Instant messaging services are as popular as ever. Many of the original frontrunners like MSN, Yahoo and AOL have dwindled out of favour and existence. With the switch to mobile platforms, new services have evolved providing either new servers and protocols to connect directly or via web-based chat applications. Desktop clients provide the options to type with a keyboard and send links from your PC. Here’s our list of 8 popular IM services that can be installed on Linux desktops.
Skype has become synonimous with video calling, much like hoover to mean vacuum cleaner. Skype however also does Instant Messaging. Microsoft has pushed deveolpment of Skype on all platforms and hasn’t held back on Linux development. An official client is available With Impressive features such as:
- HD Video calling,
- Sound and camera testing
- Free Skype to Skype Calls
- Video Chat + Messaging
- Emojis and emoticons
- Sending files, Sharing screens
- Multiple Group sharing options, such as Messages/Video/Phone and screen.
To install a .deb file open a terminal and type:
$ sudo apt install gdebi-core
$ wget https://repo.skype.com/latest/skypeforlinux-64.deb
$ sudo gdebi skypeforlinux-64.deb
Type Y when prompted to install the software package. Skype will now install and be availbile through the application menu.
With over one and a half billion users, whatsapp is the largest IM service in the world, Owned by facebook sinece 2014, desktop access is availible to users who have registered through a mobile handset (A phone number is required for use). Desktop clients, however, are only able to access the service through the Whatsapp web service. It does have limitations such as no video calling, and the registered phone needs to be on so the client can access the mobile app. Logging in to whatsapp web is done by scanning a barcode on the screen with the registered mobile phones camera. All chat features are availble. although video messages and video calls are missing.
Features of whatsapp web include:
- Send files from your PC.
- Use your Pc Keyboard to send messages.
- Share photos, record audio, or use your webcam.
- Group Chats
- Searchable Gifs via Giphy
- View contact info.
There are a number of unoffiacial clients to access Whatsapp web:
Availible as a snap package from the Ubuntu software centre
Facebook has thrived on Instant messaging, Giving users not only the option of telling people what they have cooked for dinner, But It also provides an integrated IM Client, directly on the website. Seperating IM into a seperate application on mobile means its possible to IM without being distracted by what your friends are doing. There are various ways to access Facebook Messenger directly through the Desktop, We have previously done a tutorial on integrating with the multi-protocol pidgin IM here. But here were focusing on dedicated applications
Caprine is an unofficial full featured cross platform electron application with a wide selection of features such as:
- Privacy focused (Links will not be tracked by Facebook)
- Keyboard shortcuts
- Work Chat support
- Dark Mode
- Touch Bar support
- Compact Mode
- Silent auto-updates
- Custom text size
- Mute desktop notifications
- Sending Code blocks using markdown syntax
Not one to miss out, especially with such a stronghold on the Android ecosystem. Google launched Hangouts in 2013, Although Google is now pushing towards there new products Allo (Instant messaging with a virtual assistant) and Duo (Voice & Video Calling). Hangouts is still available and provides a full IM feature list. Hangouts can not surprisingly be integrated with googles chrome browser.
YakYak is an unofficial Electron Client for google hangouts. it provides features such as
- Send/receive chat messages
- Send/receive SMS/MMS (Project Fi / Google Voice) — basic functionality
- Create/change conversations (rename, add people)
- Leave/delete conversation
- Notifications (using native OS notifications)
- Drag-drop, copy-paste or attach-button for image upload.
- Hangupsbot sync room aware (no bot name, proper user pics)
- Show inline images
- Send presence/focus/typing/activeclient to behave like a proper client
- History scrollback
- Video/audio integration (open in chrome)
- Offers alternative colour schemes
The open-source IM and Voice over IP Client have been going since 2013 with over 200 million monthly active users. Although receiving some critiscism for its security practaces (messages stored in the cloud for access on multiple devices) this service is like whatsapp tied to a users phone number. Like Facebook Messenger, there are multiple ways to connect to telegram through unofficial clients thanks to public API’s and even through the command line with Telegram CLI. Not as feature rich as other services, no video calling, for example, this handles Instant messaging perfectly as an alternative to the ‘big corporation’ offerings
- Messages are heavily encrypted and can self-destruct.
- Lets you access your messages from multiple devices.
- Delivers messages faster than other applications
- has no limits on the size of your media and c
hats. (Upto 1.5GB file size)
- Support for large group chats (100’000 users)
Install Telegram Official Client
Aimed at gamers this free All-in-one voice and text chat, urges its users to ditch Skype and teamspeak servers. Specialising in low CPU usage and low latency, to minimise any game disruptions.
Discord, unlike the others, is not a public service, you’re required to either create your own server for friends to join or join another’s server with an invite, Designed around groups of friends who multiplay online together its features include:
- IP & DDoS Protection
- Browser Support
- Android and IOS Mobile Apps
- In-game Overlay
- Multiple Channels
- Modern Text Chat
- Individual Volume Control
- Direct Messaging
Install discord client
Viber has over 900 million users worldwide, and on early releases was marketed as a direct competitor to Skype. Viber is a popular and feature-rich service. Developed for multiple platforms features include:
- Instant voice & video Record quick-sending voice and video messages
- Chat Extensions
- Stickers and Gifs
- Delete seen messages Take back what you didn’t mean to send
- Create Communities Build and manage conversations with unlimited members.
There is, however, a reason why we put this last. An official client is available to download as both a flatpak, .deb or .rpm package. The developers though don’t seem to keep up with development and fix minor problems. As it’s a QT based app it suffers from a bug with scaling on High-resolution displays, It also has compatibility issues regarding libcurl3 and libcurl4. These are fixable by the user (see here) but for such a widely used service I would expect the developers to have fixed this.
To download Viber, visit the website here to grab a .deb or .rpm package.
Instant message until your fingers bleed.
With Instant messaging a cheap low-cost way of communicating, available on many different platforms, Linux Desktop users are definitely not left out. These 8 just scratch the surface with many more lesser known services out there. Some popular services like Snapchat have decided to only operate on mobile platforms meaning a Desktop client will be very unlikely.
Do you use a different Instant Messaging service? Do you have another way to access to access any of the above? Let us know in the comments.