Configuring Instant Messaging

Instant messaging is a way of chatting with other people in real time. It’s as if you were having a phone conversation, but you’re typing instead of speaking. You can talk to one other person or a whole group of people and sometimes share files with them.

The instant messaging program under Ubuntu, Empathy, offers the same functions and works in an almost identical way to programs that you might have used under Windows. It supports virtually all the popular chat standards, such as ICQ/AOL, Google Talk, Yahoo, and MSN (Hotmail/Passport). It assumes that you already have an account with each service, which will likely be the case if you’ve used instant messaging programs under Windows. You can have as many accounts as you wish and log to all of them at the same time. You can see the contacts from all your instant messaging accounts in the same list and can chat with them at the same time. Using the Me menu, you can set your status for all your accounts at the same time. This is useful, as it provides a single instant messaging application that allows you to chat with users from different networks.

To configure your accounts (referred in Lucid terminology as chat accounts), click the little envelope located next to the date and time in the top panel, and select Set Up Chat. The Welcome to Empathy wizard will appear. If you select the option “Yes, I’ll enter my account details now” and click Forward, you will be prompted to enter your account details.

There are a lot of instant messaging services to which you can connect, as listed in Table.

Table . Instant Messaging Services That Can Be Used with Empathy

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If you’re working in a small office without an Internet connection but you want to send instantbmessages to your coworkers, you can use the People Nearby feature by selecting the “No, I just want to see people online nearby for now” option from the Welcome to Empathy wizard. You will need to provide a full name and an alias and instruct your fellows to do the same. You will then be able to chat with them without installing a server.

Once you have configured your accounts, you will see all your contacts in Empathy’s main window, the Contact List. You can change the status of all of your accounts at the same time by using the drop-down list located beneath the menus, or by using the Me menu online status list.