both Firefox & Pidgin.
 
InstantBird makes use of the popular libpurple library (as used in Pidgin and Mac client Adium) for connecting to IM services and draws on the Mozilla rendering engine to display messages. By using the well-known bibpurple library the app is able to connect to almost every major chat service, including: -
  • AIM
  • MSN
  • Yahoo! Messenger
  • Google Talk
  • Facebook Chat
  • XMPP
  • Gadu-Gadu
  • ICQ
  • IRC

The result is the familiar feel of Firefox but with the goodness of Pidgin thrown in.

InstantBird 0.2 Beta

As this was my introduction to the application I decided to test out the latest beta version rather than poke around with the year-old Stable release that is known to have many flaws.
 
First impressions? The app has a reassuringly familiar feel. The account set up handles like in Pidgin, being both simple and straightforward to configure. Better yet I was actually prompted to enter a ‘alias’ (nickname) for my MSN account rather than it just defaulting to my e-mail address!
 
The contacts list is plain with no avatars or status indicators present. Conversations are tabbed by default and once you’ve got a few open the entire application really starts to resemble Firefox. This vibe continues into the preferences and settings dialogue which is identical in layout to that of current Firefox releases. It’s almost slightly surreal to see different tab headings and options tucked away in such a habitual place.
 
Conversations themselves are basic with minimal support for emoticons and nothing else fancy. InstantBird also doesn’t provide any feedback indication that your contact is typing – which will suit some as much as it irks others.
 
Managing InstantBird windows feels like trying to catch a bird! The lack of tray icon for notifications, status changing or minimisation was a bit disappointing – particularly since didn’t register on my dock at all.
On a more positive slant Instant Bird Beta does possess something killer up it’s sleeve: Add-ons.
 
This Mozilla method of searching, installing and removing extensions is particularly great in this context, letting you ‘personalize your messaging experience’ with total ease – no browser needed!
 
If you’re interested in seeing what extensions are available before you install check them out @ 

Purpose

With many other IM clients built around libpurple – and exploiting the feature set to greater potential – most users will find nothing here that isn’t already provided by something else.
 
The addition of extensions hold promise and there are already some excellent themes available but this minor convenience is more than offset by the dearth of other features.

Download

InstantBird 0.2 Beta can be downloaded @ http://www.instantbird.com/download-0.2b2.html

To run just extract the folder, mark the ‘instantbird’ file inside as executable and then double-click to run.