Empathy: Use One Application to IM Chat on All Networks [Linux]

Danny Stieben 17-01-2013

There are still plenty of people who use instant messaging networks to talk with each other, as it’s very quick to exchange messages or ask a simple question. In fact, there are plenty of corporations who run their own networks, to make communication between employees a snap. Therefore, it’s good to have a capable instant messaging client by your side so that you can keep in touch with just about everyone.


If you’re running Linux, then there are a number of great options available for you. In fact, if you’re using Ubuntu or any other distribution The 10 Most Popular Linux Apps and Distros in 2018 Not sure which Linux operating systems and apps to use? We've rounded up some of the most popular Linux apps and distros to keep an eye on in 2018. Read More that uses the Gnome desktop environment, you may already have this application installed.

About Empathy

Empathy is an instant messaging application for Linux desktops and is developed by the makers of the Gnome desktop environment. As such, if you’re running a distribution with the Gnome environment, you should already have Empathy installed. If not, or if you’re running a different desktop environment, Empathy Chat for Linux a quick installation away.

Do note, however, that if you’re running a desktop environment which doesn’t use GTK or other Gnome dependencies (Xfce XFCE: Your Lightweight, Speedy, Fully-Fledged Linux Desktop As far as Linux goes, customization is king. Not only that, but the customization options are so great it might make your head spin. I have previously mentioned the differences between the major desktop environments... Read More does, but KDE does not), then you may need to install a handful of extra dependencies. Unless you absolutely want to use Empathy, it may be worthwhile trying out Kopete instead.

Adding Accounts

empathy chat linux

The most important part of any IM client is the ability to add accounts, and lots of them. If you’re using one of the latest versions of Gnome, Empathy will automatically launch Gnome’s Online Accounts window, where you can add a number of different accounts from various services, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, Jabber, Windows Live,, and more.


Of course, not all of these accounts have something to do with instant messaging, but rather other applications such as Shotwell Shotwell - The Future of Linux Photo Management Software It's taken a long time, but finally the future of Linux photo managers is looking up. It's all thanks to amazing new photo management software called Shotwell. Read More or Gwibber. Go ahead and add whichever accounts you’d like to the system, and Empathy will connect to applicable configured services.


empathy chat client linux

Once you have your accounts set up, you’ll see that Empathy has a lot of focus on simplicity, so that you can do what instant messaging is all about – talk. The contact list is pretty straightforward, as you simply have a list of all available contacts in alphabetical order. I find this to be a bit better, as most people use their full name anyways (if your contact list is mostly made up of people on Facebook like mine), instead of having contacts organized into different groups. This functionality, however, is configurable so that you can in fact still see your groups.

empathy chat client linux


When you double click on a contact to initiate a conversation, the same theme of simplicity continues – you basically have two boxes, one for the conversation history and one to type in replies. It also looks pretty sleek, which is nice to have.

Other Features

empathy chat linux

There are, of course, a handful of other features which you can take advantage of. For Jabber-based networks (that includes GTalk), you can start audio and video calls with the other person. Most networks (besides Facebook) will also support file transfers, which you can start by dragging and dropping files into the text box where you would type in responses. There’s also a handful of items you can configure in the settings to make your experience with Empathy a personal one.


In case you don’t already have Empathy installed, you can do so by searching for “empathy” in your respective package manager. You can also install it via the terminal, by executing sudo apt-get install empathy in Ubuntu or sudo yum install empathy in Fedora. The installation should go quickly if you don’t have many dependencies to install.



I absolutely love Empathy for the fact that is connects very well with other applications thanks to Gnome’s Online Accounts framework, and that it simply lets me talk with my contacts without getting in the way. Of course, bells and whistles can be nice, but they can also slow things down or nag you by getting in the way. Empathy is straightforward, and should serve you well if you take the time to try it out.

What’s your favorite Linux IM client? Do you prefer features or simplicity? Let us know in the comments!

Related topics: Chat Client, Instant Messaging, Online Chat.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Arjun
    May 1, 2015 at 11:35 am

    how to see unread message ?
    what if i was not on desk and some message recieved is there any way to know that ?

  2. Andreas Beer
    January 21, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    No skype? Ok, i'll stick to then...

  3. Réy Aétar
    January 19, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    the reviews in ubuntu store speaks a lot about this junk ..Dont know why they included it by default there are far more better apps out there

    • Danny Stieben
      February 1, 2013 at 5:26 am

      It integrates better with the Online Accounts functionality of Gnome 3.4+, so I assume that's why. I know that they had Empathy as the default before then, but that's a currently a good reason.

      • Indronil Mondal
        February 1, 2013 at 5:44 am

        it crashes just after i turn on my computer ..and its hapenning from the first day

  4. Jim
    January 19, 2013 at 10:22 am

    +1 Pidgin user here.I would love to see the yahoo voice call and yahoo video call support in the near future. That would make Pidgin one very remarkable IM client.

  5. Hélder Ricardo Pereira
    January 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Pidgin is nice, but being the GNOME application for messaging, Empathy integrates superbly in the GNOME 3 desktop. And that's why I find it better for me.

  6. Chris Hoffman
    January 18, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    I remember when Ubuntu switched to this from Pidgin and I reinstalled Pidgin straight away. I like that I can copy-paste my .purple folder between Windows and Linux.

    Haven't given Empathy a serious try in years. Maybe I will soon.

    • Danny Stieben
      February 1, 2013 at 5:25 am

      Empathy definitely keeps it simpler compared to Pidgin. It's essentially power vs. ease and sleekness.

      • Chris Hoffman
        February 3, 2013 at 12:12 am

        That's actually kind of funny, because part of the reason I like Pidgin over Trillian and other clients is that Pidgin is so simple!

  7. Stephan Huebner
    January 18, 2013 at 1:03 am

    It seems that at least one other guy (and me) is having problems with Empathy on Ubuntu 12.10, in that it doesn't recognize configured accounts (according to this bugreport):

  8. Richard Borkovec
    January 17, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    I'm with the others, Pidgin is my multi-protocol IM of choice, plus it has some good plugins, including encryption.

  9. Mihovil Pletikos
    January 17, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    i like pidgin much more.... but ok :)

  10. Zaphod_42
    January 17, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    I prefer pidgin also GTK-based, longer "in the wild" and more stable. And its multi-platform, so you can have the same IM also on your Windows-Box ...

    • Danny Stieben
      February 1, 2013 at 5:24 am

      If that's what you prefer, then go for it! How I see it, Empathy is for those people who want a sleek design and tight integration into the desktop.