Thoughts of a geek

31 August 2007

A brief review of SIP clients

Filed under: Computers — qwandor @ 10:28 pm

Here I give a brief comparison of a number of SIP clients I have tried. All will run under GNU/Linux; some also run under other operating systems.

Ekiga is a GTK based client, previously known as GnomeMeeting. As well as SIP, it supports H.323, the protocol used by Microsoft NetMeeting. It has an addressbook (which apparently integrates with Evolution), but no contact list (i.e. presence information) as such. The addressbook can also search in LDAP directories. It can login to multiple SIP accounts at once, with one set as the default. As well as voice calls, it also supports video and text, though the text chat is not terrible nice (it does not pop up if someone messages you — you have to open the chat window yourself).

Twinkle is a Qt3 based client. It only supports SIP. Like Ekiga, it can login to multiple accounts at once, but it handles this slightly better in that it allows to select which account to use when making a call, rather than having to change the default like Ekiga. It can look up SIP addresses in the KDE address book, but does not provide any way to edit or add contacts. It does not have a contact list with presence information, though the latest version (1.1, not yet in Debian testing) does have this. It takes up a significant part of the main window with a log of what has happened. This would be better relegated to the status bar and a separate window. The DTMF keypad is in a separate window, which can be opened by a toolbar button. Personally, I would prefer this to be in the main window, though perhaps hidable. It does not appear to support video or text chat; apparently the latest version does support text chat. It seems to have quite sophisticated options for call redirection. It also has two ‘lines’, to allow you to put one call on hold to take or make another. It also apparently allows you to join two calls together, to host a 3-way conference call.

WengoPhone (a.k.a. OpenWengo) is a Qt4 client designed primarily for the WengoPhone service. You can still use it with another SIP service, but a few of the features will be unavailable. It only allows to connect to a single SIP service at once, but also allows you to connect to multiple IM services, including MSN messenger, AIM, ICQ, Yahoo messenger and Jabber (e.g. Google Talk). It does not appear to support voice calls through these IM services, however. It has a contact list with presence information, and contacts can be associated with multiple SIP and IM addresses, as well as PSTN phone numbers. Annoyingly, there seems to be no way to hide offline contacts, which can be a pain if you have more than a small list of contacts. It supports video and text chat in addition to voice.

Kphone is a Qt3 client. It (at least version 4.2, the latest in Debian) tends to freeze often, sometimes locking up the keyboard and mouse and so affecting other programs as well. It only allows to login to a single SIP account. It has a basic addressbook, including a contacts list shown in the main window. It is not clear whether this is supposed to show presence information. It allows video and text chat, but the interface is not very nice.

Linphone is a GTK based client. It supports logging in to multiple SIP accounts, and allows to choose which one to call through. It has a basic address book, and a contact list with presence information. It has a DTMF keypad in a tab in the main window. It supports text chat, though the interface is not very nice. It supports video, which is shown in a separate window which will not close once it is opened.

Overall, I think my favourite is Twinkle, though Ekiga and Linphone are reasonable options for those who prefer GTK, and WengoPhone is a good choice if you only want to use one SIP service (especially if that service is WengoPhone) and also want a multiprotocol IM client.

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