A tour of Empathy IM client

[Linux - Gnome Only] Listed on the roadmap to Gnome 2.24 is the integration with Empathy, a multi-protocol IM client. This integration could be a sign of a replacement for Pidgin and Ekiga with one single SIP and multi-protocol IM application.

For this article I tested Empathy to see how it works and if it is better or worse then Pidgin (currently my favorite IM client).

Installation:

I searched through Synaptic and was able to find Empathy and Telepathy so I installed from there. But, the version I found was really really outdated (I hate when that happens). So, after searching for some help information, I discovered this nice forum post that mentioned I had to add another Software Source to my Ubuntu:

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/telepathy/ubuntu hardy main

After this, I was able to get the latest Empathy 2.23.6.

Adding Accounts:

My options are not as vast as Pidgin but I was able to find the main IM protocols like AIM, MSN, GTalk, Yahoo! The added bonus was that I could also add SIP accounts.

After all of the accounts were added, the UI looked very much similar to Pidgin’s:

I ran into some problems connecting to a couple of my accounts. Empathy kept asking to access the Keyring default password, which I had long forgotten. But, after troubleshooting that everything worked well. I’m not sure if this was something I did or some bug in the program.

Features:

Let’s start with what Empathy currently doesn’t have: file transfers, pop-up notifications (like Guifications), API or extensions structure, and a good website with help information. The program feels a bit incomplete, under development.

Now for the good news: with Empathy you can use video and voice! Personally I use IM strictly for text, for audio and/or video I use Skype. But, quite a few people (such as my wife) would really like to use A/V with her MSN contacts. Although the A/V capabilities are awesome, in Empathy it is only working now with GTalk / Jabber protocols (at least for me), and I’m sure with SIP protocols it’ll also work well.

I couldn’t use audio / video since none of my close contacts were online to test, but here is a screenshot from Empathy’s website to demonstrate how it would look:

Personally I’m really glad A/V is being integrated. Hopefully other protocols will be supported soon.

Overall, I liked what I saw and tested. I think Empathy will be a good addition integrated in Gnome, but currently it still needs a bit more work.

Based on the above (and your own experience if you`ve tried it out), would you think Empathy is ready to take over Pidgin?

34 thoughts on “A tour of Empathy IM client

  1. I just don’t like Pidgin’s tendency to hog RAM and other resources. I’m really excited about Telepathy and its support in embedded devices.

  2. You don’t test the major feature difference between Pidgin and Empathy (Voice/Video over GTalk) and you call this a tour? This ‘tour’ is pretty much available from the Gnome Live 2.4 road-map.

  3. I am looking forward to dumping pidgin, it’s good to see an IM client that seems to be moving forward, and it gives me one more thing to laugh at windows users with. (what, you use a separate IM client for each protocol, and it hogs all your RAM, even though vista uses most of it anyway? well, whose laughing now?) (I copped a fair bit when I said I was ditching windows, and I got laughed at a lot, until MS decided to stop selling XP licenses.)

  4. I am looking forward to ditching Pidgin too. Something about the arrogant attitude of the developers towards features that people want (like voice and video) bugs me big time. That said, Pidgin is very solid and covers plain text IM very well.

    I have Empathy installed too. It took ages to work out that I needed a pile of Telepathy libraries installed to get MSN protocol included. They certainly need to work on their online documentation. I tried voice with friends using Gtalk in Windows and the recipients reported that my voice was clearer than it was when we compared it to Meebo’s flash-based voice. It will be interesting to compare it to aMSN’s next version which hopefully will have voice (curiously, it has webcam but only voice clip messages).

    If Empathy really has got the go ahead for the next Gnome then hopefully that will encourage a bit of work on implementing the basics you’d expect in a good IM client. At the moment it is pretty much bare bones.

    If anything, it gives Linux users more choice and that is always a good thing.

  5. I just installed Empathy in Fedora 9 and it seems to work okay. I am not sure if I have an older version (0.23.1), but there is one problem I have with it: I cannot get alias names to stick when I attempt to edit the user names. Also at this point, documentation needs to be a little better. I am also currently using aMSN because most of my contact use MSN in Windoze and because of its video capabilities. I’m still learning how to use video with Empathy, as there does not seem to be any direct use of video during a text chat.

  6. I just installed Empathy in Fedora 9 and it seems to work okay. I am not sure if I have an older version (0.23.1), but there is one problem I have with it: I cannot get alias names to stick when I attempt to edit the user names. Also at this point, documentation needs to be a little better. I am also currently using aMSN because most of my contacts use MSN in Windoze and because of its video capabilities. I’m still learning how to use video with Empathy, as there does not seem to be any direct use of video during a text chat.

  7. Empathy is really nice, but I couldn’t use SIP (ekiga and sipgate doesn’t get connection).
    Meta-Contacts would also be nice (I use Gajim therefore at the moment)

    All IM and Voice/Video Chats in one program is really cool.

    regards,
    Kelvan

  8. Pretty much everyone agrees that Empathy isn’t where it needs to be right now, but the Gnome devs think that it should be included to get the unified IM/Voice/Video plan kickstarted. Once Soylent (a contact manager) gets included, too, we should really start to see things start to take off (much the way GStreamer reached critical mass).

    I look forward to it, but most people outside devs won’t be extremely happy running Empathy instead of Pidgin right now.

  9. For me it works perfect oob, I’d just love to have webcam support for msn protocol, since most of my friends use it

  10. If they are both open-source, why can’t the developers of Pidgin just take the voice capabilities of Empathy and add it to Pidgin? That’s my vote.

  11. i’m using ubuntu 9.10 and also using empathy… it is G-R-E-A-T!! though there’s no video/call support for YM, it is fast, it doesn’t hog memory and most of all, it is organized. :)

  12. I like Pidgin, it has lot’s of features that I can’t stop using and those features aren’t in Empathy.

    I like the speed of empathy in evolving (as they said) but it will take some time for me to drop pidgin. :D

  13. I am using MSI U100 Netbook with Ubuntu 9.04 – Jaunty Jackalope – release in April 2009.

    I installed Empathy 2.26.1

    How can I invite for my contacts to view my web cam? I don’t see any web cam icon anywhere in the program.

    In the Conversation Contact option, the following is grayed (not click-able )Call, Invite to chat room and Send file.

    What is wrong? I was told Emphaty has video/ audio features!

  14. This is a weird issue: Empathy SIP client does not allow for dialing numbers AFTER the connection was established. Ever heard of companies that direct you through their lines by making you press numbers on the dialpad? Well, I did, and they are not there :)

  15. Is there a way to enable video chat for Yahoo in empathy. It works fine for gtalk account but not yahoo..

  16. I’m extremely impressed along with your writing talents and also with the format in your blog. Is that this a paid subject matter or did you modify it your self? Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it?s rare to see a great blog like this one these days..

  17. This is so funny, i really wanted a replacement for Pidgin.I like linux and all but i think that their version of messenger/aol/msm is missing something.I’ll try soon empathy ( love the name) and i’ll write how was my experience with it.

  18. I’ve always been a fan of Linux instead of Windows but i never got along with Pidgin.I don’t really know why,it’s like a phone being a mp3,a computer, a camera also and i probably need Pidgin to do the file transfers faster, to have video calls and stuff…

  19. I am using Linux for some years and I am very satisfied of it.In comparison with Windows it gives fewer system errors which can be solved easily.I’ve tested Pidgin but I have to admit that I was a little bit dissappointed and I changed it with Empathy.

  20. I installed Empathy IM in Ubuntu 12.04 through the software center, I configured it and started using it, but frankly I wasn’t all that impressed with it. I found it less intuitive than Pidgin, the IM app I’ve been using for a couple of years, and aside from the Facebook chat, Empathy doesn’t give me enough functionality to trade it for Pidgin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>