The trouble with instant-messaging (IM) apps is that they simply don't play well with one another. If phone companies worked the way today's chat apps do, you'd have to set up accounts with MCI, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint to talk to your friends and family. That's why Cerulean Studios' Trillian Pro 2.012 is a godsend: for a small fee, this program collects all the major IM apps under one easy-to-use interface. While Cerulean Studios offers a stripped-down, freebie version (you can download Trillian 0.74 from CNET Download.com), the paid version, Trillian Pro 2.012, gives you greater customization options and nifty business-related plug-ins that are well worth the low $25 cost.
Using PayPal, we bought Trillian Pro 2.012 at Cerulean's site, and within 30 seconds, Cerulean Studios sent us a download address and login information. Once set up, the Trillian Pro 2.012 client lists all of your online buddies alphabetically in a single console, with a colored dot next to their names indicating which service they belong to: orange for AIM, green for ICQ, gray for IRC, blue for MSN, and red for Yahoo.
If you get a new chat buddy who uses a service you don't currently subscribe to, it's a breeze to set up a new account: Click the Connection Manager at the bottom of the Trillian Pro 2.012 console, then the New button to subscribe to a new service. The estimated time for setting up a new service account is less than five minutes. No Web search or download is necessary, and there's no new program to learn. Nor will you need to remember which service a particular buddy belongs to--another big plus.
In the past, Trillian has experienced outages when Yahoo or AIM have blocked its service. However, these outages were short-lived, and a simple upgrade to the latest version of Trillian Pro 2.012 often resolved the matter. Cerulean Studios appears to have a better working relationship with AIM and Yahoo IM today. Trillian Pro 2.012's Connection Manager manages chat preferences, filters, and special features for each service you subscribe to, such as AIM's DirectIM and Yahoo IM's Webcam features, both of which work within Trillian Pro.
When you double-click a buddy to start a new chat in Trillian Pro, you'll get a window containing the dimmed contents of your last chat--handy when you have multiple conversations going at once. Trillian's main console also alerts you whenever e-mail arrives at the various Web mail services associated with your chat services, such as Yahoo Mail and Hotmail. To retrieve the message, simply click your e-mail address, and you're whisked off to the appropriate page, logged in, and delivered to your in-box. This is a great convenience.
The Pro version of Trillian supports different skins, for those who want to personalize the look and feel. Business users can choose from a wide range of plug-ins that integrate current news, weather, stock quotes, computer performance stats, and world time into the main Trillian Pro 2.012 console. While these additions aren't as useful as Trillian Pro 2.012's main features, they're still nice.
Fortunately, there's no shortage of help for Trillian Pro 2.012. Paid members get updates, priority trouble-ticket-based e-mail help, and access to enough online FAQs and documentation to severely eat into chatting time.
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It doesn't matter which chat service you're using with Trillian Pro; just pick a buddy from your buddy list and get typing. You even get to pick from specialized smileys for each IM service.