Connect to any network to send your instant messages


Instantbird is a free program that allows you to chat to people on all the most popular traditional instant-messaging networks. We show you how to set it up

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First, download and install Instantbird. Once launched, the Account wizard requests to set up the first instant-messaging or social-network account.

Start by selecting the relevant network from the list. Remember, you’ll need an account with the network concerned. Click Next and type in the username for this account. Click Next again and provide the password. Click Next once more.

Type a name for this account into the box labelled Local Alias: this is used to identify the different networks while sending messages.

It can serve to identify the network (most likely), or the username if setting up multiple users on the same network. In most cases, the options below can be left alone – so review them then click Next.

A summary for this account will be displayed. Check the details, ensure that the box marked ‘Connect to this account now’ is ticked and click Finish.

The first instant-messaging account is now set up and will connect in the Accounts dialogue box. Click Disconnect to sign out of this account and click Connect to sign in again.

In the Accounts dialogue box click New Account to set up another instant-messaging account. Follow the same steps to configure the new account on a different instant-messaging network.

If you want to use Instantbird to connect to your Twitter or Facebook account, a slightly different set-up process is required. Go back to the account wizard we looked at in step 1 and choose the Facebook or Twitter options.

When Instantbird needs to check your username and password for those services, it will go to the Twitter or Facebook home page. Sign in using the relevant credentials and then opt to authorise Instantbird.

The program doesn’t store the account password, but it will be recognised as a legitimate app in future.

With several accounts set up, it’s now possible to communicate across instant-messaging networks. For social networks that provide continual updates, such as Twitter and Facebook, Instantbird opens a chat window to display messages in time order.

Each participant appears in the user list to the right-hand side of the window. To provide an update, type it in the chat box at the bottom of the window and press Enter to send it. To chat with a Twitter participant, for example, remember to address it with the right username preceded by an @ sign.

In the main Instantbird window, contacts for any connected instant-messaging networks are displayed. Hover the mouse pointer over a contact to see extended information, including the account that the contact is associated with.

Double-click the contact to open a chat window and type a message to contact the person. The conversation then develops in this window, with each message displayed in its own speech bubble – much like any of the various dedicated instant-messaging tools.

Close the window once the conversation with this contact is over.