Instant messaging clients are all ten-a-penny nowadays, whatever platform you’re using, and it’s a market that’s incredibly difficult for software producers to differentiate themselves in. After all, there’s only so much that you can do with an instant messaging client, and if you go too far when trying to introduce additional features, many people will stop using your product because it has too much bloat.
You can’t say that Miranda IM, the instant messaging client we’re looking at today, has bloat though. Quite the opposite in fact; Miranda is just a 3MB download and doesn’t even have to be installed locally in order to work. Sound like your kind of client? Let’s take a closer look!
When you open Miranda for the first time, you will be asked to create a user profile. Once you have typed in a name for your profile, you can begin to add your instant messaging accounts using Miranda’s built in account manager. Unfortunately, combining a bare minimum attitude with account setup isn’t always a good thing, and for people who are unfamiliar with IM protocols, this will most likely be a struggle…
Let me give you an example. When you’re using an instant messaging client such as Adium, you will have a drop down list of all the services which you can connect to. If I wanted to connect to Google Talk, I would select ‘Google Talk’ from the drop down list, enter my username, enter my password, and start talking to people. Most users would be able to do that without a problem. The word ‘protocol’ is kept to a minimum, and there are few scary mentions of a ‘port’ to be found for the tech illiterate.
Once you’ve struggled through the settings, and you’re connected to whatever instant messaging service you’re using, you’ll find a simple contact list with a list of all the people you have available. Don’t expect any eye candy here, because there isn’t any. It’s just a window with a collapsible list. There are no boundaries on the window either, so it can be re-sized in a way that makes it impossible to see anything, which is just silly. Chat windows are equally minimalist, and if you want to change your font settings – and you will – you have to dive into the options to do that.
In short, Miranda provides extreme minimalism and hardly touches any CPU and RAM. Memory usage peaked at 6.5MB on our test machine, and you can tell why. This truly is a no-frills piece of software. If you have an old computer running Windows 95 with 64MB of RAM, then this is the IM client for you. If you bought your computer in the past decade and spend any time using IM clients at all, do yourself a favour and look elsewhere. I hear Windows Live Messenger isn’t too bad, and if you’re looking for Facebook Chat, Chit Chat could get the job done at a stretch.