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GAIM: Cool and Advanced Features

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Scott M. Morris

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Posted: 2 Nov 2005

Applies to:

  • SUSE Linux 10
  • SUSE Linux Professional 9.3
  • Novell Linux Desktop

Last week, I wrote a small introduction to Gaim, a great chat client written for GTK. The functionality of Gaim has gotten quite advanced, which has made it one of the leading-edge open-source chat clients currently available. Granted, it does not yet support things like video chat and audio chat; filesharing is still a little buggy. However, according to the program's author, Sean Egan, who has recently been hired by Google, these things will become available within a month's time. Egan seems to reassure us, "Fear not, loyal Gaimers, your patience is about to pay off."

If you're a hardcore programmer and want to dive into the guts of how Gaim works (or build in more functionality), take a look at Egan's book, "Open Source Messaging Application Development: Building and Extending Gaim (Paperback)." What we want to do here is explore the options of what Gaim currently offers. As this is a continuation of the introduction from last week, I will not cover installation here, as it was outlined there.

Much functionality is found within the walls of Gaim. So much, in fact, that it would be difficult to cover it all here. So, let's make a deal. In the interest of time and space, I will assume that readers are already familiar with instant messaging, and have learned to work Gaim on at least a basic level. What I'd like to do is highlight some of the cool features that Gaim offers.

One of the neat features that I use is called "Buddy Pounce". Basically, this is a way of telling Gaim to notify you when some event occurs in regards to a buddy on your list. For example, you can send them an IM when their status goes from "idle" to "available." You can play a sound when they log in. To access this option, right-click on a buddy in your list. Then, select ADD BUDDY POUNCE:

The NEW BUDDY POUNCE window appears:

The POUNCE WHO section should already be filled in. In the POUNCE WHEN section, you just tell Gaim what event you want to happen to trigger the notification. In the POUNCE ACTION section, you tell Gaim how to perform the pounce. If you like, you can save the pounce for use later by ticking the "Save this pounce after activation" checkbox. When the options are filled in, click SAVE:

In this case, I've elected to pop up a notification and also to send a message when Jason starts typing.

When he starts typing, the notifications do, in fact, appear:

This particular example isn't one you'd probably use, per se, except to demonstrate how it works. However, you can see that the possibilities are quite vast. There are many uses to be had by using these types of notifications.

Another great feature of Gaim is it's buddy consolidation abilities. For example, you see that I have two accounts for my friend Jason in my buddy list. One is for AIM, the other for YAHOO:

Gaim has provided a way so that I can have only one entry in my buddy list for my friend Jason, regardless of which account is signed in, or if both are. To do this, I'll just right click on one of the entries for Jason. Then, I'll select EXPAND from the menu that appears:

We then see that the entry has expanded. I can then drag and drop the other entry into this one:

You will see that Jason's YAHOO account has now become part of the same grouping as his AIM account:

You will also notice that the AIM account is the highest on the list. This tells Gaim that if more than one of Jason's accounts are logged in, and one of them is AIM, use AIM as the default account. When I double-click Jason's name, it automatically opens an AIM chat window. Note that you can also click the little arrow next to the buddy's name to collapse the list of their accounts.

When you have over 160 buddy accounts on your buddy list, over half of which are people with more than one account, consolidation is a must. This slick feature helps alleviate this problem.

Amongst all of the sections available in the PREFERENCES window of Gaim, I think I find the PLUGINS section most interesting. To get to this window, open the TOOLS menu and then click on PREFERENCES. When the window appears, click directly on the PLUGINS section heading. You'll see a list of plugins appear on the top right:

The ones I have found to be most useful include Auto-Reconnect, Guifications, History, Message Notification, System Tray Icon, and Text replacement. If you click on a plugin in the list in the pane in the top right, you will see below it more information about that plugin:

This will allow you to determine which plugins you want so that you can enable them. If you click on their entries at the left, you are presented with a screen that will allow you to configure the plugin:

Spend some time getting to know the preferences, set them how you wish, and you should be in great shape. Keep in mind that there are plenty of things that I have not covered in this article. Look around, test things, and be impressed. A month from now, when 2.0.0 should be available, I know that I, for one, will light up like a little kid on Christmas morning.

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