CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

ICQ Lite Alpha review:

ICQ Lite Alpha

  • 1
Hot Products

The Good Simpler interface than the full ICQ; consumes 2MB less RAM than ICQ; typing indicator now shows when your buddy is writing.

The Bad Lacks some common features, such as file sharing; includes fewer security options than the full version; isn't interoperable with AOL Instant Messenger or any other IM.

The Bottom Line ICQ Lite is easier to use and takes up fewer resources than ICQ Pro, but it doesn't offer an improvement over other mainstream IMs. ICQ diehards, use it for stripped-down messaging but stick with Trillian if you use more than one IM service.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

6.0 Overall

Review Sections

We've complained and complained about ICQ's unmanageable interface and feature glut, and someone has finally listened. ICQ Lite, a stripped-down edition of the real deal, is faster to download, takes up less RAM, and whittles away many tools. We tested ICQ Lite Alpha and an early version of the forthcoming beta version (check back here for the full review--the final release is expected soon.) Yes, you can chat with your pals, and yes, you can send files. More complex features, such as file sharing and built-in e-mail, are gravy, and ICQ Lite is strictly dry turkey. However, AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger all manage to include those features and more without resorting to light versions or sacrificing ease of use. So, ICQ offers either too much or too little but never just enough. Go with Lite only if you're a utilitarian ICQ user with a long contact list. As always, get Trillian if you use more than one client. We've complained and complained about ICQ's unmanageable interface and feature glut, and someone has finally listened. ICQ Lite, a stripped-down edition of the real deal, is faster to download, takes up less RAM, and whittles away many tools. We tested ICQ Lite Alpha and an early version of the forthcoming beta version (check back here for the full review--the final release is expected soon.) Yes, you can chat with your pals, and yes, you can send files. More complex features, such as file sharing and built-in e-mail, are gravy, and ICQ Lite is strictly dry turkey. However, AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger all manage to include those features and more without resorting to light versions or sacrificing ease of use. So, ICQ offers either too much or too little but never just enough. Go with Lite only if you're a utilitarian ICQ user with a long contact list. As always, get Trillian if you use more than one client.

Smallest ICQ download
ICQ Lite's download and installation is, as you'd expect in a diet program, a breeze. The download is a petite 1.7MB, and the install takes only a few minutes. If you're already registered with ICQ, Lite recognizes your account and automatically grabs your login, password, and server-based contact list. Once up and running, Lite chews up less memory, too--about 4MB of RAM on our Windows XP machine--2MB less than the full-blown ICQ, about 1MB less than AIM, and roughly the same as Trillian.

No surprise, but Lite serves up a trimmer interface, as well. You'll find just three buttons at the bottom--Add (for adding users), Find Users, and Main--compared to five in the full ICQ in Advanced Mode. ICQ has seriously shortened menus and options, too, thanks to Lite's stripped-down feature set. Overall, the IM looks a bit more modern than ICQ proper, its rounded corners reminiscent of MSN Messenger's. Best of all, we never floundered around looking for tools in the Lite version.

Lite displays a few other cosmetic changes. The search bar now sits at the top, and Lite still uses Google, as does ICQ. The slim app does not, at least in this edition, drop ads in the main display nor in the instant-message window itself. Good deal.

If you hunger for the real ICQ, Lite lets you switch with just one click in a menu (assuming you've already installed the full version on your PC), which will close Lite and launch the full ICQ. Until ICQ goes through its next revision, this is a one-way switch; you have to manually shut down ICQ and open Lite to return to the diet edition.

Slim IM
But when it comes to features, ICQ Lite is Ally McBeal skinny. You can send files and messages--both text and SMS, or short message service (text messaging for cell phones). But that's it. Unlike the full ICQ, Lite doesn't send e-mail or video, nor does it allow multiparty chats or file sharing. However, if you need only the back-and-forth IM chat basics, say, at work, you probably won't miss these extras.

Granted, you'll still get a few perks, including automatic archiving of all conversations, which you can turn on or off as you want, and docking, where ICQ snaps to the side of the screen and stays there. Lite also caches messages when your recipient is offline, then sends them when that person returns. Also, this version finally introduces a typing indicator, so that if your friend also uses Lite, you'll be able to see when that person is replying. Other IMs have had this useful feature for ages.

Inexplicably, despite being owned by the same company, ICQ still isn't interoperable with AOL Instant Messenger. This means that you're stuck with several open apps if your pals use other IMs, unless you go with an all-in-one option, such as Trillian.

Skimpy on the security
As with any downsizing effort, some cuts take their toll. In ICQ Lite, the hardest-hit sector is security and privacy. Lite lacks most of ICQ's advanced security settings. You're limited to requiring authorization before others add you to their contact list and to using the Ignore List, where you can specify the people with whom you don't want to talk. However, Lite compensates with a new feature called Spam Control, which lets you block messages from all but those on your buddy list and engage an antispam filter on the ICQ servers that's designed to weed out ICQ spammers. We love the idea, and we saw a small decrease in the amount of spam we normally receive via ICQ, which isn't much in the first place. However, one message did creep through during our week of testing.

Sadly, despite the antispam features, ICQ Lite won't let you selectively make yourself always invisible to certain users or always visible to others, nor can you block users from sending or attempting to send files. We'll miss these options--they're what makes ICQ stand out from other IM clients--but most casual users won't notice the absence.

Lite support
Support for ICQ Lite is, itself, light. There's no phone support, a common lapse for freebie instant messengers, and e-mail is answered slowly if ever. The online Help Center, however, links to scads of FAQs and numerous user-to-user chat forums. Nonetheless, this support center ticks us off; there's no way to search the help files, so you have to browse, sometimes endlessly, to find solutions. Ugh.

Less filling, tastes great
Overall, ICQ Lite is far less filling and, for anyone addicted to ICQ, tastes great. You certainly shouldn't pressure your pals to switch to it, though; look to Lite if you use ICQ only for messaging and sending the occasional file. But if your friends use other IM services, such as MSN or Yahoo, you're still better off with Trillian.

ICQ Lite's short menus make it impossible to get confused, unlike the ones in the full version of ICQ.

Hot Products

This week on CNET News

Discuss ICQ Lite Alpha