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Empathy: Use One Application To IM Chat On All Networks [Linux]

By Danny Stieben2013-01-17

empathy chat linuxThere are still plenty of people who use instant messaging networks to talk with each other, as it’s very quick to exchange messages or ask a simple question. In fact, there are plenty of corporations who run their own networks, to make communication between employees a snap. Therefore, it’s good to have a capable instant messaging client by your side so that you can keep in touch with just about everyone.

If you’re running Linux, then there are a number of great options available for you. In fact, if you’re using Ubuntu or any other distribution that uses the Gnome desktop environment, you may already have this application installed.

About Empathy

Empathy is an instant messaging application for Linux desktops and is developed by the makers of the Gnome desktop environment. As such, if you’re running a distribution with the Gnome environment, you should already have Empathy installed. If not, or if you’re running a different desktop environment, Empathy Chat for Linux a quick installation away.

Do note, however, that if you’re running a desktop environment which doesn’t use GTK or other Gnome dependencies (Xfce does, but KDE does not), then you may need to install a handful of extra dependencies. Unless you absolutely want to use Empathy, it may be worthwhile trying out Kopete instead.

Adding Accounts

empathy chat linux

The most important part of any IM client is the ability to add accounts, and lots of them. If you’re using one of the latest versions of Gnome, Empathy will automatically launch Gnome’s Online Accounts window, where you can add a number of different accounts from various services, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, AIM, Yahoo, Jabber, Windows Live,, and more.

Of course, not all of these accounts have something to do with instant messaging, but rather other applications such as Shotwell or Gwibber. Go ahead and add whichever accounts you’d like to the system, and Empathy will connect to applicable configured services.


empathy chat client linux

Once you have your accounts set up, you’ll see that Empathy has a lot of focus on simplicity, so that you can do what instant messaging is all about – talk. The contact list is pretty straightforward, as you simply have a list of all available contacts in alphabetical order. I find this to be a bit better, as most people use their full name anyways (if your contact list is mostly made up of people on Facebook like mine), instead of having contacts organized into different groups. This functionality, however, is configurable so that you can in fact still see your groups.

empathy chat client linux

When you double click on a contact to initiate a conversation, the same theme of simplicity continues – you basically have two boxes, one for the conversation history and one to type in replies. It also looks pretty sleek, which is nice to have.

Other Features

empathy chat linux

There are, of course, a handful of other features which you can take advantage of. For Jabber-based networks (that includes GTalk), you can start audio and video calls with the other person. Most networks (besides Facebook) will also support file transfers, which you can start by dragging and dropping files into the text box where you would type in responses. There’s also a handful of items you can configure in the settings to make your experience with Empathy a personal one.


In case you don’t already have Empathy installed, you can do so by searching for “empathy” in your respective package manager. You can also install it via the terminal, by executing sudo apt-get install empathy in Ubuntu or sudo yum install empathy in Fedora. The installation should go quickly if you don’t have many dependencies to install.


I absolutely love Empathy for the fact that is connects very well with other applications thanks to Gnome’s Online Accounts framework, and that it simply lets me talk with my contacts without getting in the way. Of course, bells and whistles can be nice, but they can also slow things down or nag you by getting in the way. Empathy is straightforward, and should serve you well if you take the time to try it out.

What’s your favorite Linux IM client? Do you prefer features or simplicity? Let us know in the comments!


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