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Trillian 3's perks include simple setup, but its interface overloads

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The software comes in two versions.
Trillian lets you log in to multiple instant messaging networks through one advertising-devoid, pop-up-free interface. That's a great concept, given the hassle involved in keeping multiple proprietary IM programs from AOL, MSN, Yahoo and others on a PC, but as implemented in Trillian it's another story.
The initial setup is simple enough; you can log in to one or more accounts, set multiple "away" and "back" messages and track your buddies' online status with color-coded icons that show who's on what network. We also had no problem signing in to and using IM accounts on AOL and Yahoo; file transfers on AOL, something other multi-network IM programs have stumbled on, went through fine. Log-in attempts on MSN's network, however, repeatedly failed, a problem also reported by other users on Trillian's tech-support board.
But as in previous releases, Trillian 3 suffers from interface overload. Its tabbed chat window feels clunky compared with AOL IM, and it throws in more options than most users will care to adjust: "emotiblips" (quick audio or video clips you can insert into an audio or video chat), window transparency, varying icon views, time-stamping of each exchange. An activity history folder lets you view conversations you've had in the past, sorting them by subject or media type. But we couldn't find an easy way to disable this feature or clear the log, so if privacy is a concern you'll have to find the log file on your hard drive and delete it yourself.
Cerulean offers two versions: Trillian Basic is free, while the $25 Trillian Pro adds video chat and support for such lesser-known IM setups as Jabber and Rendezvous. The free basic service is probably robust enough for the most demanding IMer, but if you must have video chat, you'll need to ante up for the pro version. If you want direct tech support from the developers, you'll also need to pay.
Details: Win 98 or newer, free at