Instant Messaging in Ubuntu

Instant messaging is a text-based and file-sharing  real-time communication system that is established between two or more terminals connected to a network.

It has become a key tool of the Internet, allowing people to connect with their families, friends and have a direct way to chat, exchange files, photos, documents, web pages and more.

Instant messaging requires the use of an IM client that handles the service. It differs from regular email in that conversations are conducted in real time.

In Ubuntu you can install several IM clients:

  • Empathy
  • Pidgin
  • aMSN




Canonical has decided that starting Ubuntu 9.10, Empathy is the default IM client. Earlier versions of Ubuntu used Pidgin instead.

Empathy is an instant messaging client based on Telepathy communications environment, which provides a common framework for applications to access instant messaging features. Any application can use the instant messaging session.

Empathy on Ubuntu

How to install:

For those who do not have it installed already, use a terminal to issue the following command:

sudo apt-get install empathy


Empathy also supports audio and video over XMPP/SIP, which is available on Nokia N800/N810 devices (video requires H.263 codecs for GStreamer).

It has a simple and intuitive interface.

There are many popular protocols available:

Jabber / XMPP

Google Talk

MSN Messengers







LAN Chat Apple Bonjour / Rendezvous

Supported features include:

Private and public chat (with smileys and spell check)

File transfer

Voice calls

Videoconference using SIP and Jingle

Desktop sharing

Edit contact information with Avatar, aliases and groups

Save and view conversations (history)

Account Editor (specialized interface for most protocols)

Change to “away” automatically when using t a screensaver

Automatic reconnection with Network Manager

Powerful theme engine for chats

Record conversations and search logs

Collaborative work using Tubes

To delete stored discussions in Empathy:

  1. Enter the following directory: /home/yourusername /.local/share/Empathy/logs
  2. Delete all subfolders stored there.

This can be achieved from the terminal by issuing an “rmdir” command




How to install Pidgin on Ubuntu:


Pidgin was installed by default before Ubuntu 9.10. For those who want to install it, open a terminal and run the following command:

sudo apt-get install pidgin

Pidgin (formerly Gaim) is a multi-platform instant messaging client capable of connecting to multiple protocols and accounts simultaneously.

Supported protocols:

* AOL Instant Messenger


* Google Talk

* Jabber / XMPP

* MSN Messenger

* Yahoo!

* Bonjour

* Gadu-Gadu

* Internet Relay Chat (IRC commonly called)

* Novell Groupwise Messenger

* QQ

* Lotus Sametime



* MySpaceIM

* Zephyr


But may support more protocols through unofficial plugins


Supporting functions and features:

* Conversations displayed in tabs

* File Transfer

* Ability to connect to multiple protocols simultaneously

* Record conversations

* Allows modification of contact names from the list

* Display a message or plays a sound when a contact connects/disconnects or changes state

* Transparency for windows contact and conversation (plugin required)

* Custom Away Messages.

* Writing notification.

* Notification of MSN windows closed.

* Play a sound or run a program when a specific contact leaves, session starts or returns from absence.

No voice and video calls are supported, which makes this client less attractive.




aMSN is an instant messaging client that uses the MSN protocol. The name comes from aMSN Alvaro’s Messenger. It is practically a clone of MSN-Messenger client from Microsoft, implementing many of its features and imitating its appearance. It also has features that MSN-Messenger does not have (Start several sessions simultaneously, for example).

How to install aMSN on Ubuntu:

The package is included in the Universe repository so installation can be performed form a  terminal with the following command:

sudo apt-get install amsn


We can also add Trevino’s repositories (quite reliable) which offers the latest versions of some programs, like aMSN.

To perform a clean install in a terminal, issue the following commands (this will remove a previous installation):

sudo apt-get remove – purge amsn sudo rm-r /usr/share/amsn

Now add the gpg key with the following command:

wget -O- | sudo apt-key add 

Edit /etc/apt/sources.list issuing  this command:

sudo gedit /etc /apt/ sources.list

Add these lines to the end of the file:

deb karmic 3v1n0
 karmic 3v1n0

Note: Replace”karmic” the installed Ubuntu version.

Click “Save” and we close the file.

Update the repository list with this command:

sudo apt-get update


aMSN can be installed from a terminal with the following command:

sudo apt-get install amsn


Supported protocols:


Supporting features:

Voice calls.

Support for webcams ( Videoconference).

Send offline messages when the recipient is not connected.

Send voice clips.

File Transfer.

New entry window and contact list (0.97).

User images.

Customizable emoticons.

Extensions, themes and skins.

Multilanguage support (around 40 languages currently supported).

Join more than one account simultaneously.

Support for groups.

Traditional and animated emoticons with sound.

Record conversations.

Event alarms.


Window auto-close after file transfer.

New plugins entry window (Alt-P).

Button chat windows resizing.

Add users to groups.

When a contact state changes, the color at the top of the window changes.

Automatically update language files and extensions.

Add notes for each user (XML).

Support for MSN Mobile services.

Tabbed windows.

Select of state before login.


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