One of my most often used open source tools is Pidgin. It’s an instant messaging client that works with… well… most things. It allows me to have multiple accounts on multiple services which is pretty handy with all of the different things that I’m doing. A mild downside is it may give the appearance that I’m surfing Facebook all day, but it’s really only the chat account that’s held opened.
Pidgin has a number of excellent plugins that make it very handy to use. Some of my favorites are the Psychic plugin which alerts me to various kinds of activity between me and someone that I’m chatting with. For example, I get an alert that someone is trying to reach me when they first open their chat window. Another one that I like is Off-The-Record which offers significant encryption between chat participants. Another favorite is Text Replacement which will automatically replace text you type with something in a hash list. It corrects common typos and can even translate text speak into English if you suffer from typing that way.
The one that I got tonight is slightly silly, but I’m really enjoying it. I have an IBM Thinkpad (which gives you an idea of its age). It has a little LED light on it, called a Thinklight. (How do they come up with this stuff?) This plugin causes the Thinklight to blink whenever a message comes through. That’s pretty handy when I have a lot of things going on and I can’t tell one popup from the other. It may annoy me eventually, but right now I kinda dig it. You can find it at the project web site.
I’m going to write up some information about Pidgin on the Real World Open Source wiki. If you have favorite tools you should add some notes on it there. It’s not just for me to edit. It’s for all of us.