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  • Description: multi-protocol instant messaging client
  • Note: Newer versions seem to be called pidgin.
  • Command: gaim or pidgin

  • URL:

  • Summary: GAIM has been extensively tested and scripted, and is a very accessible solution.
  • Details

Running GAIM/Pidgin for the first time

When the program starts, a login window will appear. Here, you can log into an existing account, adjust program preferences, or access the accounts management interface. If you are running GAIM/Pidgin for the first time, the accounts combo box on the login screen will be empty, and you will need to add at least one account. To do so: press the accounts button. The accounts management dialog will appear. Here, you can add new accounts, and modify or delete existing accounts. For now, tab to and press the add button. At this point, the first control you will see is a combo box which will allow you to specify the type of account you would like to add. One of the very nice things about GAIM/Pidgin is that it can handle accounts from a wide variety of other messenger and chat programs. once you have selected the type of account you want to add, tab through the dialog and fill in the rest of the fields. after all account information has been entered, press the save button, and then press close to dismiss the account management dialog.

The IM window and Orca

To begin a conversation, use the arrow keys to select a contact from your buddy list, and then press enter. The IM window will appear. This window contains two primary areas of note: the chat area, where the conversation occurs, and the text area where you type outgoing messages.

As you chat, orca will unobtrusively do its work in the background. It will read all outgoing and incoming messages, without the need for any user intervention. however, note that the ability to use flat review is always there, right at your fingertips, should you feel the need to explore the window, or to look back at messages you recently received.

In brief, the flat review commands are as follows:

7 - 8 - 9  read previous, read current, read next line
4 - 5 - 6  read previous, read current, read next word
1 - 2 - 3  read previous, read current, read next character

1. Ways to access the chat history

When chatting, Orca should automatically announce the last message that was added. If you want to review previous messages you have several options:

  1. Use Orca's commands for reviewing the history. If you press the Orca modifier key (Insert or Caps Lock) plus a function key you'll hear that message without leaving the text box you are in. The most recent message is F1, the one before that F2, and so on.
  2. Use Orca's flat review commands (described above) to examine the screen contents. The chat history is above the text box in which you type your messages.
  3. Move the caret to the chat history by pressing shift+f6 (switch frame) then you can interact with the text as if it were a read only text area (useful for copying links, shell commands etc). Just typing will automatically move the focus back to the typing area, where your text is then entered. Note the number of times you will need to press shift+f6 may vary, depending on weather its a multiple person chat, or if the formatting/emodicons toolbars are showing.

If you dont care for emodicons or formatting, then you can choose to remove them (menu has options for these).

2. Commandline commands for use in IRC channels

From Joanie Diggs:

It occurred to me that in the olden days of IRC back when dinosaurs (and yours
truly) roamed the planet which was young and fresh, and every idea worth
fighting for was a new one, we all dialed up to connect with university
mainframes and hence weren't using IRC clients with multiple panes in which we
could (Shift+)F6 and use context menus.  :-)

Looked up some old school commands (and verified they worked in Pidgin):

If you do /msg foo you will send a private message to foo.  It won't open a new
tab in Pidgin for you, but it will for foo.  If foo doesn't ignore you,
whatever he/she replies initially will cause a new tab to open for you.

If you instead do /query foo you will create a new tab for a private
conversation with foo.  Then you can type your initial message.

Because Pidgin supports Tab completion of nicks, if the only person in
#whatever whose nick starts with 'f' is foo, you can do /msg f <Tab> or /query
f <Tab> and you don't even have to type out f o o.

You know, I may start using these commands again....

The preferences dialog, or Customizing the GAIM/Pidgin experience

The preferences dialog allows you to customize many aspects of the GAIM/Pidgin experience. It can be accessed by pressing the preferences button off the GAIM/Pidgin login window. This dialog contains numerous options, which are broken down into categories. Select the option category you would like to change by navigating the tree table, and then use the tab key to cycle through the options in that category.

For example, one option in particular that you may wish to toggle is whether time stamps should be displayed as part of message text. This option is enabled by default, but can quickly become annoying.+ To disable time stamps, from the tree table in the preferences interface, navigate to the conversations item. If this item is collapsed, use the plus key to expand it. After doing so, down arrow once. This should put you on the message text tree item. From here, tab once, and you will be on the option to toggle time stamps. Press the space bar to uncheck the box, and then press the close button.

Other tips and tricks

1. If your buddy list has disappeared...

With versions of GAIM/Pidgin prior to 2.0 beta 6 as well as with some versions of Pidgin, pressing Alt F4 causes the GAIM/Pidgin window to be minimized to the Notification Area. Because GAIM/Pidgin remembers the last state of your buddy list, the next time you launch GAIM/Pidgin it will be minimized. Assuming you are using GAIM 2.0 beta 3.1 or earlier making the following changes should eliminate this problem:

  1. You will have a folder called .gaim (.purple for some versions of pidgin) in your home directory. In it there is a file called prefs.xml. Open it in your favorite text editor and locate this line: <pref name="list_visible" type="bool" value="0"/> Replace the 0 with a 1.

  2. The next time GAIM/Pidgin is launched, the buddy list should be visible and you can perform the next step:
    1. For GAIM. (For Pidgin see below) Go to the Tools menu and select Plugins. Towards the bottom of the list you should find something called "System Tray Icon". This is checked by default. Uncheck it. This is the setting responsible for Alt F4 minimizing the buddy list.
    2. For Pidgin (H have 2.2.1-1ubuntu4.1), go to tools->preferences aand in the "interface" tab. Select "Never" in the list box for "Show system tray icon".

Alternatively, you should be able to use Orca flat review commands (described above) on the top panel to get at the icon and use a context menu to restore the buddy list. Unfortunately, that icon is not labeled which makes it a sort of hit-or-miss proposition.

2. pidgin-facebookchat issues

The pidgin-facebookchat plugin causes serious issues with performance. Don't use it.

The information on this page and the other Orca-related pages on this site are distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

Projects/Orca/GAIM (last edited 2013-12-28 19:21:26 by WilliamJonMcCann)