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trillian macRemember the days before multi-platform instant messengers? In that long-lost time the instant messenger you chose to use said something about you. “Do you have an Instant Messenger?” friends would ask. “Yeah, I use ICQ” I’d reply. Nods or approval or disapproval followed depending on their choice of IM client.

Now, of course, you can easily side-step this problem by using multi-platform IM clients capable of logging into multiple services at once. Adium is widely regarded as the best IM for Mac computers, but it now has competition in the form of Trillian, which has hopped the waters between Windows and OS X.

Platform Support Showdown

trillian mac

If you’re downloading a multi-platform IM client, platform support is obviously important to you. You’re downloading the client so you won’t have to open a lot of different instant messengers at once, after all!

Trillian for Mac supports AIM, Bonjour, FaceBook, Google Talk 6 Reasons GTalk Is the Best Free Instant Messaging Service 6 Reasons GTalk Is the Best Free Instant Messaging Service Read More , ICQ, Jabber, MySpaceIM, schuelerVZ, Twitter, VZ, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger.


That’s a fairly comprehensive list. It isn’t as comprehensive as Adium, but it’s near-as-make-no-difference. There are also some trade-offs. For example, Adium supports LiveJournal, but Trillian supports Twitter Twitter Clients - Web Apps or Desktops Apps? Which is Better? Twitter Clients - Web Apps or Desktops Apps? Which is Better? Read More .

There is just one thing missing that I’d really like to see – Skype. I’m not sure why it isn’t included, because Skype is supported in Trillian for Windows. Adium also doesn’t support Skype, however.

User Interface

trillian for mac

If there’s any single element most likely to trip up a Windows developer that makes the leap to a Mac it is the user interface. OS X has very different interface elements that Windows and OS X users expect the programs that they download to integrate into the operating system more smoothly.

Trillian does a pretty good job of making an interface that looks at home on a Mac. There is only one real button on the main IM window, and it is located at the very bottom beside a search bar. Large icons and text indicate contacts, and you can read about a contact’s status by hovering over them with your cursor.

Adium sets the bar high, however, and Trillian doesn’t quite match up to the example it sets. Trillian looks nice, but Adium looks as if it could be a program installed on our Mac from the factory.


trillian for mac

Adium is well known for its customization features. Although the default settings look brilliant, Adium does not take the typical Mac approach of offering only a handful of carefully selected options. You can change all sort of things including contact icons, the color of interface elements and even the shape of the IM window itself.  A robust community that offers various add-ons and new themes supports these customization features.

trillian mac

Trillian, well – it doesn’t really have any of this. What you see is what you get. Trillian does offer Growl support, just like Adium, but there are no serious customization options for the interface. You can change the font size of contacts and alter the way notifications appear, but that’s about it.


Is Trillian an alternative for Adium? Sure, I suppose it is. It does most of the same things and it is fully functional as an IM client. You’ll have no problem at all using it day-to-day, and chances are good that whatever IM program(s) you use are supported (except Skype, dagnabit).

With that said, I don’t see any reason why someone using Adium would switch to Trillian, and I don’t see any reason why someone needing a general multi-platform IM client should download Trillian instead of Adium. I’m sure that the folks developing Trillian will continue to plug away at their new Mac version and add new features over time, but for now Adium remains the heavyweight champion of the Mac instant messengers.

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