ICQ: The way to instant message in style

There’s no denying that there is a certain percentage of virtual activity involved in our lifestyles, either if it’s surfing the internet, managing our Facebook profile, tweeting our thoughts regarding the latest movie we’ve watched, gaming with our friends or simply checking out our e-mails, and regardless of how much time you spend on your Twitter or Facebook profile, odds are that you do have an account for at least one of these services. Undeniably, one of the many key aspects of our virtual activities is the instant messaging service, and most of the time, choosing which IM software should take on the task of handling your instant messages comes down to a matter of taste.

That being said, the more choices we have the better, so it’s fit to talk about the latest version ICQ, the IM application which has been with us for a very long time. On short, ICQ offers text, voice and web-chat capabilities, tons of customization options, the ability to import contacts from other IM services and easy integration with social networks such as Facebook. Yes, it sounds familiar doesn’t it, however I assure you that ICQ is a quite different from the rest of the pack.

ICQ Main Screen

Installation & Requirements

Similar to most of the free programs in this niche, ICQ comes with an installation process which requires a bit of extra attention unless you want to end up with an additional toolbar and a different homepage on your browser. Overlooking this unfortunate adware aspect of the installation process, everything else works smooth and without any other inconveniences.
As for the system requirements, ICQ has a lot to offer in terms of OS compatibility, supporting Windows, Linux, Mac, iPhone, Android as well as the Windows Mobile platform.

Interface

Time to talk about one of the most important aspects of a program and that’s of course the user interface. Long story short, ICQ does not disappoint to say the least, and it offers a very clean look, tons of customization options, lots of themes, and a large array of interesting features all bundled in a user-friendly interface.

At first glance, ICQ looks pretty much like your average instant messaging tool but as mentioned earlier, there’s quite a difference between ICQ and the rest of the pack, mainly because ICQ focuses on offering an array of different features than what you get from the rest.

For starters, unlike Yahoo Messenger, Windows Live Messenger or Google Talk, ICQ does not offer mailing services so creating an ICQ account will require an already existent e-mail address. Nevertheless, this turns out to be a great advantage, as ICQ is giving you the possibility to add and monitor multiple e-mail addresses so that you can be notified within ICQ whenever you have new mail.

Furthermore, you are able to integrate your Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or YouTube accounts with ICQ, so you can get feedback, chat and use these services straight from the ICQ user interface. Additionally, ICQ offers the possibility to join dozens of IRC channels but unfortunately this is done only through the external internet browser.

Pros

– Integrates perfectly with the most popular social networks
– The ability to monitor multiple e-mail accounts in real-time
– Great user-friendly and highly customizable interface
– Free
– Quick access to dozens of IRC channels

Cons

– The IRC channels with which ICQ boasts are web-based and although there are dozens of chat channels, most of them are empty and with very little to offer
– Adware in the installation process

Alternatives

There are quite a few ICQ alternatives out there, some of the most obvious choices already being mentioned above. For example, Google Talk offers a solid IM client, great integration with Gmail and all the other Google services, but on the other side of the coin this can present a problem for those who prefer using services other than those offered by Google.
If you’re more interested in the aspect of bringing all your other IM accounts in one spot and have control over them via a single program, then Pidgin or Digsby¬†might be just what you’re looking for. Being multi-protocol chat clients, both these applications offer the possibility to connect and instant message with multiple contacts regardless of the IM service they are using.

Conclusion

ICQ is beyond question a very interesting IM application, and although we could say that it lacks some of the options that are to be found on similar programs, such as¬† e-mailing services, ICQ does so in favor of delivering its own unique features. Overall, we could say that ICQ offers the pizzaz that we never felt missing from other similar programs, until we’ve got our hands on the latest version of this unique IM client.