16 e-mail and instant messaging boosters

Communicate better with these (mostly free) downloads

Trillian: "Can't we all just get along?" That's the cry of many people who use multiple instant messaging apps. If you use AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), for example, you can't communicate with MSN Messenger or Yahoo Messenger users, and vice versa. Sometimes instant messaging seems to drive people farther apart rather than bringing them closer.

Trillian saves the day. Within a single interface, you can communicate with users of all the popular IM programs, including AIM, ICQ, IRC, MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger. It also takes advantage of each program's unique features, including file transfers and audio chats. In addition, it keeps a message history so you can review all of your conversations, and it provides plenty of other nice extras as well.

Be aware that when you install Trillian, it will install a free piece of software from The Weather Channel, as well as the Ask Toolbar for searching. Make sure to uncheck those options if you don't want them.

Download Trillian | Price: Free

Pidgin: Like Trillian, this is a universal messenger, but it connects to even more IM systems, such as AIM, Google Talk, Groupwise, ICQ, IRC, MSN and Yahoo. The list goes on, including services you've likely never heard of, such as Gadu-Gadu and QQ. As with Trillian, you can communicate on as many services simultaneously as you want. Pidgin tries to employ the capabilities of each different IM platform, as well, so you'll be able to send and receive files and use other features of the various systems.

Pidgin has plenty of plug-ins that you can download to extend the software even further, giving you new functionality such as the ability to store notes about a specific buddy or to customize colors in the conversation windows.

Download Pidgin | Price: Free

Camfrog Video Chat: If you're interested in participating in group video chats, you'll want to give this program a try. It connects you to video-chat rooms around the world, where you can talk via your video camera, microphone and keyboard. Thousands of video-chat rooms are available, and at this writing nearly 140,000 people have registered to use the program.

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Preston Gralla

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