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Digsby Review

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Digsby overview

I've been using Digsby now for a week, and I must say that I'm extremely pleased with its performance so far. For the past several years I've been using Trillian Pro as my IM client since it aggregated all my IM accounts under one roof. Since then however I've become increasingly more involved with online social sites like MySpace, Facebook and most recently Twitter. When I heard about Digsby on Lifehacker back in February, it was still in private beta. When I recently reformatted my computer and it came time to reload Trillian, I decided that it might as well be a good time to check out Digsby since it had recently started public beta.

The one main benefit Digsby has over Trillian is the fact that it brings your social sites into the application as well as combining your IM services. While Digsby also supports email (POP, Gmail, MSN mail, etc) I have no need for this feature since all my emails pipe into Outlook and the worst thing I could have is being notified constantly of junk email arriving. However the social site integration is wonderful. While I still have to visit the actual MySpace and Facebook sites to take care of some things, the majority of my monitoring of friends and associates can be done through Digsby. The main benefit is being notified of MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter updates. Now I only feel the need to check the actual sites every other day or so instead of at least once per day.

Another thing I like about Digsby is its integration of GoogleTalk. I don't have a lot of friends on GT so having a seperate app running for that service was always a pain. I read that you can indeed include GT in Trillian via Jabber, but Digsby supports it intrinsically. However, it should be noted that I did lose a client - Digsby does not have any support for IRC. This isn't a big deal for me since I rarely use IRC, but I do use it sometimes. Luckily, the poll for the next IM client addition to Digsby is showing much support for IRC, though Skype is beating it by a little. While I wouldn't mind having Skype integrated as well, I still see Skype as a large enough service to justify having its own application.

Like most other IM apps these days, Digsby stores your account info server-side so that you can take your buddy list to other computers. I had to re-reformat my drive thanks to certain issues and I backed up all the Digsby folders I could find on my hard drive, but when I reinstalled and logged in, my IM and social accounts all popped right back up - which was a relief because I didn't want to have to go through renaming all my contacts again.

I also like the looks of the Digsby notification windows much more than Trillian's, and you don't lose a whole lot of functionality elsewhere either - you can still create meta contacts, there's built-in logging with a browser to page through past chats, and you can combine chat windows.

There's always room for improvement...

Obviously, being a beta application, Digsby has some flaws. The good thing though is that as a beta app it's receiving unconditional TLC from its developers since it's still technically under development. There are several things that I noticed over the course of the week that could be improved upon.

  • Notification windows are more elaborate than in Trillian. They're bigger, and they hold more information. Yet they still only appear as long as Trillian's do, about 5 seconds or so, which most of the time isn't long enough to read the entire message. If you don't mouse over them in time, they fade away. It's probably more of an issue for me being on a triple-monitor setup since my cursor can be much farther away from the pop ups than a single-monitor user. It would be nice to be able to set an option to have to click away the notifications so they don't fade automatically and alternatively be able to adjust the length of time a notification remains visible.

  • When you alt-tab through your open applications, Digsby just shows up as a generic window icon. I alt-tab a lot, even on a triple-monitor system, and seeing that icon always makes me wonder for a second what message window popped up from some application before I remember that it belongs to Digsby. Checking the "Show in taskbar" option in the Digsby settings doesn't change this. I'm confused as to why Digsby's icon refuses to show up in the task switch.

  • A rather annoying bug is that when I'm scrolling through my social account updates window, it will reset to the top of the feed when it checks for an update, and so I have to scroll back down to find my place. Minor, but annoying because it happens more often than not

  • Obviously you have to take into account the fact that you're dealing with a lot of information being pulled down to your comp, and this is proven by Digsby's rather large memory footprint, which ranks #2 on my system at 86MB. It's beaten only by Firefox (I like my extensions) and nearly twice as much as Outlook (#3). However there seem to be definite plans for a plug-in feature in Digsby that may allow you to remove unused features of the application - though whether that will really have much of an affect appears to be seen, and will most likely be canceled out by the plug-ins you add anyways.

  • While general notification windows fade out automatically, error windows do stick around (which gives me hope that it can be easily extended to regular status pop-ups). However it seems you can't select them to copy their message for reporting, and there doesn't seem to be a built-in reporting function. The only error I've ever gotten is "SnacError: ((19, 'SSI'), (1, 'Invalid SNAC header.'), (None, None))" - it happens persistently when I update my status, restarting the app seems to fix it for a while. No biggie there, my major issue is with the behavior of the error windows.


A couple of minor personal notes - one is that the skins don't extend to the Windows UI at present. I liked how Trillian's skins could totally change the appearance of the contact list window. Could be a future addition, but if not I suppose I'll get over it fairly quickly.

Sometimes the notification windows leave behind pieces of their text on my desktop, though passing a window over the area restores the background.

One big pain in the butt initially was re-naming all my buddy list contacts. If you've extensively renamed your contacts in Trillian or other IM apps that support this feature, when you first load Digsby you'll be greeting with a lot of usernames you may no longer recognize because you've hidden them behind your own (usually the contact's real name). Luckily, I was able to pull an XML file from Trillian's default user directory called Buddies.xml. Any contact name I didn't recognize I would do a quick search for in the XML file and find out what I renamed them to in Trillian. Still, it was a long process.

In conclusion

Okay so is Digsby a hot app? Well let's take a moment to put things in perspective here. Digsby's first blog post is dated February 5th, 2008. That's two months ago. Meebo has been around since 2006, Trillian and Adium have both been around since ~2002, and Gaim (now Pidgin) was developed way back in 1999. Now let's keep this in mind when we look at Lifehacker's latest Hive Five feature, which has Digsby right alongside those 4 other IM heavies as one of the top 5 IM clients on the web by popular vote. True, it's trailing in the final 5 vote, but the fact that it's on there at all says something.

I'll be sticking with Digsby for the foreseeable future, and I look forward to seeing how the app will grow as it develops. There's certainly plenty of potential, one hopes it doesn't become a huge ungainly mass of integrated clients that takes half a gig of memory and a chunk of constant CPU power to run. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that IRC is the next client to be included.
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Looks like it's almost what I need I use Bonjour for the machines in the house. Trillian's got a plugin for that. Google Talk works fine via Jabber.

I do like the social networking updates, though. Might have to give it a look.

Thanks for the review.



Memory footprint's also pretty steep. Trillian's <10mb. Might just stick with it until Astra ships.

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