The best chat software for Linux, macOS and Windows isn’t Slack

Everyone chats. Everyone chats with different apps and services. But which is the best? You might be surprised at the conclusion Jack Wallen draws.

Fingers typing on a tablet

Image: Natali _ Mis/Shutterstock

Finding the best chat software is a complicated mess. Why? Because everyone and every company uses a different service for team collaboration, messaging and even chatting with clients/customers. Some use Slack, others use Hangouts or Microsoft Teams. You might prefer Android Messages or iMessage. What about Twitter or Facebook messages?

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Do you see where I’m going with this? Chat runs the gamut of services and platforms. So, when I was asked to decide on what chat software was the best option for Linux, macOS, and Windows, I had to take a different approach … one that could please everyone. I certainly couldn’t say Slack was the best tool for chatting when not everyone uses the service. And although Twitter and Facebook direct messaging tools don’t really fall under the “chat” category, many use them for that purpose.

So you see why this gets a bit complicated?

Even so, there’s a way around that mess, one that was brought about by my own personal frustration with the number of different platforms I have to deal with. Currently, I have friends, family, and clients who use:

  • Facebook Messenger
  • Twitter DMs
  • Google Hangouts
  • Slack
  • Android Messages

Throughout the day, I either have to keep all of those apps open or remember to go back and check them with some level of regularity (otherwise I could miss important messages). After a while, that became quite frustrating. I already keep enough tabs open in Firefox to confuse most desktop users, so the last thing I needed was to add five more tabs to my daily routine. My goal has always been to work smarter, not harder. 

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That led me down a singular rabbit hole—one with the hopes to simplify my daily chat interaction. This chase very quickly became about finding one app to rule them all. In the end, I remembered I’d already installed the holy grail of chat curation tools. That tool is Franz.

Franz is a free messaging app that supports:

  • WhatsApp
  • Messenger
  • Slack
  • Skype
  • Gmail
  • Telegram
  • Android Messages
  • Google Calendar
  • Discord
  • Hangouts
  • LinkedIn
  • TweetDeck
  • Trello
  • Microsoft 365/Outlook
  • Google Keep
  • Hangouts Chat

Chances are pretty good if you have a chat service you depend on, Franz has you covered. But beyond its ability to host numerous chat services (and you can add as many services as you need), Franz is just plain simple to use. Once installed, you add whatever service you need to use and then access that service from the left sidebar (Figure A).

Figure A

franza.jpg

The Franz interface makes dealing with numerous chat services incredibly simple.

With Franz, I can easily interact with every chat service I need, all from the ease and comfort of a single desktop application. The one caveat is that Franz deals with some of these services (such as Google Hangouts and Twitter) as if it were viewing the full webpage for each. So, instead of Twitter, you get Tweetdeck. Instead of a Google Hangouts app-like interface, you’re treated to the full-blown Hangouts web interface. As for Slack, Franz displays this service almost identically to that of the Slack app. That’s fine, because it all still works and works very well. 

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For me, the reason Franz takes this prize (and has become my go-to interface for chat) is that it allows me to curate all of the chat apps and services I use into one easy-to-use interface. And because it’s reliable with every service I require, it beats out a lot of the competition trying to do the same thing. So, instead of having to scramble around for a web browser tab matching the notification I just received (so I can quickly reply to the message in question), I simply go to Franz, check for which service has the new message, click on that service and respond. 

The icing on the cake is that, because some services are displayed as full websites (such as Twitter), I can do more than just chat.

If you’re like me, and you depend on numerous chat sites and services, do yourself a favor and stop dedicating individual browser tabs and desktop real estate to various chats. Collect them all into one handy application and be done with the clutter and confusion. You’ll find your chats better organized and your day less chaotic.

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