I have this ongoing personal philosophy. “Don’t get too wedded to a single environment, because the designs will channel your way of thinking, and those ‘new fangled’ ideas about UI’s and systems? They they may have something there, give it a try.”
To that end, not long ago I switched from KDE to Gnome. That has had it’s ups and downs, but regardless of whether it’s been a good move or not, I now understand Gnome a lot better.
One of the tools I’ve used the longest has been X-Chat – a fairly decent IRC client that does pretty much everything I want in a client. I have screenshots of me using Xchat going back many years – a sure sign it might be time to try something else.
The natural choice has been Pidgin the ‘Universal Chat Client’. Pidgin is to Linux (though versions are available for other platforms) as Trillian is to Windows. It’s a chat client that can talk to a dozen different IM protocols (Jabber, IRC, Aim, Yahoo, MSN, etc etc). Originally I had been using Jabber gateways for this function, but the gateway function in Jabber has fallen on hard times. It was time to move on.
Pidgin is a GTK based application, which means it uses the same look and feel as Gnome applications – a hard pill to swallow for many folks, to be sure (GTK is not the prettiest toolset around), but it is stable, quite useable, and, most importantly, has a Bazillion plugins available for it. Which brings me to the point of my article.
I was getting tired of some small twinges in the Pidgin interface – for instance having to chat with Nickserv everytime I reconnected to IRC (which I sometimes do half a dozen times a day).
Enter the Pidgin Plugin Pack. This is a ‘packaged’ group of plugins for Pidgin – some useful, some not so much, that extend the functionality of Pidgin enormously.
For me, the big one was “IRC More”, which adds in many features that were lacking in the baseline IRC implementation – including, thankfully, a way to tickle Nickserv with my password everytime I log in. Hoorah!
Installing the plugin pack was as simple as:
aptitude install pidgin-plugin-pack
and the options appeared in my plugin list (didn’t even need a restart!)
I’ve been twiddling many other settings, such as controlling how popup dialogs work, adding some other features into IRC, and changing notifications. The pack has assuaged my discomfort with Pidgin for now. Lets see if I feel the need to change again in a year. Or two. Or five.