Instant messaging differs totally to e-mail. When you send an e-mail to someone it sits at a server waiting for the person to logon and receive their e-mail (kind of like an answer phone), however instant messaging happens instantly (like the telephone). Therefore you and the person you want to talk to need to both be on the internet at the same time to type to each other. If you've used chat rooms instant messaging works in a very similar format, except it's a private room between the two of you. Instant messaging programs will show you who is on-line at the time.
Now for instant messaging you will need an instant messenger client. There are a variety of instant messaging programs. Your choice usually depends on what your other friends use for instant messaging.
The main IM program is MSN as this is built into Windows XP and is installed automatically. (Internet CQ!). ICQ is now owned by AOL Time Warner. ICQ can be obtained from http://www.icq.com AOL also have another IM program called AIM, AOL Instant Messenger. If you and most of your friends are on AOL for Internet this is probably the best option as it's already built into AOL's software. If you don't have AOL but all your friends do you can download AIM on it's own from http://www.aol.com/aim Yahoo IM, an instant messenger run by search engine Yahoo!, if you already have a Yahoo! account for Yahoo! groups etc then you can use this with they're IM. this is available from http://messenger.yahoo.com/ G-Talk - Google have really got a finger in every pie (or at least every internet based pie!), they have their own instant messenger.
ICQ was the first general Instant Messenger, the main problem with this is that your ID on this system is a number that is chosen for you so you have to remember it. ICQ was called this as it was developed by amateur radio enthusiasts and when searching for someone you call CQ
Of course if you have many friends that use many different instant messengers you could always use an all-in-one instant messenger like
Miranda - http://www.miranda-im.org - Miranda allows you to receive messages from most of the above, and also includes access to IRC (like chat rooms), and has plug-ins to allow checking and notification of e-mail, etc. Miranda is free Trillian - http://www.ceruleanstudios.com - Trillian is nearly the same as Miranda, except for the plug-ins you need to buy the Pro version.
All the above instant messaging programs above with the exception of Trillian Pro are free.
The risks with using IM messaging programs are like a mixture of using a chat room and e-mail. As with e-mail if anyone sends you files you should always check them before viruses, even if they come from someone you know. Also most IM's are insecure so you should never send any information you don't want the world to know through it, like credit card details, phone numbers, addresses. Like with chat rooms you can invite strangers to talk to you and you can talk to strangers. You must remember though that the person at the other end could be anyone, even if he sends you a picture he could just get a picture from the net. If you meet someone through instant messaging and you decide to meet up ensure you meet up in a safe area like a cafe, and if you're at all unsure take someone else along with you.
If most of your friends are all using the same IM program then it's probably best to only use the same one as them, however if they all use different IM programs you might be better with Miranda or Trillian. The only problem with these all in one programs is that some of the features of the original IM programs will be lost due to Miranda or Trillian not being able to get details from the IM companies, and when new versions of the messaging program are brought out you may find that the all-in-one solution wont work for a few days with that messaging service whilst Miranda or Trillian catch up.
Submitted by: Darren F.
Not all instant messengers are created equally. While all obviously offer the ability to communicate in real time, via typing on the keyboard, some have more features than others.
With all of the webcams and microphones showing up as part of a computer set-up, the majority of instant messenger programs give the user the ability to communicate via voice and also video.
One particular nice (and FREE!) feature of Yahoo Messenger is voicemail storage. You can call anyone else who has Yahoo Messenger with Voice (version 7) and at least a set of speakers. If they have a headset or a microphone, then both of you can communicate in realtime, by talking! This is a completely free call, and you can call anyone else who has Yahoo Messenger.
When talking to people, you can "buzz" them, causing their messenger window to let off a loud ring and shaking their messenger window.
If you miss them or they are offline when you call them, you can leave them a voicemail, which they can check later, again, for free. Yahoo Messenger is very tightly integrated with Yahoo Mail, and informs you of when you receive a new e-mail to your Yahoo Mail. You can also write an e-mail to anyone in your contacts list, as long as you have their e-mail, with but a few clicks.
In addition, Yahoo Instant Messenger will log your conversations, if you so desire.
You can also alias your buddies' names without needing a plug-in. Aliasing allows you change their screenname so you can recognize them by seeing a name or something that reminds you of them, instead of their screenname.
AOL Instant Messenger, more widely known as AIM is one of the most popular instant messaging protocols. Most people prefer the current final version, and not the beta version of the new Triton AIM. One of the best features of AIM is that you can link several screennames together. If you have several different screennames......one for work, one for personal, one for family, etc., you can link them all together so that you're not limited to only one buddy list.
AIM doesn't really integrate itself into anything in particular. It does show you when you have a new e-mail in your AOL box (you get a free AOL e-mail account when you have an AIM screenname and password).
AIM, being as popular as it is, has had many plug-in's created for it. DeadAIM was very popular, until they disappeared after supporting a previous 5.xxxxx version of AIM. The DeadAIM legacy seemingly "mutated" into AIMutation, which offers all of the popular options in DeadAIM and a few more. With these plug-in's, you can log conversations, tab windows skin your buddy list, create macro's, etc.
MSN Messenger, like Yahoo Messenger, integrates into Hotmail, and your MSN account if you have one. While MSN Messenger is nowhere as popular as AIM or Yahoo Messenger (due to MSN's infamous reputation), it does have some nice features. However, the best feature is it's integration into Hotmail. It allows webcams and voice chat, but it's not widely used, as far as I know and from my experiences. One cute feature of MSN Messenger is the ability to draw on your messages you send. I have had entire conversations with people where I draw my words instead of type them.
MSN Messenger also allows you to "Nudge" someone, which serves the same purpose as Yahoo Messenger's "buzz" feature.
Okay, I've been browsing and scouring the net for the best AIO (that's All In One) IM software. I've actually found quite a few that do a very good job. I'm not gonna go into too mighty of a review, but I will cover a lot of the ones that I found.
First up is SIM. That's Simple Instant Messenger. It's a quite interesting program, really. You can connect to AIM, ICQ, Jabber, LiveJournal, MSN IM and Yahoo IM. The program itself seems is interesting. When you add your SN to it, it will download your buddy list, but won't automatically put you online. That really confused me at first. I didn't play around with it enough to learn all of it, but it wouldn't let me edit my buddy list as easily as the official AIM client. There were three things of note about this particular program.
1) It auto fades. This got on my nerves very fast. If you mouse off of the buddy list, it will fade to almost totally transparent. If you mouse over it, it will slowly fade back in. If you click on it, it will become visible immediately. However, if you let it sit for about 30 seconds, it will actually disappear and you'll have to open it from the tray icon.
2) Any numbers on your buddy list will have little ICQ icons (green flower) next to them. This means that if your buddy list has cellphone numbers in it, they will be have ICQ icons by them. I don't know if it actually registers them as ICQ and tries to connect via ICQ, or if it just has the ICQ icons.
3) You can't edit your buddy list easily. I was testing a couple of
different IM softwares, so I didn't mess around a lot with the settings, but you can't rearrange the buddy list from the buddy list itself.
Second up was IM2. This program could connect to AIM, ICQ, IRC, Yahoo IM and MSN IM. I only connected to AIM to check it out, but what I saw impressed me way more than SIM, but not much. IM2 takes your entire buddy list, alphabetizes it, and sticks it into a folder titled with your SN, and puts that folder into another folder, titled AIM. I can definitely see where this could be helpful, for example, if you need to close off one SN, but want your others open, it can be helpful. Or if you want to find just your Yahoo contacts, you can close all other IM folders and just open up the Yahoo folder. There were a few things I didn't like though, naturally.
1) You can only arrange your buddy list by ascending or descending order. You can't personalize it, it will be in alphabetical order.
2) When I first signed on, it shut me off of my official AIM client. Not sure if that was a fluke, but I noticed it. Didn't sign me off the second time I tried to sign on, but it did the first time.
3) I double-click pretty fast. When I double-click on the tray icon, it doesn't show up. If I click one more time, it shows up. Or if I click twice, slowly. So essentially, I have to either triple click, or
drastically slow my double-click down. That was semi-annoying.
Third up is Miranda IM. I know that many people that swear by it over the other ones in my review. However, even from the start, it just killed me. You can sign onto AIM, ICQ, IRC, Jabber, MSN IM and Yahoo IM with Miranda IM. The one main thing that I enjoyed about this was that you can edit your buddy groups' order, they're not alphabetized, and in fact when you sign on, it downloads it from the server (if chosen in the settings) in the order you set it up with. Here's what I don't like about it.
1) First off, when I sign onto AIM with Miranda IM, I am ALWAYS signed off of AIM on my official client (AIM is one of the only IM's that allow you to
sign in to as many places as you want, all under the same SN). This was so annoying.
2) I can't figure out how to make the people who aren't signed on go to
their own "offline" category. That's kind of annoying because I have over 30 people who are signed off, and it just gets in the way of who is online.
3) When I signed onto AIM, I was signed on, however, I didn't have a buddy list. I had to actually go into Miranda IM's settings, locate the "AIM Contacts" option and tell it to import the contacts next time I logged on. Then I had to log off and relog on in order to get my buddy list. That was very confusing, and very annoying. I believe that you have to do this with the other servers, also.
The next three IM's are IM clients that will allow you to connect to the popular servers, but you have to register (for free) and create a specific account for that client.
Fourth up is Qnext. This immediately ticked me off when I saw that it used some sort of applet to run, and that it takes quite a while to initialize if you close out of the program. I wasn't in the mood to setup an account with them, so I can't say anything about this program.
Fifth up is Instan-t. Again, I wasn't in the mood to setup an account with them, so I can't say anything about this program.
Sixth was CyberMessenger. This was actually misleading on its website.
They said that you had the option to sign on with your CyberMessenger SN or that you could simply sign on with your AIM or MSN IM SN and password. However, no matter how hard I tried, I could not get it to sign me into AIM. It kept asking me to get a CyberMessenger SN before I could sign on.
The next two IM programs are by far the best AIO programs I have located so far.
Seventh was Trillian Pro v3. I haven't used the basic, only the pro. I really liked that I could sign onto AIM, ICQ, MSN IM, Yahoo IM and IRC. I didn't quite understand why it created a profile for my computer, with my Username (for my computer) and my computer's name. I don't know how to communicate through that (because I haven't tried to), but I'm sure it's similar to an IRC/FTP type communication protocol. Seems kind of neat, actually.
I enjoyed that when I signed on, it actually had a category with my mail for my different accounts. Also, the little icons that show which servers you're signed onto turn into envelopes when you get new mail to that specific server SN. Very handy. Also, to the left of each of your contacts' SNs is their avatar, if they have one. I find that pretty neat, as you can easily identify your buddies if you know their avatar. In addition, you can also very easily tell which contacts are on what server, as AIM is orangeish-yellow, ICQ is turquoise, MSN IM is blue, Yahoo IM is red, IRC is a whitish-blue and your personal computer connection is a earthy brownish red.
Along with all its buddy list perks, you can also attach your chat windows to each other. It can be a little confusing when you first start off, but you can detach your IM windows from themselves (actually from their buddy group window) and attach them to another IM window. As a result, this allows for tabbed IM windows. Unfortunately it does not allow for multiple rows of tabbed IM windows, so if you have a bunch of conversations all tabbed to each other, the names will disappear, leaving you to guess who is IM'ing you until you click on that tab.
Trillian also allows you to set all accounts as away with one away message, and in addition, for MSN IM, if you have an away message setup, it will autosend it when someone IMs you (this is possible with MSN, but requires a plug-in).
Also, even when you close the conversation window, you can still easily
review the conversation you've had with anyone, without even needing to look at a log (which Trillian does, also). When you open up an IM to someone you've been having a conversation with (or if they re-IM you), your past conversation will appear, dimmed.
There were a few things that ticked me off, though.
1) It bunched all of my MSN contacts into one folder called MSN. It didn't download my server buddy groups, which kind of annoyed me. It does have an area that it puts all offline contacts into, however, and that's handy in clearing up some clutter on the buddy list.
2) I didn't like how much space it puts in between the names. There is at least 1/3 of an inch between names, and that's with my resolution set at 1280 x 1024. It makes it more necessary to scroll down more than should be needed, because it makes your buddy list unnecessarily taller than need be.
3) Not a big deal, but this just seems to load and initialize slower than the actual clients themselves. Not a big deal though.
4) I personally didn't like the sounds at first, as they sounded too
identical and "soft", but I eventually was able to distinguish the
difference between people signing on/off, sending an IM, etc. However, one plus was that it enabled sounds for MSN IM and Yahoo IM that normally didn't sound (with the official Yahoo and MSN clients, if you have the IM window in focus and you receive a message, no sound will play. Therefore, if you walk away from the computer and have your IM window in focus, you will be unable to tell if you have received any new messages, via audio confirmation. With Trillian, you hear when you get a message, even if the IM window is in focus.)
5) Trillian uses many of the same smileys as the major clients, but it also has additional emoticons. When using these extra emoticons, keep in mind that those not using Trillian will not see the emoticons, but rather the smileys instead.
Eighth on my list was Gaim v1.2.1 (pronounced "game").
I have used this program a lot, actually and was quite fond of it at a time. First off, Gaim has (as far as I've seen) the largest number of servers it can connect to. It is capable of connecting to AIM, ICQ, Yahoo IM, MSN IM, Jabber, IRC, Gadu-Gadu, GroupWise, SILC, and Napster.
When you first sign on, it can be difficult to manage your lists, but with a little patience, this can do a lot. To the left of the SNs, there will be symbols representing which IM client server the SN is attached to. This program, like Trillian, allows for tabbed IM windows, but handles it slightly more eloquently, as the tabs are wide and the full name is always displayed. Although it does not allow for multiple rows of tabs, when you get more tabs than the window is wide, it will put an arrow to the right of your tabs, allowing you to cycle through your tabbed conversations.
Like Gaim, you can set all accounts as away with one away message. There obviously are a few annoying things about Gaim, though.
1) As said above, when you first sign onto Gaim, your buddy lists are kinda hectic. You can move them all around and reorganize them to your liking. You can even make new folders in Gaim and place contacts from different servers into those folders (if you have a friend who has both an AIM SN and a Yahoo IM SN, you can place both of her/his SNs into a folder with her/his name on it).
2) When you add a contact to your list, you will see ALL of your buddy
groups, regardless of which server it's saving onto. (if you add an AIM
buddy, you will still see the Yahoo IM, MSN IM, etc. buddy groups, even if those accounts aren't signed on). This can be quite confusing, especially if your different accounts have buddy groups with similar names.
3) I have personally experienced trouble with my buddy list syncing properly with the server list, due to #2. It can be slightly annoying, but when a problem occurs, it will ask you if you would like to sync the buddy lists.
4) In a few circumstances, I have experienced difficulty logging on to my MSN IM account, thus having to sign in using the official MSN IM client.
5) I didn't like the sounds at first, but I eventually got used to them. Also, see #4 for Trillian above, referring to sounds while the IM window is in focus. Gaim also does this.
6) If you install all the basics, you won't have a smiley set loaded, and therefore, when IM'ing, you will always see emoticons in the windows, and when you click the smileys button, it will say that there are no smileys available. Simply go into the Gaim settings and select the penguin set to load the default smileys for each IM server.
7) Also, it can be annoying that when you close the Gaim buddy list, it
signs you off. What you have to do is to go into Gaim's preferences, go to the plug-ins, and select the "System Tray Icon". You are then able to close your Gaim buddy list and it will stay signed on. You can open your buddy list by double-clicking the system tray icon.
The final two programs I will review are actually plug-in types that enhance your IM clients.
The first is AIMutation. Heard of DeadAIM? Good, well, if you kept up with it, there were two negatives about it. First, you had to pay for it. Second, you couldn't upgrade to the latest AIM client. Well, AIMutation fixes both of these. It's free, and it is currently compatible with the latest version of AIM.
AIMutation only works with the official AIM client. It allows for tabbed IM windows, multiple rows of tabbed IM windows (although when I selected tabbed IM windows, then adjusted the size so it was taller, it hid the area that I was supposed to type in, making it very annoying for me to type messages).
You can skin your buddy list, it supports linked buddy lists, you can color your buddy list's background, you can alias your buddies (give them names instead of seeing their SN), remove the advertisements on the buddy list, remove buttons, clone AIM, log your conversations, enable transparency, prevent new IM windows from stealing focus, override buddy fonts (if your buddy has an annoying font ((color, size, etc.)), you can override it and choose what font you want to see), skin your IM windows and more.
MSN Plus is an add-on for MSN IM that finally brings it up to par with the other IM clients. I don't remember all it can do, but there are two most important and notable features. You can alias (rename) your buddies' names and set an away message that will actually be sent when you receive an IM from a buddy, but you are set as away.
Well, I hope that I've helped you decide on what AIO client you want to use (I personally recommend Trillian, but Gaim uses fewer system resources ((IMO))). I hope (if you use the official AIM or MSN) that I helped you a bit in your IM'ing life. Enjoy!
Submitted by: RM skater
Hey Julie K. Instant messaging is something that has really come into vogue within the past four or five years. Instant messaging is a form of communication that uses a particular program, called a client, that allows you to communicate almost instantaneously with other people with the same program. There are several different ones, but the most popular are AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN/Windows Messenger, ICQ, mIRC, and Trillian. Every one other than Trillian only allows you to communicate with people who have a username on that program(which are free), while Trillian allows one to view and communicate with friends you have in all of those clients combined. However, in order to use Trillian you still have to have a username for each of these previously mentioned programs to be able to use that aspect of Trillian. Basically, if you know you are planning to talk with family and friends on more than one of these IM programs, its probably at least a good idea to take a look at Trillian.
As for security, the number of malicious links sent through IMs waxes and wanes, but for the most part IM clients are fairly secure. One way hackers have been known to take advantage of peoples trust on IM programs is to write it so that it looks like your friend is sending you a link to some website. Unless you are already talking with your friend its a good idea not to follow any links that they seem to just up and send you without telling you what it is or why you should take a look at it. BuddyIcons is one that I remember in particular that would do this.
Hope this helps.
Submitted by: Tim H. of Hattiesburg, MS
The difference between E-mail and IM(Instant Messaging) are sort of like the difference between using the postal service and using the phone. When you send an e-mail, your letter gets sent through the internet and then lands itself in the receivers inbox of their E-mail account. Then, the next time they check their E-mail, they receive the message and read it, and maybe write back.
Instant Messaging is more like a direct conversation over the telephone. Both people are sitting at their computers, and have a normal conversation (just using text instead of speaking, although now, there are some where you can just speak to people(more of that in the later section). As soon as you IM another person, he/she receives the IM and is able to type a reply, which you receive in a matter of milliseconds. It's all very fast. In order to talk to people, instead of using an email address, each person has a screename, which is just a way to identify themselves while Instant Messaging.
About the risks... The main risks in Instant Messaging, is the fact that people can send file/pictures through to you, some of which could contain viruses. Most messaging programs have settings that allow you to decide whether you want a file or not before it is plunked on your hard-drive for this very reason. So make sure you know the person, and know what they are going to send you before accepting a file.
The other problem with Instant Messaging is that the conversations between the two people is not encoded for security. This means that potentially, someone could be listening in on your conversation. For this reason, they advise that you not send secure or personal info like your SSN over IM.
There are many different messaging programs out there, almost all of which are free. I myself use AIM(AOL Instant Messenger). To name a few others:
1. Skype--(this program also allows you to talk over the internet as if you were on a phone for free to anywhere in the world)
3. Yahoo Instant Messenger
4. MSN Instant Messenger
5. Google has one called Talk(also allows talking as if you were on a phone for free to anywhere)
All of those are good free options (there are lots more I'm sure, but these are some of the most popular ones). Ask the friends you would be Instant Messaging what they have and whether they like it. All in all Instant Messaging is a very fun way to talk to your friends.
Submitted by: Levi
To your questions concerning instant messaging and E-mail. Instant messaging is different from E-mail in the sense that Instant messaging is "real-time". What i mean by this is that by the word 'instant' the person you are passing information to has to be online at the time you are sending the info. and this is retrieve almost the moment u send it. How fast the message goes now depends on your internet connection, but the main point is the recipient get the message immediately. E-mail differs to instant messaging in the sense that E-mail is just like posting a letter, but in this case u dont need a stamp or an envelope. The message is sent electronically. Retrieving the info now depends on when the person is informed about the pending message.
Is it safe? Well, Julie the Internet is still not seen as a very safe avenue for divulging very important info. This is why we need to be wary of the kind of info we send. But all the same it is still the fastest way of passing information that is why it is very important. With a very good policy in place e.g firewall, and anti-virus you are sure of protecting your information and getting it uninterrupted to the recipient.
The best instant messenger is Yahoo and MSN messenger. These are fast and contains many features you will find useful and entertaining. They are also free.
Submitted by: Olamide B.
The difference between instant messaging (IM) and email is that IM takes place "live". So that communication takes place while you are both logged on. The advantage is that you communicate your message directly, and don't have to wait for your answer. The disadvantage is that IM can be very interrupting. So, if your friend is writing you from a work place, each time you write back it appears in front of whatever document she is working on. The interface (the design) of IM is also more constraining than email. You will type in one small space provided and when you hit the return button your message is posted. The small space forces a shorter answer which is a new concept if you are accustomed to email. There is an icon that appears which tells you that the other person is writing, so you can sit by an know they are still on and writing.
I would also suggest you look into Blogging. Blogs are created by people who want to discuss a topic. So, just say you are an animal activist, specifically a German Shepard stray dog saver. You can search your topic, find a blog and read about what other people are doing in their neighborhoods. So that if a charitable walk is being organized to raise money for a cause, you can learn how it's done and either join it or learn how to organize one of your own.
I think that blogging is a good way for retired people to explore what's new on the Internet and find people with similar interests. It is a safe environment for exploration.
I hope that helps.
Submitted by: Julia
Lets start off with your first question. Instant messaging is, well, instant. As soon as you type something in the other person can see it. One down side of that is you both have to be on the computer at the same time. On to your second question... It's safe if you use it safely. On most clients you can trasfer files. If you pick to download an unsafe file it's unsafe. most IM clients use virus scanning software when they download files. Again, if you download something, you may get a virus, but you might get something really cool. i personally like Yahoo Messenger with Voice, but if you want to get something more complicated I would choose MSN Messenger. These are both free. If you would like to pay a little you could get Trinton Pro, if not Trinton basic. Both Trinton clients can converse with AIM, Yahoo IM, and MSN IM. One important thing to know is that most clients can only talk to other clients of the same kind. you usually want to pick the client that goes with your e-mail. to find out more and download IM software go to http://www.Download.com.
Submitted by: Kenny M.
Julie, I have been using IMs now for quite a while and find them very useful and far more interactive than email. I can see when my friends, family and workgroup come online, the conversations are kept private unless I want to invite others to the conversation in a group chat and I dont have all the interruptions that you get when you join chat rooms. I personally use Trillian because it allows me to communicate with a variety of other chat providers such as AOL, MSN, Yahoo and ICQ. This means that it really doesnt matter what tool my friends are using, I can communicate with them without having several of the different tools on my computer. Another advantage of chat tools are that you can lock them down pretty well so that you dont get unwanted content without giving permission. I dont worry about viruses or malware because I only share with people I know and do not accept anything from anyone that I dont trust. All in all, instant messaging has saved me a lot of money on my phone bill, lets me be much more interactive with my friends far away and we can share pictures and files, play games and more, none of which is very quick with email.
Submitted by: Jim W.
Julie, I am also retired and have developed a great interest in computers in recent times. Even though I have not tried out instant messaging I have some knowledge of it which I hope you will find interesting. Instant messaging, or IM, is great for communicating with friends in either your own or other countries throughout the world. It differs from email in that you are both online at the same time and you can chat practically for free (you are only paying for being online). To use IM you need to sign up with one of the totally free systems such as AOL Instant Messenger (http://www.aim.com) or Yahoo! Messenger (messenger.yahoo.com). If, for example, you sign up with AOL you can only chat to other people who have also signed up with AOL, similarly with Yahoo! Messenger. To sign up you need to log on to their website and download software called 'IM client'. Once you have this you sign up for an account with the IM system you have selected (totally free). You then pick an ID and, like your email address, you give this to others so they can contact you. Follow instructions in website regarding downloading and installing software, then launch program and enter your ID.
Before you start chatting you have to add somebody as your 'friend' or 'buddy' and then type their ID which you can get by asking them for it by phone or email. Double click on their ID which opens a window where you can type your message. If they are online they will get your message immediately, otherwise they will receive it the next time they sign up.
Hope this will be of some assistance, Julie. Happy chatting!
Submitted by: Jim G. Galway, Ireland.