Review: Trillian 5 Instant Messenger

Trillian, the popular instant messaging client, has reached version 5 after a lengthy beta program. Developed by Cerulean Studios, the software has been around since late 2002 as an alternative to Windows Live Messenger and also incorporates several other IM protocols such as Google Talk, Skype, Facebook Chat and more.

With v5 there have been major updates to the interface, ditching the dated Astra interface for a more polished Windows Ribbon-style approach. Mail, social networks and contacts are now all present in the main panel and controls have been slimmed down into a neater and more compact style, which is (finally) resizable. The new theme looks amazing and feels like it belongs with Windows 7 where Trillian Astra could never quite do the same.

Conversations are carried out using a bubble-like approach and all other conversations are tabbed in the one window; similar to Windows Live Messenger 2011. This saves a lot of screen clutter and makes juggling conversations that bit easier. Two other very neat new features to Trillian 5 is the ability to store your conversations in the Astra cloud (Pro users only), which could come in handy for those that worry about their computer’s HDD storage solution, and also the “continuous client” – this feature updates your chats in real-time between the devices you are signed in to via Trillian Astra.

Trillian 5 also greatly improves social network integration. Trillian hides your connected social networks into simple tabs that, when moused over, display the content from your various feeds. Unlike WLM 2011, this is a non-intrusive way of displaying social networking and does not compromise the performance or other features of the client. It’s a standalone unit that functions well, and despite Microsoft’s efforts with WLM 2011, Trillian’s integration is without showstopper bugs that WLM 2011 has.

For the first time, Trillian 5 is now bringing Pro features into the client for free. This includes the ability to sign in from multiple locations, activity history, themes and several other features. To help make Trillian a free client, the developers have included ads into the software which can be removed via a paid ($12 annually) Pro account.

During our testing we experienced no advertising in the client at all, despite not using a Pro account. We’re not entirely sure why ads weren’t being displayed, but according to Cerulean Studios the ads are “organic members of your chat window – meaning they scroll away naturally – and do not animate, do not play sounds, and can be hidden on an individual basis. ” This sounds okay, but increased advertising in a client that originally had none for free users is a disappointing downgrade.

The amount of new features present in Trillian 5 is not huge, but there are some notable improvements to how the service works and certainly to how it looks. If you’re a Windows Live Messenger user there are definitely enough extra (working) features to warrant using Trillian over it, and you’ll most likely be granted with less advertising. While we were disappointed to see the inclusion of advertising in Trillian 5, this will hopefully be unobtrusive when actually displayed and not disruptive enough of the generally great client.

Neowin Verdict: 8.5/10

For this review we ran Trillian 5.0 Build 32 Free on Windows 7 x64. Download it here.

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Can any users comment on how this compares to Digsby? The last time I tried Trillian, its email and social integration wasn't quite as unintrusive and tight as Digsby's (simple popups that don't waste space in your buddy list), and inbox management in a single click is a hard expectation to break away from...

This looks good, but the review is implying that social is still jammed into a whole window.

Joshie said,
This looks good, but the review is implying that social is still jammed into a whole window.

Social networking is in-fact hidden into tabs in your contact list for things like Facebook and Twitter. When you mouse over a social tab it shows you the stream of information from the service you moused over. It isn't really "jammed into a whole window" as you say

I'll stick with ad-free Astra since I have no desire to have integrated social networking options like Facebook or Twitter anyway, plus I actually like the Astra UI.

nothing beats Miranda IM + plugins for lean, clean, multi-protocol chats. i switched from Trillian years ago. won't be going back, compared to Miranda it's bloatware.

I still can't get the Contact List to view *without* groups. No matter what setting I use, it is always grouped. Can't have all the contacts viewed ungrouped.

Rudy said,
First clean looking IM program I've seen on WIndows

Wait, what, seriously? So...this is your first IM program on Windows..? Or are you coming to this straight from ICQ?

/pidgin, digsby, etc are looking at you funny

Faisal Islam said,
Who needs it? Windows Live Messenger supports Facebook and Yahoo.

WLM doesn't support ICQ...

Faisal Islam said,
Who needs it? Windows Live Messenger supports Facebook and Yahoo.
Good for WLM, Trillian natively supports 13 protocols and isn't a hunk of ****.

I was searching for a IM client to replace my Yahoo Messenger (I got bored with this one, they release updates every few ages and basically add nothing new), but couldn't find anything that had all that I needed. In the end I choose Digsby over all others. There are alternatives, but they either don't support multiple accounts on the same protocol, or they have an ugly UI (Pidgin). So, for me, Digsby is the choice now.

I like the feature in windows live, where u can print screen + Ctrl V into the chat and it will show a picture.

I dont think this feature is available in trillian:(

Jagjit Singh said,
I dont think this feature is available in trillian:(

Confirmed that this feature is not present in Trillian 5

Gave this a go and it still doesn't support custom emoticons on Windows Live

Facebook chat still doesn't work great either, messages sometimes aren't sent/received and there is no error to tell you this, you just simply do not see the messages Other than this it looks great

i personally prefer Pidgin ( )

it's simple and works well for general chatting which is all i really need and it's not bloated either. but i figure if anyone complains about Pidgin will probably be that it's interface is nothing fancy but it looks decent enough.

p.s. the last time i used Trillian it was getting a little to bloated for my liking (i believe it was version 2 and went to 3 when i dumped it for Pidgin which at the time was called GAIM). but it's been years since i last used Trillian but since Pidgin works well i doubt ill be switching IM's anytime soon.

I wouldn't call this a ribbon style approach, but it's certainly a more native looking Windows theme than most other programs bother for, which is a really nice effort by the guys who made it.

There's something to be said for it's simplicity and cleanness in looks over WLM and even Skype these days, which is the best thing going for it. I still stick to WLM though.

I love Trillian 5 when I had windows, but since I bought a new imac, I can't use it anymore. Hopefully their OSX port will get all the love as well =)

evacchi said,
mm I would use it if it supported at least the custom emoticon feature of WLM

Agreed, there isn't a single client on Windows that does that, Pidgin supports this but custom emoticons cause high cpu usage, so this a no go for me. Hopefully we'll have emesene2 for windows soon...

I use Trillian now, having seen the need for a messenger beyond Steam. With Version 5's release, I decided to hop on an issue I've been debating with myself forever. I have to admit that I'm tempted to buy it. The way they put it together is just so well done, and I've had very few problems in months using the beta. Pidgin and Miranda always put me off because of their lack of refinement "out of the box".

Gaffney said,
I would have used this over WLM but I really don't like the chatbox. Now I just chat on facebook.

There are different styles for the chatbox if you're interested. What was shown in the review was the "Bubble" view, then there is the simple view that is just lines (with usernames in different colors). There are also a few others, for free, on the Trillian forum.

Gaffney said,
I would have used this over WLM but I really don't like the chatbox. Now I just chat on facebook.
I would have used this over WLM but I can't find any information about audio/video/photoshare compatibility, so assume it has none.