Best IM (Chat) Clients for Ubuntu

Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger, and Windows Live messenger are three of the most popular chat protocols out there. Each of these services has its own applications for Windows and Mac. On Linux, however, there is no official app for them. Instead, users have to rely on IM clients that can work with more than one account and also have a lot of more features.

These chat clients let you use Yahoo, Google Talk, MSN, and other services all at once. Though these applications never really took off on the Windows and Mac platforms -- owing to the presence of official apps --, they have been quite popular on the Linux front. That is why there is a lot of competition as to which becomes the default chat client for Ubuntu desktop. Though currently Empathy holds that throne, competition is still kind of tough with Pidgin.

So, if you’re confused as to which chat client to use for staying in touch with your buddies, here’s a rundown of the best IM clients for Ubuntu.


Empathy is the default chat application in Ubuntu. It comes with a boatload of interesting features that make it the best application for this platform. For starters, the application is quite neatly designed. There is very less clutter and there are a lot of essential features that every chat client should have. The best part about it is that it integrates very neatly with the rest of the desktop making it a total winner.



Kopete is KDE’s official messaging app. Though it doesn’t fit right into your Ubuntu desktop, it does, however, serve as an IM tool. The open-source application supports services like AIM, ICQ, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo, Jabber, Gadu-Gadu, Novell GroupWise Messenger, and more. There is support for group messages, ability to use multiple accounts and multiple services, custom notifications for contacts, voice calling, and more. You can even extend Kopete’s functionality by installing plugins. Some of the most popular plugins include Auto Replace, Text Effects, Now Listening to (sets your status to the music you’re listening to), Statistics, and Cryptography.


Pidgin is one of the most popular instant messenger clients for Linux. On Ubuntu, it integrates perfectly with the rest of the desktop and comes with a lot of powerful features. Formerly called Gaim, this open-source tool lets you add accounts from Gadu-Gadu, Yahoo!, Gtalk, IRC, MyspaceIM, and more. What’s more interesting is that this app comes with an amazing set of features that even the default app Empathy can’t compete with.

Pidgin supports file transfers, buddy lists, and yes, plugins support. The free tool has few of the best plugins you’ll find for any software. Few of the best include Encryption, Latex support, and a video plugin that allows you to watch YouTube videos directly in a chat window.

Overall, the application is a great alternative to the default chat application, which is Empathy. Though it has its own share of shortcomings, it makes for a perfect cross-platform IM app that you can rely on. 


Emesene is an open-source IM application that is designed to be a clone of MSN messenger. The application, though tries to replicate the MSN messenger experience, it does, however, support other protocols too. Once installed, you can use Emesene to chat with not only your MSN buddies, but also with your Facebook, XMPP, and Google Talk friends. The application supports MSN messenger features like offline messaging, ‘Now Playing’ personal messages, nudges, file transfer, tabbed chat windows, and more. There is also a support for plugins that help extend the functionality of the application.


aMSN, like the aforementioned Emesene application, is a Windows Live Messenger clone. The app tries to emulate the look, feel, and functionality of its Windows counterpart. aMSN supports MSN Protocol 15, webcam send and receive, chat logging, and many other features that help it provide the closest Windows Live! experience. Overall, it is a great application if you’re a Live Messenger user.

Written by: Abhishek, a regular TechSource contributor and a long-time FOSS advocate.


  1. I know it is hard to find ugly screenshots, but you guys found the ugliest ones!

  2. I've tried lots of them... the best at the moment is Jitsi that is available for Linux, Mac and Windows, and has tons of impressive features.