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TNTrillian (now Trillian Astra) is back with a bang. A revamped look and a slew of new features almost makes me forget what the multi-protocol chat client was before. A cursory glance and I am almost tempted to say yes, it’s the best instant messaging client around now.

But that’s just first impressions. To make that tall claim stick, I need to go deeper into the new Trillian and take it around the block a few times.

A multi-protocol chat client will be judged by the services it supports. Using Trillian Astra you can connect to manage – Google, MySpace IM, Skype, AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, and IRC. With that you get support for POP3 and IMAP email lookup for your email accounts with a single click logon. RSS feed updates add to the keeping track features of the multi-chat client.

But the thick icing on the cake is that that the latest version has sunk its fangs into Facebook and Twitter. Two places where we are doing most of our social schmoozing these days.

With the whole cluster of features, where do I start? Let’s start at the beginning.

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Quick and easy Install

Sometimes the way a software installs itself says a lot about the work that has been put into the program. Trillian doesn’t disappoint. The 14.6MB download is all in one go. The installer gives you the option of installing a bundled Ask.com toolbar. Uncheck to say no (if you want) and continue.

The first active step involves the registration of a new Astra account. It’s the first part of a three step process ““

best instant messaging client

To configure the IM and web services, you have to put checks against the services you want to include followed by their log-in details.

Trillian astra

That’s more or less it”¦Trillian Astra launches in all of its thematic glory.

The look does draw a ‘wow’.

Trillian-Views

I guess for now only Digsby comes close to the sleek skinnable interface of Trillian (are you looking at the Trillian Cordonata skin?). The interface can be designed on two default skins – the ultra modern one I mentioned and the other more sober and lighter Cobalt. Skins can be changed to different colors and without a restart. Support for Windows Vista Glass and Windows 7 effects is provided. Custom windows (like a new contact list) with a new look can also be done.

Trillian comes with a huge emoticon pack and more can be added. Emoticons and other objects are also arranged around compatibility with Yahoo and MSN.

There are two versions”¦is the free version a poor cousin?

Just when you are starting to enjoy the goodies, you see the notice that the installed Pro features will go away after 29 days. The truth is the Pro version offers some extras but it does not in any way take away from the standalone appeal of the free version.

The differences in brief can be glimpsed in this screenshot taken from the site ““

Differences

Trillian Astra (Free) still offers a very rich set of features”¦most of us which I am sure the avid chatter would find more than adequate.

Trillian Astra and features galore (400+ actually!)

Full-Features

I don’t think you are expecting me to discuss all the 400 plus features here. Especially when, the full features page does a neat job if listing them very systematically. You can sort the features by type or alphabetically. More importantly, you can filter the features by – All, Show Premium Features Only, or Show New or Better Only. All premium features on the page and in the software Preferences settings are marked out by a little gear icon.

Also check out the page detailing all the screenshots for the chat client.

What’s really great about Trillian Astra

Straight out, I would say the support for Facebook and Twitter. These two are the cool places to hang out these days and Trillian does a great job at integrating then within all the chat services.

For Facebook – you get notification alerts with any new message, Facebook contacts become a part of your Trillian contact list and you can have real time chat conversations with them. Trillian also lets you update your status and access all Facebook feeds instantly.

facebook

For Twitter – follow and respond to tweets from Trillian. Re-tweet and follow Tweeter trends directly from your contact list. The TinyURL shortening service is an automatic service too. Put someone in your ignore list if they are Tweeting too much.

Tweet

We shouldn’t forget Skype. Trillian doesn’t substitute Skype but becomes an integrated interface for Skype, if you have it installed. It includes your Skype contacts and receives incoming Skype calls through its own notification system. Thus, it acts like a call assistant to Skype.

Skype

Basic video support has been brought into Trillian. Though it’s not full screen view in the free version, you get what Trillian calls the Movie View. The window dims when a call begins and text feeds in just like onscreen subtitles.

A lot of widgets also add entertainment value (Flickr, Videogame console, My Sport etc) and functional help (World Time Clock, Business Card, Weather etc).

The full features page is worth a dekko. You are sure to find a host of other features to like.

Does it connect and deliver?

The feature set is in place and as far as first impressions go, Trillian seems light on its feet. It’s fast to start up and doesn’t seem to hog much of memory. Trillian says a lot of memory and bandwidth improvements have gone into the latest version. For now, I believe them because it does feel slick. The only con could be that the bundle of features might be a bit too complex for a section of users. And like all multi-protocol services, how nimble would Trillian be when updates start rolling in.

Trillian Astra (ver.4) is supported on Windows XP, Vista and 7. (The Mac OS X and iPhone versions are in the works.)

So is Trillian Astra the best multi-protocol instant messaging client yet? My own vote is theirs”¦what about yours?

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