Pidgin is designed to let you use all your different messaging services in a single application. However, there is a bit of a problem with it: by default, the services it supports are ridiculously dated — AOL Instant Messenger anyone?
Fortunately, like many great open source programs, it has many extensions that let us use more modern alternatives, such as Skype and Hangouts.
Why Use Pidgin?
Pidgin is essentially an alternative to browser-based messaging websites, such as Skype Web. There are quite a few benefits to using a dedicated application, of which I’ll outline here.
It’s lightweight — Web browsers can take up gigabytes worth of computer memory. Pidgin by comparison takes up a tiny fraction of that: about 100 MB in my experience. Since it’s designed for the desktop, it also tends to be much faster than any web page can hope to be.
It’s malleable — Don’t like how Pidgin looks? You can change its theme. Want different notification sounds? Just tell it what you want. Pidgin shines when it comes to configuration options. Thanks to its flexibility, it’s also better integrated with your system’s appearance.
It’s versatile — In the beginning, Pidgin was designed as a way of using AOL Instant Messenger on Linux. From there, it branched off to support multiple different messaging services, such as IRC and XMPP. Fortunately for us, Pidgin supports extensions which when installed, allow us to modernize its functionality.
Pidgin’s voice and video support are very limited. If you depend on using them, you may find them failing with Pidgin! While some Pidgin plugins work around this, not all of them do. Furthermore, while Pidgin does keep track of your future conversations, it won’t download ones from the past.
First things first, you’ll need to get Pidgin. Your Linux operating system may already have it by default. If not, enter this command to install it:
sudo apt-get install pidgin
After this is done, you can begin giving Pidgin some extra capabilities — MSN is not enough! Many of the plugins (namely, Hangouts, Telegram, and Skype) need to be installed through an unofficial repository.
Unfortunately, Ubuntu doesn’t supply these programs by default, so you’ll need to find a place that does: a PPA.
If you’d like to use any of them on Ubuntu, type these commands:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nilarimogard/webupd8 sudo apt-get update
Making Pidgin Work With Skype
Even though there are plenty of Skype alternatives out there, Microsoft’s offering remains extremely popular. Having added the repository in the previous paragraph, all you need to do is install the plugin:
sudo apt-get install purple-skypeweb
When prompted to add an account to Pidgin, if you click of the Protocol option box, you’ll be able to select Skype (HTTP) as one of your options. All you have to do is enter your username and password and you’re all set.
Making Pidgin Work With Google Hangouts
Install the Hangouts third-party plugin with:
sudo apt-get install purple-hangouts
Getting Hangouts to work is a little more complicated than Skype, unfortunately.
As you can see, Hangouts doesn’t ask for a password in the traditional sense. Instead, Pidgin will open up your web browser, and give you directions from there. It’s a little bit complicated, but the video that plays when you set it up clear enough to follow.
Pidgin and Telegram
Telegram is an instant messaging service that takes pride in its security. Needless to say, it’s also very popular. To get it working in Pidgin, first install it with this command:
sudo apt-get install telegram-purple
Enter your phone number as your username. Keep in mind that you’ll need a + sign in front of your cellphone number, followed by your country code. For example, if you live in the United States, your username will need a +1 in front of it.
Like Hangouts, Telegram is a little more complicated to set up. Once you’ve added your account, you’ll receive an SMS code to your phone. Enter the code that pops up to log in.
How to Use Facebook Messenger With Pidgin
If you look at all the different protocols Pidgin supports, you’ll see an entry called Facebook (XMPP). In the past, this used to work, until Facebook changed their messaging service up. When Pidgin 3.0 is released, Facebook Messenger will work out of the box.
For now, you need to install another plugin. To do this without compiling it, add another repository:
sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list.d/jgeboski.list
Since this package isn’t located in a PPA, you need to manually tell our package manager where it is. Do this by adding in this line to our new file:
deb http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/home:/jgeboski/xUbuntu_16.04 ./
Afterwards, use Ctrl + X to save your changes.
If you’re using an older version of Ubuntu, you might have to change the bold area of the command to get the right package. This means specifying the correct Ubuntu version. You can use the command below to check your version:
To manually verify that this provider is safe (when adding Ubuntu PPA repositories, this process is automatic), use following command:
wget -O- https://jgeboski.github.io/obs.key | sudo apt-key add -
Afterwards, proceed as usual with a command to look through the packages newly available:
sudo apt-get update
Finally, install the Messenger plugin for Pidgin:
sudo apt-get install purple-facebook
Thankfully, adding a Facebook account to Pidgin is a much easier process. There are no extra hoops to jump through. All you need to do is enter your username and password. Remember to choose the protocol called Facebook, not Facebook (XMPP)!
Still Alive and Kicking
Despite being almost two decades old, Pidgin is still a very useful application. With the installation of a few extensions, it becomes an excellent alternative to messaging using a web browser or multiple separate applications.
If you’d like to chat on Pidgin using more obscure means, such as LINE, check out the developers webpage. It hosts a list of supported protocols, along with steps on how to install these extra features.
Is Pidgin right for you? Are there other applications you prefer using instead of web based alternatives?
Image Credit: stockphoto mania via Shutterstock.com