A tour of Empathy IM client

Categories: Messaging Uncategorized

[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).


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 But, the version I found was really really outdated (I hate when that happens).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.


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?

See also