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Trillian vs Pidgin Instant Messenger Comparison

Trillian VS Pidgin IM

Why Trillian vs Pidgin?

Trillian and Pidgin are both mulch-client instant messaging desktop applications that allow you to do many functions with one desktop app. Having an easy to use and navigate Instant Messenger desktop client that can support multiple protocols is a vital business tool in today’s environment.
The ability to send messages, check e-mails, and teleconference in an efficient manner will free up time and allow you to complete multiple tasks quicker.
I have used multiple IM clients that allow integration of many different services, the most popular being: AOL Instant Messenger, MSN, Google talk, Skype, Yahoo Instant Messenger, IRC, and social networking applications like Facebook and Twitter. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are really only two clients that handle multiple services and plug-ins as well as offer a hassle-free interface.



Pidgin Logo
An open-source systems client that runs on both Windows and Linux, Pidgin supports the largest amounts of services out of all of the instant messaging clients, has plenty of useful plug-ins and can be tweaked and modified in endless amounts of ways since the source code is open.
The interface of pidgin is a bit simpler, however with a bit of tweaking it is possible to modify it quite heavily. Here is an example of the default UI within pidgin:


Messaging within pidgin has a similar visual appearance, however can be tweaked quite easily as well. Information shown like previous chat logs and timestamps are available options, to me however this is where pidgin fall short compared to trillian; the UI is just too clunky and in many instances takes a considerable amount of tweaking to adjust.

Pidgin Chat Window


  • Pidgin is Open-source (Free and Customizable)
  • Has more chat client support (Supports Steam)
  • More third party plugins



  • User interface is pretty clunky and hard to navigate
  • Managing contact lists can be a challenge, it requires a lot more tweaking
  • Skype client must be running alongside Pidgin, no standalone operation at this time (Trillian can run independent of Skype desktop application).



Trillian also supports multiple chat and social networking clients, however unlike Pidgin Trillian is not opensource. There is a free version of Trillian 5 however it is ad supported, in order to remove ads a paid upgrade of the yearly $12 subscription or a one-time $60 fee is required.
In my opinion the free version of Trillian 5 is to over cluttered with ads to be useful, I strongly recommend the upgrade to Trillian Pro for more streamlined and hassle-free experience.
Trillian 5 has a very streamlined and aesthetic user interface; I would say this is its main advantage over Pidgin. Very easy to group and organize existing contacts as well as to create new contacts and contact groups and integrate them with multiple services.
I personally use three different MSN accounts, one Google talk account, one AIM account, one Skype account, and one Astra account (Trillian’s proprietary IM service) and my user interface looks very clean and streamlined. Adding just two or three different chat clients into pidgin made it very clunky and hard to manage.

Trillian IM List

User interface within chat windows is also set up very well, it is easy to read and write as well as look through history. There are many different skins available for Trillian however I have found that the default skin works best for my needs.
I have had to do very little modification to make Trillian look and feel right as opposed to Pidgin, were multiple tweaks and command line code was necessary to make minor changes within the user interface.

Trillian IM Chat Demo

Trillian has far fewer third-party plug-ins, but I found Trillian’s plug-in library to be far more useful. I was able to include a search engine search box, a note keeping app (TrillNotes), and a music player (Trilly Tunes 2). They were all very easy to install and required no tweaking or altering of code.


  • Aesthetically pleasing streamlined and easy to access user-interface
  • Cloud sync’d chat history
  • Ability to add multiple chat and social networking clients without cluttering the user interface



  • Due to closed source code, a much smaller development community and third-party support
  • Requires a paid subscription to be viable a viable option
  • Less chat clients support, no steam or xfire (slow to integrate new features and clients compared to Pidgin)


Feature Comparison

  Pidgin   Trillian  
O/S Support   Windows / Mac / Linux   Windows / Mac / Iphone / Android / Blackberry / Web client  
Supported Clients  
  • AIM
  • ICQ
  • Google Talk
  • Jabber/XMPP
  • MSN Messenger
  • Yahoo
  • Bonjour
  • Gadu-Gadu
  • IRC
  • Novell GroupWise Messenger
  • Lotus Sametime
  • SILC
  • MySpaceIM
  • Zephyr
  • AOL
  • Bonjour
  • Google talk
  • ICQ
  • IRC
  • Jabber
  • SchuelerVZ
  • Skype
  • VZ
  • MSN
  • Yahoo
  • Facebook
  • Foursquare
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace
  • Twitter
  • IMAP
  • POP3
  • Main Advantage   Opensource community support   Streamlined UI  
    Main Drawback   Clunky UI, harder to customize   Cost, no Steam support  
    Cost   Free (Open Source)   $12 per year or $60 lifetime  


    So which one should I pick, Trillian or Pidgin?

    This is a tricky question, I have spent close to five years with Trillian and have used Pidgin on and off for about the same time. For me personally Trillian is the better solution due to its ability to run Skype independently as well as support voice and video chat within Skype.
    Also, many of the plug-ins that I’ve become accustomed to within Trillian don’t have an equivalent within Pidgin (at least not that I have found).
    The Trillian user interface is just better. However, at the same time Pidgin can achieve OK results with some heavy tweaking . The ability to sync contact information and chat history to the cloud is yet another perk of Trillian. The one function that Pidgin has, that I wish Trillian did, is support for Steam chat.
    It’s a feature that has been requested multiple times on the Trillian message board, however it has not yet been developed.

    Trillian or Pidgin, you decide

    I have personally chosen Trillian, however this has required a $60 investment on my part. If I didn’t use the professional version of Trillian the ads would be simply unbearable and I would stick with Pidgin.
    If you’re looking for a free instant messenger multi chat client Pidgin is the answer. But if you don’t mind the $60 cost, then I would recommend Trillian Instant Messenger. It’s just that much better.

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