Remember the days when you used multiple instant messengers because all your friends were using different services, some were on MSN and Yahoo while others were on AOL. Then came Trillian and made life easy for us. But over a period of time Trillian has lost it’s limelight to other applications such as Digsby, Pidgin, and Adium. These 3 applications now collectively control a large chunk of market share. And you thought Trillian didn’t notice?
Trillian Astra is the next generation IM client that have been rumored since 2006 according to Lifehacker, but recently they have started to hand out invites to pretty much anybody who signs up for beta testing. Only Windows build is available at the moment, but they are working on both iPhone and OS X(seems like they are jealous of Adium’s success) versions too.
Once you have signed up for Trillian Astra, they will send you an email with a download link and secret token key(save this key since it will come handy during registration). During the setup it will ask whether to install Weather Desktop Channel and Ask toolbar, you can ignore them since they are pretty much crap in my opinion.
Once the setup is complete, you will be shown a welcome screen. Here you have two choices, either you can Sign-In if you already have an account or you can register for a free account.
During Registration you will have to enter the token key and once it’s complete you will be asked to configure IM and Web services. The following services are supported, Windows Live Messenger, AOL IM, Yahoo! Messenger, Google talk, ICQ, Facebook, MySpace IM, Skype, Jabber, IRC, Twitter, Mail(POP3/IMAP), and Bonjour.
Once you have set them up, you will be then shown a summary of the services along with a message asking you to make the details public. Select No, if you are like me who cares for some privacy.
In the next step, it will ask you to fill some basic information about yourself, this information will be used as a public profile. If you don’t want to set up a public profile, it is best to ignore this step. Next, it will ask for a zip code so that it can check the weather(another useless step), and in the following step it will ask you to enter your current mood(just like you do it in Facebook).
In the last step you will be asked to choose the icon for your display picture. You can either upload an image from your computer or select any one from the list.
Now the registration and setup is complete, click Next and it will log in to Trillian Astra.
It will load up all services in one easy-to-use window, the interface seems complex at first but once you get to play around it for a while it becomes a piece of cake. As you can see in the screenshot below, all activities on the web such as Facebook and Twitter are shown on top, followed by the emails, and finally by the IM contacts.
One thing that has drastically changed is the usability, everything that you want to do can be done from the main window without going to extra menus. Even the chat interface has pretty much improved, it looks a bit similar to Chacha’s iPhone interface.
You can get the User Info, Draw a picture, Send a file, Invite more friends to chat, and View History all from within the interface. On top you will find latest news from different websites which looks more like an advertisement. The theme above is the default one for Trillian Astra, it can be changed to retro theme by going to Settings.
Right-click the icon in the system tray and select Preferences or simply click Manage my Trillian icon and select Preferences.
Once inside Preferences window, you will find the settings categorized by Basics(which includes installation and startup, identities and connections, away mode, etc), Chat Activities(which includes contact list, message windows, notifications, video and voice, etc), and Advanced(which includes skins, plugins, devices, proxy servers, etc).
There is also a build-in docking feature and an option to turn auto-hide on, just like you can enable auto-hide for windows taskbar. Overall, both functionalities and usability have drastically improved, but it will take some time before it can catch up to it’s rivals. No Linux version is under works at the moment, but does it matter? Let me know in the comments. Enjoy!