Top 10 Reasons Why Digsby ROCKS

Posted by Artem Russakovskii on June 14th, 2008 in Awesomeness, My Favorites, Stuff, Technology, Twitter

Updated: August 20th, 2009

If you haven't heard of Digsby yet, you have probably been living in some kind of a virtual cave or have no friends. Digsby is a multi-network instant messenger application, similar to Trillian, Pidgin (GAIM), or Miranda. I said 'similar', so what makes Digsy special? Reviews I read so far don't give the real reasons and don't dive into the features in depth. Instead, you get a standard load of marketing BS and in the end to you, the user, Digsby may end up being "yet another IM program." Some reviews describe certain features, but so far I haven't seen one that highlighted THE MAIN REASON why Digsby is different. And may I preface it with: finally somebody got a clue. I never before wanted to write about any other IM client, which already indicates that on the "this is the most awesome meter ever" meter, Digsby is floating somewhere at the top.

The main reason to use Digsby

1. Digsby saves all information, including IM names, groups, nicks, its own client settings, themes, etc (of course this excludes the password). If I'm logged in from two places, Digsby shows both away messages (at least in the widget). It just god damn works. Remember Trillian or Pidgin? You make 10 groups on your home PC, stick 50 people in each, then go to your laptop at work and nothing is the same as it is at home! Digsby to the rescue.


Notice how I'm logging into a Digsby account, which will be used to retrieve and sync all of my settings.

Other reasons (everyone on Digg loves top 10 lists, right?)

2. Digsby seems to have great fast developers really in touch with the community. Any time there is a problem, they push a message to all users that comes in a form of a Digsby announcement popup. They try to fix problems and usually do it fast. There are bugs here and there but they're nothing critical. If you tried Digsby a few months ago and didn't like it for some reason, I encourage you to give it another try – they really do develop fast. From revision numbers, it seems Digsby developers use SVN in the 15,000 revision number range (that sounds pretty active) – hooray! I can monitor how relatively active Digsby is by comparing this number from time to time. When was the last time Trillian released anything that wasn't a miniscule bug fix? Trillian Astra reminds me of Perl 6 (ha ha, programmer joke).


3. For the first time ever I feel comfortable combining the same people that have multiple IM accounts into one entity (and renaming them whatever I want). I don't really care what IM pops up on their side as long as it reaches the destination. I can also arrange the IM accounts for that person in the order of IM preference, so if AIM is on top and MSN is on the bottom, Digsby will show the AIM icon next to their name, and if they're not on AIM, then MSN. You get the point. I can always pick which account to send from and to at any point during the conversation.


Thaya, you're now popular (Sorry!). And a freak, with so many accounts. Do I give a crap which of his 7 accounts Thaya is logged into? That's right, I don't.

4. Digsby supports Facebook chat just as if it were AIM or MSN (except people sign on and off a lot more often and you can't delete them from the list). It also supports Facebook, twitter, and MySpace (ugh) mini-feed-like updates straight to my desktop. In fact, I get to actually see every Facebook update, which is not the case with the mini-feed (it filters way too much). Additionally, I can set my current status without logging into facebook.com.


5. The Digsby widget, yeah, check it out on the right. There's no need for you to be logged into anything to send me a message. And the cool part is that all visitors show up right in my list the moment they enter the site and disappear the moment they leave, so I know how many people are online at any given time. Feel free to try it out. I already had a few interesting discussions with visitors who are complete strangers and I'm loving it. You can even consider it a mini live tech support.


6. I LOVE how you can customize where and which icons show up in your IM list. Online status, IM network, and a mini buddy icon, left, right, any combination. Such a fine grained seemingly small feature but a very nice touch.


7. Reply box in IM popups. I just type my short answer in there if I don't want to bother popping the main chat window back up. Now if only there was a keyboard shortcut to activate that little box (who wants to mouse any more?)…


8. The first client where updating my Winamp status to all the networks actually works. Yes, others may have it too but so far everything I've tried was buggy. For example, Google talk updates once, and then forgets about it. Digsby never forgets.


9. Skin support with many customizations. http://digsbies.org/site/project/Skins is a good place to start.


10. New email notifications support for Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, IMAP, and POP3. The last 2 are of special interest.


Now my wishlist

Come on Digsby, you can do it!

  • a Linux client. It's supposedly coming soon, but how soon? Windows is the only platform supported today.
  • Edit: steve from digsby messaged me with this: MSN reconnect bug is fixed and will be pushed in the next update. Reconnect doesn't always work when I get my network back or come back from sleep mode. Just make it work, Digsby. Especially bad is MSN, it just never wants to reconnect (but hey, that was my main complain with Trillian for the past 3 years). I see this a lot:


  • RSS feed integration, similar to how Facebook integration works. I want to read planetmysql.org posts as soon as they get there.
  • transparency. What's up with that? I want everyone to at least squint trying to read my messages behind my back. Ideally, a window would solidify when it gets focus and go transparent again when it loses it (put it all into settings, though, let me control it).
  • I can't italicize, bold, etc a word or a selection. It just does it to all the text I'm typing. That should be common sense.
  • Added 06/15/08: off the record mode + encrypted conversations would be really sweet.
  • sometimes the contact list changes don't sync fast enough, so if I close Digsby and reopen it, they won't be there. I'd like to see a live save status, something that turns green once everything is synced.
  • minimize to tray. I can already close to tray, but I want to minimize to it too – hey, I'm used to it from AIM. Wanna fight about it? Fixed a long time ago.
  • I'd like to have a setting to not show Digsby in the task bar, like Trillian. There’s a setting for this already that I missed, it’s under ‘Buddy List’, thanks steve from digsby.
  • It's not always obvious inside the chat window when a friend goes offline, for instance for AIM. It's also not always obvious if you're IMing someone who is not available (there should be a warning back in response to an IM).
  • it's not clear if a person who IMed me is in my contact list. I'd like to know that, as well as which group they belong to.
  • the close button that suddenly shows up on each tab when I hover is very annoying and sometimes I close IM windows by mistake.

So take Digsby out for a spin, I guarantee you'll like at least something about it.

● ● ●
Artem Russakovskii is a San Francisco programmer and blogger. Follow Artem on Twitter (@ArtemR) or subscribe to the RSS feed.

In the meantime, if you found this article useful, feel free to buy me a cup of coffee below.

  • forsooth

    Interesting! I thought IM was out and Twitter was in…

  • forsooth: well, twitter is certainly "in" nowadays, but I really don't see how it can replace IM. They're not really the same spaces and both have clear separate uses. If I want a live conversation that the public doesn't need to be concerned with, or if I want to paste a piece of code, I'll use IM. If I want to update friends on my current location, I'll use twitter. Regardless, Digsby brings the best of both worlds to the desktop.

  • Haha… I've never seen so many avatars of myself in the same location before. If they Twitter Direct Message to IM integration then you would have another of me on that list.
    On a more serious note, I love digsby. Keeping in touch with my hundreds of contacts has become so much easier after using digsby. They are ironing out some bugs, but it's totally worth using right now. Here are some things I would add to the features list:
    1. Give the user the ability to Alt+Tab to the "Reply box in IM popups". When I want to answer those popups, I have to grab my mouse, move it to the popup, and click on the answer field before the popup disappears. If I miss-click the answer field, then the popup disappears and the IM window is brought to focus intead.
    2. Give the ability to set popup duration before the popup disappears.
    3. It would be nice to integrate Google Reader
    4. Would be awesome to integrate Plurk (probably in the futures since Plurk has no public API yet).

  • василий

    #1 It's not the problem of the client, but the design of the protocol. ICQ/AIM and MSN are notoriously complex and are not properly designed to keep multiple clients in sync. I prefer sane, open clients and not bloated crapware that gets around broken protocols by inventing their own protocols to keep stuff in sync.
    #2 no matter how fast and responsive developers are, digsby is proprietary and this says it all.
    #3 I have yet to see somebody that is logged in to AIM and not in to every other IM service at the same time.
    #4 woo, facebook chat. Now why would I ever want to use it?
    #5 Interesting, but this is just another way to waste time. If anyone wants to contact me, please, email me.
    #6 no comments on this one.
    #7 I don't consider myself an attention whore, I can live without everybody knowing what I listen to.
    #8 If your window manager can properly and efficiently place windows on your desktop, you wouldn't ever want to have popups. (you also wouldn't use your mouse most of the time)
    #9 You seem to run out from ideas to fulfill your promised "top 10 reasons", skins are nothing new.
    #10 That is not the job of the Instant Messenger.
    I adhere to Unix Philosophy:
    "Write programs that do one thing and do it well.
    Write programs to work together.
    Write programs to handle text streams, because that is a universal interface."

  • Thaya, thanks for the suggestions. I already mention #1. #2 is definitely valid. #3 and #4 I think would veer off what Digsby really is about. I'm reconsidering my RSS wishlist now.

    василий, thanks for the comments. I can see that you're disgruntled and I think overly negative about Digsby but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I know you're from planetmysql, so most likely you're a developer and developers are hard folk to please. Most other people (me and Thaya included, though we're developers ourselves) do enjoy the things you don't seem to.

    #1 has nothing to do with the protocols. The grouping and ordering get lost with Pidgin, Trillian, etc. because they maintain no state of such grouping or ordering, or program settings anywhere but locally. Digsby solves that problem. Note that I didn't talk here about, say, logging into AIM from 2 places and adding a person into one and not seeing changes on the other.

    #2 yeah, Digsby isn't open source, I'll agree with you that it's a minus. However, compared to Trillian, which is not only not open source, but also has a paid version, but barely any updates, Digsby takes the prize. Pidgin has been in development for a really long time too but still looks like crap (I foresee that looks don't matter much to you though).

    #3 I have plenty examples. Especially if you consider #4.

    #4 Why? Because you can talk to all your friends on facebook, regardless of them having an IM account. Not everyone uses IM but most everyone logs into facebook once in a while. The number of people I can "IM reach" has increased significantly. You do remember we're talking about an IM program, that has a purpose of connecting people, right?

    #5 It's a matter of preference. Sure email is fine too, but if I'm clearly online, a quick 2-way chat could be easier and faster. It's an additional option and I believe having choice is good.

    #7 (is actually #8) I don't consider myself an attention whore either but if someone happens to like the song I'm listening to, it can spring up a conversation. Again, I certainly don't see any harm in having the option.

    #8 (is actually #7) I like having my windows open full screen so a popup (very configurable at that) is handy. If you don't like them, you can turn them off.

    #9 Skins are nothing new indeed, but I wanted to point out how customizable they are in Digsby. Small things potentially but they add to the good experience. I can actually think of more than 10 great features, so 10 was shortening the list.

    #10 You're right, it's not, yet it's a nice option. Trillian, Google Talk, AIM, MSN alread do it (partially), why would Digsby lack?

    The UNIX philosophy is great and works really well in console apps, scripts, and such. At the same time, I don't think Digsby does too many things. I'm not going to comment on this philosophy more besides saying that I appreciate it where it's appropriate.

    Most importantly, I think arguments like this are great. The more arguments are brought up, and the more bugs are fixed, features reworked and added, the better. I know that Digsby developers have seen this post and already provided valuable feedback. So keep up the complaints and praises, they all benefit the cause.

  • @Artem

    Maybe I can also add Skype support into that list of new features.

    To me, Plurk is a lot more like IM than Twitter is. Every Plurk I post ends up becoming a chat with multiple readers.

    RSS is a good feature for me, but definitely not necessary.


    You sound really frustrated with Digsby. Here are some follow-up comments I have.

    #2 Pidgen crashes for me more than Trillian does. Trillian crashes for me more than Digsby does. Enough said.

    #3 Many people at my work use different accounts depending on where they are: work or home. They keep work & play separate that way and I know to not IM them work-related stuff when they are on their "home" account.

    #4 In addition to using this feature to keep in touch with friends that are non-IM users, I love how I DO NOT have to go to every one of my hundreds of friends' profile to manually add each one of their IM.

    #5 I believe this is best used for small sites that sell products. They can use this feature to provide live customer support.

    #10 Digsby is not an Instant Message. They do advertise "IM + Email + Social Networks" as the main feature of Digsby though. If you are able to be contacted "EVERYWHERE" like I am, then you want a single point of communication. I look to Digsby more of a communication portal than an IM client. With Digsby, my Email/IM/Twitter response time is almost instantaneous. A difference that you need to keep readers on your blog.

  • василий

    #1 It has everything to do with the protocols. Most of mentioned protocols weren't designed to keep clients in sync and that's fine. Now what I don't like about digsby is that it creates unnecessary complexity by implementing their own protocol to keep peoples' clients in sync. (I haven't looked at the way it works, and unfortunately the only way to look at it is reverse engineering, which is an utterly boring task for which I have no time). A simple and elegant solution is provided at the end of this post.

    #8 If you are happy with the way WindowsXP manages your windows, I accept the usability of popups in your case. (perhaps you want to rethink the whole windowing strategy in your case)

    In any case, I do think digsby does too many things, and I can't tell you exactly how many unnecessary things it does, since I posses no source code.

    #2 if Pidgin crashes for you, you can backtrace the crash and debug it. If you don't want to "waste" time on this task, send the backtrace to developers. AFAIK, Pidgin is mainly developed for Unix like operating systems and only then ported to Windows, which I assume you guys are users of. This can lead to problems that are uninteresting to main developers and hence it's the responsibility of Windows Users to step up and help.

    #3 "They keep work & play separate" Isn't this exactly why you don't want to merge work and home contacts? thanks for proving my point.

    #10 If digsby isn't an "Instant Message", why do you compare it to Trillian and Pidgin? I also don't see why people can't for example run pidgin on all of their boxes and simply keep ~/.libpurple in sync. So much for inventing pointless protocols.

    I remember seeing Einstein's quote on Thaya's website about fools and complexity; interestingly enough, that quote is gone now 😉

    In any case, most of these arguments boil down to your values and priorities. To each his own.

  • @василий
    Thank you for your response. You are absolutely right that these arguments are all based on values & priorities.

    #2 I am a WindowsXP user and these two clients were both originally developed on different platforms. It is expected that they both fail more on non-native platforms (also valid statement when Digsby gets ported to Unix/Linux).

    #3 This definitely is personal preference. My co-workers have separate accounts, but they are the same person so I would want to group them under one name.

    #10 In #2, I've only compare the IM aspect of Digsby to Pidgen & Trillian (saying that it crashes less [on Windows]). I used to keep Trillian's buddies.xml in sync across my multiple machines but it's a pain to setup automatic syncing (at least if you are on Windows – maybe I should rethink the windowing strategy like you said). With Digsby, the sync just works (though not as fast as Artem likes it to).

    I remember seeing Einstein's quote on Thaya's website about fools and complexity; interestingly enough, that quote is gone now 😉

    Thank you for visiting my site and noticing these details! I've removed the quote as it doesn't have much to do with the whole goal of my blog (anymore). I want to focus more on building a community that does not hold back on giving inputs (from fear of criticism or what not). My goal is to start getting debates as intense as this one on my blog.

  • April S.

    I just fell in love with Digsby late last night/early this morning. I've been searching for that perfect IM, and let's face it – Pidgin just doesn't cut it. Anyhoo – I LOVE it! I'm already trying to get others to make the switch… Also, I'd just like to say I like how you wrote your article. 🙂

  • will

    i've played with digsby on a windows pc and suggested it to friends who won't take my suggestions regarding operating systems. It is an appealing program, and i don't even have a social networking account.

    however, is it at all concerning to have a propriety application storing/accessing contact information? i didn't see any ads when using it. what is the monetary motivation for dotSyntax, LLC? How are they paying for their bandwidth/server space?

    concerning the points of discussion:
    I'm enjoying the essentially WIMP-less window management of "awesome" (a fork of dwm, similar to wmii,ion). When I'm hacking away in vim on desktop tag 1 and waiting for my willfully computer-ignorant friend to contact me via AOL IM, a message i will receive as a new tab in pidgin on tag 2, a digsby style pop up would be ideal. instead, mpd is pumping out some awful poorly recorded folk-punk that masks the audio notification, and i miss the message. conversely, i have trayer 'stuck' to all tags, and checkgmail running. it presents a popup when i receive new mail. i respond timely.
    There are events with a significance greater than the current work flow. pop-up notification is currently one of the best paradigms for realizing this.(right?)

    "do one thing and do it well" might be too much of a soundbite to do any philosophy justice. And anyway, it seems like a mistake to say digsby isn't doing a lot. its motto is a three term algebraic statement! Though the unix philosophy appears broke in some places ( http://www.informit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=424451 ), i'd think social aggregation is a good place to see unix philosophy shine.
    However, i have no idea what an ideal unix implementation would look like? would i have a service for each IM network, or only for everying taken care of with libpurple? what about webmail and twitter/myspace/facebook/lastfm/flickr/whatever integration. a service for each? how do they communicate? do i pipe to some reader and connect to the service on a socket for input?
    It'd definitely be quite cool to do something with netcat like "echo -n $network_type\n$buddy:$message\nclose|nc $imservice" There be tremendous flexibility!
    what if i want to talk or even see (video chat) my contacts?

    but really something is wrong in every approach i've encountered. if i type something, look at a file, play a song, or etc, a truly integrated system would always have contextual options to email,IM,(micro)blog, or, i don't know, socialize in some way. not via plugin, not via a bloated do-it-all program.

  • i really like digsby the reason is it supports gtalk, the original gtalk is boring enogh secondly i sometimes use msn and yahoo to and its really nice to se taskbar neat and clean. i always love all in one apps the best its free of cost and nice review there.

  • Alex

    I too have fallen in love with Digsby. For a long time I have been looking for a Facebook chat Firefox plugin, but only recently did I start thinking about standalone apps. This is exactly what I have been needing, as it also solves my problems with never checking my email. Digsby is amazing! =D

  • AC Doctor

    I have always like using trillian but this seems like it is a step ahead of trillian. I will have to check this out asap.

  • Having used Digsby for a few months, I can say with full confidence that I'm extremely happy with it and the dev team. I now use it for Linked In and Twitter too, in addition to Facebook.

    @AC Doctor
    I am glad that I ditched Trillian – what a buggy piece of crap that was.

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  • dian

    I love digsby, but i hate when digsby store my account not locally,

  • Sathish

    I like the digsby very much…. it would be awesome if it has a good themes r skins… can i get good themes/skins for digsby??

  • zensly