It’s the new old news: phone calls are being replaced by text messages, and for a lot of business and personal matters, instant messages have taken over from the more cumbersome emails of yesteryear. Rather than trading individual messages back and forth (which then must be filed or deleted in your mailbox), many things can be handled more quickly in a brief chat conversation. But unfortunately, chat networks are (mostly) walled gardens, meaning you can only chat with people on the same network. Which means I all have a handful of chat accounts on different networks to cover all the bases. Rather than running four or five different applications, Trillian for Mac promises to simplify your chatting by consolidating all your networks into a single app.
Trillian offers versions for Mac OS, Windows, and all manner of mobile devices, making it a logical choice for users who frequently jump between multiple platforms. The first time you run Trillian, you’ll be asked to create an account. It feels counterintuitive to create yet another account to consolidate all your chat identities, but it lets you quickly log in to all of your IM accounts with Trillian on any device.
Using Trillian for Mac is simple. If you’ve ever used iChat or another IM client, you’ll be pretty familiar with how it works. Click a name in your contacts list to open a new chat with that person. From there, you just type and go. The app connects to AIM/iChat, Google Talk, Yahoo Instant Messenger, Facebook chat, Jabber, and many other networks. Trillian even connects to Facebook for status updates and to Twitter for both reading and posting. It’s a neat trick, although I’m disappointed that an app built on the idea of consolidating our communications requires separate windows to display content from Twitter or Facebook.
Once you connect several different services, there’s a good chance you’ll have multiple entries for the same person, such as a Google Talk screen name, and another one for Facebook chat. Trillian helps tidy up your contact list by combining several entries into a single contact. You can switch your contact list between four display sizes, and different icons indicate active and inactive contacts. Still, I wish there was more customizability, and colored status indicators would’ve been a lot more useful than tiny gray icons.
If you encounter problems, though, Trillian offers almost nothing in the way of proper documentation. You can rummage around in online forums for support, but you won’t find an actual manual. While chat software isn’t terribly difficult to figure out, I believe that applications in Apple’s App Store should at least include help files or a manual baked in. Even a quick-start guide could have answered many of my initial questions more quickly than scattershot forum posts.
The bottom line. If you need a multi-protocol chat client, Trillian works pretty well, but count on spending some time figuring out how things work on your own.