Trillian Astra – Is It the Best Instant Messaging Client Now?

Saikat Basu 20-10-2009

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.


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 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’.


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 ““



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!)


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.


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.


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.


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?

Related topics: Chat Client, Instant Messaging, Twitter.

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  1. Riley
    December 2, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    I like to use Palringo. It has many of the premium versions for free.

  2. Tim
    November 5, 2009 at 7:27 am

    A friend of mine, Brett, did a review of Trillain Astra for my blog and that's when I was introduced to it. I like it. It has a lot of good features, I just don't find myself using IM programs very often any more. I guess since the advent of web-based communications I communicate a bit differently now.

  3. Clown
    October 29, 2009 at 4:27 am

    before I love to useing Trillian Basic. It was my best messenger, but after updated to Trillian Astra, I feel is getting complex and difficult to use. Very Bad.

    Now I face to pidgin, easy and simple, especilaly for Portable version easy to go.

  4. othoproudfoot
    October 21, 2009 at 11:08 am

    I may be missing something here but when are these multi-protocol chat clients going to add QQ to their arsenal ? They have some 160 million clients in China alone, including many foreign nationals working here.

  5. blackfog
    October 21, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Was a Trillian user for years and am an Astra beta tester, as well. But, once I started using Digsby, I couldn't go back. I even tried last week, but I found that the new Facebook and Twitter changes to Digsby were far superior to Astra.

    I do like where Astra has gone and if Digsby didn't exist, it'd be my client of choice. But the best? IMHO, no. It has some real competition now.

    YMMV, of course. Depends what you need in your client.

  6. drcypher
    October 21, 2009 at 10:40 am

    I have to agree with digsby lovers...

    One and main reason I keep with it is frequent updates and excellent support along with amazing simplicity... Having digsby runing on my work PC looks much more in line with all of my tasks and open windows... Other messengers are simply too flashy, too colorfull and overall annoying...

    Tried Trillian, and didn't find it good enough...

  7. Heather Edick
    October 21, 2009 at 10:40 am

    I have been using Trillian for years and now I am using Astra. I can say that it is the best IM client I have found and have tried others to see if I am missing anything. Fortunately, I have not found that to be the case. I also feel that the team that works on Trillian is phenomenal about responding to issues and bringing in new features. I think they really love what they do.

  8. Ashutosh Mishra
    October 21, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Astra is a really nice communicating app, but my vote still stays with Digsby. Here are a few reasons :

    1.AFAIK, the Digsby team is more interactive.
    2.Digsby is of course free, offering everything @ no cost. Astra Free is almost as good, but I always prefer full apps to semi-disabled ones.
    3.Digsby beautifully separates email and chatting tasks. For eg, I have added my Hotmail account under the email category, but not under IM as I don't have many Live Messenger friends. Similarly, if I have a account with lots of friends but with very few mails, I can add it under IM only. Astra unifies email and IM, which may be good for many, but not for me.
    4.Astra's default skin confuses me like mad. Digsby's Windows 7 skin is more pleasing.
    5.Digsby updates frequently, bringing new features every now and then. You never know with Trillian : it could basically stay the same for another three years before another awesome update arrives.

    So yeah Astra is a good app, but Digsby is the one for me. :]

  9. Vikas SN
    October 21, 2009 at 5:36 am

    I have been using it from few days now. And I must say it is one the best multi IM clients I have ever seen. Also the UI looks simply amazing.

  10. Jonathan Cohen
    October 21, 2009 at 12:52 am

    I used to love Trillian in the late 1990s, but as another reader said, it started to feel bloated and unfriendly.

    I've been a big fan of cross-platform Pidgin which is extensible through plugins. Maybe it's time to give Trillian another go :)

  11. Rahul
    October 20, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    Did you know Trillian Astra is a character in Douglas Adam's Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy?

    • Saikat
      October 20, 2009 at 11:53 pm

      Hey now I got it! I was wondering where I had heard the name before. It was Tricia McMillan's name wasn't it. Thanks.

  12. MikeVertx
    October 20, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    "The installer gives you the option of installing a bundled toolbar. Uncheck to say no (if you want) "

    that was not a professional way to say that it defaults to installing things you do not want...

    a better way would be to say: "Like some of the other 'free' all-in-one messenger services, trillian comes with it's own annoying auto-default selected add-ons that you don't want and need to uncheck and pay attention to when installing"

    outside of that the *NEW* version fo trillian looks pretty impressive, I had sworn off it due to it's appearance and lack of social networks previously.

    Pretty satisfied with digsby, it's support team has been GREAT with launching updates as needed, and its features and style is onpoint. does have some downfaults that are similar to how '' search bar is pre-selected and such things as using your computer downtime if you don't pay attention and unselect in options. both seem like great programs!

  13. Dels
    October 20, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    i had used it since it was public beta, happy with that and leave Digsby on garbage bin :D

  14. Robomaster
    October 20, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    I used Trillian for a short while but quickly stopped - it is bloated piece of software and I hate how you lose almost everything after 29 days. Much better to stick to Pidgin or Digsby or even Google Talk.

    • Saikat
      October 20, 2009 at 11:32 pm

      Did you use the latest version (Astra) or the older version 3.0. With Astra, they have made a lot of improvements.

  15. jollyrogue
    October 20, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Just installed it.. It looks pretty sweet, the interface is nice and easy. Loving the "bubbles" in chats. The facebook updates are great.

    Cheers for this recommendation.