Among today’s fastest growing social networks, you’ll find plenty of chat apps. In fact, it can be argued that instant messaging (IM) is the way forward for the social network, which is why Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion and Twitter opened its Direct Messages.
However, only some of these chat services have a desktop client, while others only provide you with a web-based version. There is some truth to the death of the desktop client. But third-party developers haven’t given up.
From all-in-one messaging apps to custom chat clients that do a better job than the official web version, here are some great chat apps you should use on your Windows, Mac, or Linux computer.
A complete messaging app for WhatsApp, Slack, Skype and more.
Franz is an all-in-one universal messaging app, which supports 65 services. These include Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack, Telegram, WeChat, Skype, Discord, and several others. Not everything is chat-oriented, giving you the things you need like Google Calendar or Inbox by Gmail. And the developers say they are busy adding more services.
In essence, Franz is a Chromium-based desktop wrapper for the web versions of all of these apps, but it also offers some additional benefits. For starters, you can log into multiple Facebook Messenger accounts without having to log in and out all the time.
You also get native notification support according to your operating system. There is a helpful badge on the icon announcing the number of unread messages. And a quick check shows that Franz consumes less battery and CPU usage than running the same tab in the Google Chrome browser isn’t surprising, given Chrome’s problems with battery and power.
More than anything else, Franz was comfortable. With all your chats backed up by one app, you can safely close them when you want some distraction-free work time, knowing you won’t be interrupted.
The free version of Franz is good enough for most users, but if you want to use a VPN with Franz, then you have to pay for the pro version.
Manageyum (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Add any chat app you want.
Like Franz, Manageyum puts all your messengers in one window. Like Franz, Manageyum also lets you use multiple accounts at the same time. But unlike Franz, Manageyum lets you use any alternative messenger service with it.
Yes, preloaded chat and messaging services will work better. Use a service that the app doesn’t support, say, a Slack alternative like Twist? Enter a informasi to it and Manageyum will turn it into a simple application like a browser tab. After you set it up the first time, Manageyum will remember the preferences for that app.
While this isn’t a deal breaker, it’s a feature you may have missed in Franz, so it’s good to know that there are alternatives.
Beautiful Facebook Messenger app with privacy controls.
Caprine is a beautiful and lightweight application for Mac users who want to chat on Facebook Messenger. It only supports that service and nothing else, but it adds more to Messenger.
The app’s focus on design makes it seem more in sync with what other Mac apps feel. It has a responsive design that adapts to any window size, multiple themes, and it will give you easy notifications too.
Caprine also lets you control your privacy on Messenger by not showing recipients as you type or whether you’ve seen their messages.
Apart from Caprine, there are a few other unofficial Messenger apps you might want to check out.
The Hangouts desktop client that was supposed to be made by Google.
Many of us who grew up using Google Talk were amazed at how Google dropped the ball with Hangouts. Google has redeemed itself a bit with the new Hangouts web app, but it’s still not perfect. Leave it to third-party developers to figure that out.
YakYak is a clean and simple version of Google Hangouts that works as a standalone client. It looks and feels a bit like WhatsApp Web, without losing any features. You can make conversations unrecorded, you can add contacts; everything just works.
YakYak also adds new features, such as marking any contact as a favorite so that they will be pinned at the top of the contact list. You can also change the color theme, or choose a night mode.
Overall, it feels like the desktop client for Hangouts that Google should have built, but never did.
A chat client built for the workplace.
When you’re ready to work, is your browser window filled with tabs for Gmail, Google Drive, Slack, and more? Then you should check out Station, a browser and chat app built for the workplace.
Each “app” appears in the vertical bar on the left. Click on anything, and you can see all the tabs for that app. Click on anything to open it in a window with no tabs in focus. It’s basically tab management in the browser, but using it for a while makes you realize how cool it is.
Station supports a wide range of applications for both productivity and messaging, so you’re likely to find whatever service you’re using. There’s also a handy one-click button to stop all notifications when you need to focus on getting more work done.
Station may be overkill as a universal chat app only. But if you’re looking for something more than universal chat, give it a try.
Chrome based all-in-one chat messenger app.
You can open separate Chrome windows with web apps for each messenger you use. Or you can do it with All In One Messenger, a Chrome-based app dedicated to unifying chat apps.
The only major difference between All In One and Chrome windows is that you can log into multiple messenger accounts. Other than that, the only thing that has changed is the look and feel. That said, the All In One looks quite inviting with the big, bold tabs above it.
It’s also the only client that works as a useful Chrome app, meaning you can install it on any computer, even Chromebooks. Of course, you have to install Google Chrome first.
For everything else, there’s Pidgin.
Not all must-have software has to be created fresh. Pidgin has been around for years, but that doesn’t make it any less cool today. While Franz is concentrating on the new wave of chat apps, Pidgin handles pretty much any other IM service you can think of.
Given its years and its open-source nature, Pidgin supports a variety of chat networks, along with third-party plugins to allow for even more. For example, there is no official WhatsApp plugin, but you can get WhatsApp on Pidgin using third party plugins.
Here’s a list of protocols that Pidgin supports:
- Google Talk
Pidgin is great at handling old school web IMs like IRC or ICQ, and anything that uses XMPP protocol.
Notes: Pidgin officially has apps for Windows and Linux, but Mac users can get a Pidgin port called Adium and use it the same way.