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Across different messaging services

If you and your friend all use different internet messaging system, instant messaging (IM) services are designed for text based conversations that work like phone call, you can see who’s available to chat, delivery is instantaneous and the interface is geared toward dialogue of just how a few words at a time. However, there are lots of IM services available and very few are compatible with each other, some people you know will use windows live messenger, while other will use Google talk, and running multiple IM clients slow down windows, fortunately a utility called pidgin is compatible with a wide range of IM services, include those from Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, AOL and MySpace, just download it from www.pidgin.im and follow the onscreen instructions.

When the first times run the software, you will be invited to add an account, pidgin taps into existing IM account rather than creating new ones, if you have a Hotmail, Google mail, yahoo or AOL email address, you already have an IM account, click the Add button and select your email provider from the drop-down list, Hotmail is a listed as MSN, and AOL’s IM service is called AIM, add the user name and password for your account in the part of your email address before the @, but Hotmail user should enter the full address, tick remember password and click Add.

A buddy list window will appear and any contact associated with your account will be visible whenever they’re online and signed into their chat facilities, to have an IM conversation with someone double click his or her name and type into the box, you’ll find tools to change the font, create web links and add emoticons just above the next input box.

To chat with people on other IM networks, you’ll need to create an account for yourself on these network, in most cases, you can do this via your web browser, Microsoft’s Live messenger service normally requires you to install special software to use it, but you can create an account simply by signing up for a Hotmail email address, be sure to set suitable screen name when you sign up, as this the name that other people will see when you chat to them.

Once you’ve signed to each one, return to pidgin’s buddy list and click accounts, manage accounts, click Add, you may need to sign out of the web interface to allow access from pidgin.

To add new contact to your buddy list, all you need to know is their user name and type of IM software, they use in the buddy list window, click the buddies menu and choose Add buddy or type Ctrl-B, select Account that matches the IM service they use from the drop-down list and then type in their username, as before ,for most account types this will be the first half of their email address, up to but not including the @, for Hotmail and other Microsoft email addresses, type in the whole email address, the other person will then receive a buddy request, when they request accept it, their name will appear in your buddy list.

Having pictures to represent you in other people’s IM software will liven up proceeding, Click on the photo icon at the bottom right of the buddy list, browse to an image file on your hard disk and click open, these images appear as small icons, so it’s best to choose a close up of your face, if you know your way around some image-editing software, crop a photo to size, save it to the desktop and import it from there, alternatively, search Google from IM icons to choose from thousands of ready-made images. Right click an image you like and select save pictures as, to save it to the desktop.

To view offline, as well as online contacts, click the buddies menu and choose show, offline buddies, you can then organise them into groups such as family, friends and co-workers by right-clicking names and choosing a category under the move to option, to create new groups, click the buddies menu, add group.

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