Managing Accounts in Pidgin

Instant Messaging Clients: Pidgin vs AIM - What's the difference?

One of the main differences between using AIM and Pidgin is that Pidgin can use different protocols to communicate with different accounts at the same time, including your OIT IM (Jabber/XMPP) account.

AIM is both an instant messaging client program and an instant messaging service run by America Online (AOL). The AIM client program (AOL Instant Messenger) is designed to work only with accounts that are registered with AOL and that use AOL's proprietary protocol to communicate. In contrast, Pidgin is an instant messaging client that can use many different services and protocols simultaneously.

The Pidgin software doesn't have its own associated instant messaging service, but allows people to connect to their accounts on different services that use a variety of different protocols. For example, some popular instant messaging services other than AIM include ICQ, Yahoo! Messenger, and Windows Live Messenger. OIT also runs UCI's own internal instant messaging service, which uses the Jabber/XMPP protocol. Using Pidgin, someone can connect to one or all of these accounts at the same time.

Why would I use multiple accounts in Pidgin?

Why would I want to use more than one account?

While Pidgin can be used to communicate with accounts using many different protocols, you will still need to use a different account for each protocol. If you were only logged in to your Jabber account, for example, you would not be able to talk to a patron or colleague who is only logged in to AIM. You would still need an AIM account, because that conversation would still be using the AIM service. If you want to communicate with people over three different services, you'll need three different accounts.

Also, different services offer different features. You may want to keep an AIM account, for example, for communicating with colleagues outside of UCI, but use the OIT Jabber/XMPP account for communicating with colleagues inside the libraries, due to the enhanced security features of the OIT account (see below).

What are the advantages of using Pidgin for these accounts?

The advantage of using all of these accounts in Pidgin is that Pidgin helps manage your accounts. Not only do you not have to keep a different program open for each account, but once you're logged in, you don't really have to think much about which account you're using to talk to whom.

For example, Pidgin:

  • Automatically compiles all of the buddy lists from your accounts into a single buddy list
  • Allows you to organize multiple accounts in your buddy list into a single contact entry
  • Automatically selects the correct protocol to use based on the account the other person in the conversation is using
  • Allows you to easily set the same status message for all of your accounts at once

What are the advantages of using the OIT IM account rather than an AIM account for internal communications?

UC Irvine has its own internal instant messaging service provided by Network Access and Computing Services (OIT).
This service uses the Jabber/XMPP protocol, and is free to use for all members of the UC Irvine community.
All accounts identify users by their UCInetID (

The OIT IM service provides several advantages for internal communications over other instant messaging services:
  • Internally Maintained
    The IM service runs on UCI servers and is maintained by OIT instead of by an outside company in another location.
  • Encryption
    Communications between the client software and the server are encrypted as they travel over the network. Many other services send communications in plain text.
  • Privacy
    In keeping with the University of California's Electronic Communications Policy, individual messages are not kept on the server after they are transmitted to the recipient(s) (although senders and recipients may still choose to keep a log of their conversations). Other services sometimes log communications on their servers.
  • User Identities are Verified
    The service authenticates users using each individual's pre-existing UCInetID and password. Screen names on most other services do not provide verification of user identity.

Like other major IM services, the OIT IM service also supports chat rooms, buddy lists with groups, and the ability to send messages to users who are not currently online. As a result, when possible, we encourage that you use the OIT IM service for internal communications, in keeping with the Guidelines on IM Use drafted by the ITMC.

For more details about the OIT IM service, see

How do I manage my accounts in Pidgin?

Checking which accounts are enabled

In most cases, your OIT IM account, [username] (XMPP), and your AIM account, UCILIB[username] (if applicable), will already be set up in Pidgin. You may have to re-enable one or both of these accounts, however, if you had difficulty logging in earlier.

First, make sure that your accounts are available in Pidgin.
You can do this by opening the Buddy List (by double-clicking on the Pidgin system tray icon once Pidgin is running) and going to the Accounts menu.

If your accounts are both enabled and logged in, you should be able to see two accounts listed in the menu, and the icons next to both accounts should be in full color. If the accounts are enabled, but not logged in, the icons will be grayed out. (See accompanying image.)
Accounts Status

If the enable menu shows up in the accounts menu, one or more of the accounts has been disabled. (See below) You will not be able to log into a disabled account until you enable it.

Accounts Disabled

If Pidgin has disabled the account due to an incorrect password or a problem connecting to the service, you will not be able to re-enable the account by clicking on the account name in the Enable menu. Instead, follow the troubleshooting instructions for a disconnected/unauthorized account.

If your standard accounts (the OIT IM Account and AIM account noted above) are not listed anywhere in the Accounts menu, please contact Library IT for assistance. We may be able to restore your standard accounts without having to re-enter all of the account information.

Disabling/Deleting Unused Accounts

If you have accounts in Pidgin that you do not want to log in to on a regular basis, you can temporarily disable them by going to the Buddy List window and choosing Accounts > [account name] > Disable.

Disable Account

If you want to remove an account from Pidgin completely, open the Accounts window by going to Accounts > Add/Edit, select the account you want to delete, and then click the Delete button.

Accounts Window

Adding and Editing Accounts

If you need to add or edit an account in Pidgin, open the Buddy List window and choose Accounts > Add/Edit.
This will open the Accounts window.

To edit an account, double-click on it, or select it and then click the Modify button, or,
To add an account, click the Add button.


From the Add Account window, you will first need to select the Protocol (e.g., XMPP or AIM) for the account.

For AIM accounts, you will only need to enter the screen name for the account and click Save. (see the image at right)

For the OIT Jabber account, you will need to select the XMPP protocol and enter data in the following fields:

Basics Tab
Screen Name: [your UCInetID]
Resource: Gaim
Advanced Tab
Connect Port : 5222
Connect Server:

Click Save. (see images below)

Add NACS basic Add NACS advanced

How does the Buddy List work with multiple accounts?

When you log into your accounts, Pidgin pulls your buddy lists from each account into a single local Buddy List on your machine.

Changes to your Buddy List(s) outside of Pidgin affect the Buddy List in Pidgin: when you make changes to your buddy list in a client (e.g., AIM) outside of Pidgin, those changes will be reflected in Pidgin the next time you log in.

Changes in Pidgin affect the server-side Buddy List(s) for your account(s): when you make changes to the Buddy List in Pidgin, Pidgin will copy those changes to the buddy list stored with the service for the relevant account. If you add buddies to your AIM account in Pidgin, for example, and then log out of Pidgin and into the AIM client, those buddies will show up in AIM.

Why can't I automatically see other people who are logged in to Pidgin?

Since Pidgin pulls in your buddy lists from the different services you use, you will only see people in your buddy list that you have added previously. If you have not already added people to the buddy list for your OIT Jabber account, for example, you will not see any Jabber accounts in your Buddy List. You will need to add these contacts before you can see them in your Buddy List.

Unfortunately, there is not currently a good way to import a buddy list (from another group or user) within Pidgin, but if you have another chat client (like AIM) that supports this feature for the service you are using, you can load a buddy list in the other client. Pidgin should be able to use the updated list the next time you log in.

If you have already added people to your buddy list, and they aren't showing up, please refer to the Troubleshooting section of this document.

I have contacts who also use multiple accounts. How do I consolidate my Buddy List?

Pidgin allows you to consolidate your Buddy List so you don't have to think about which account you are using to contact people on your Buddy List. This is done through aliases. For each contact you add to your Buddy List, Pidgin creates an alias. By default, the name of the alias is the same as the contact's screen name, but you can change the alias to read whatever you want (e.g., the contact's full name or nickname).

When you edit your Buddy List, you can consolidate multiple accounts for one person into a single alias by performing the following steps:

  • Locate the contacts you want to consolidate in your Buddy List.
  • Right-click on each contact name and select Expand (see below).
    The image on the right shows two expanded contacts:
    Expand Contact Expanded Contacts
    • Each contact shows a minus sign to the left of the alias name, and shows the accounts for the contact immediately below the alias.
    • Each account shows a protocol alias to the right, indicating which service the account uses.
  • To consolidate these accounts into a single contact, left-click on one of the accounts (not the alias, but the account with the protocol icon next to it) and drag the account into the other alias. You will know where the account is going by the location of the horizontal black line that appears behind the box for the account you are dragging.
    Consolidating Contacts

    After you let go of the account, the second alias will disappear, and both accounts will appear under the same alias.

    The order of the accounts under the alias will affect which account Pidgin tries to contact first. (See below.)

    Consolidated Contact
  • The alias for both accounts is now the same as the alias that you dragged the second account into.

    If you want to change the alias, right click on the alias name (not on the individual accounts), and select Alias... from the contextual menu.
    The alias name will now turn into a text box where you can type the nickname that you would prefer to appear in your buddy list for this contact.

      Rename Alias 1 Rename Alias 2
  • When you are all done, the collapsed alias should look like the image below.

    Collapsed Alias

    You should be able to see the alias name you gave the contact in the Buddy List.

    When you hover over the contact with your mouse, you should be able to see both accounts listed in the tooltip.

  • How do I control which account Pidgin contacts if a user is logged into both accounts at the same time?

    The order of the accounts underneath the alias determines which account gets priority in case both accounts are online. (See the image below.)

    Sample contact with two accounts

    In the example to the left, if the contact is using both an AIM account and a OIT Jabber account at the same time,

    • Pidgin will automatically choose to contact the OIT Jabber account instead of the AIM account, because the Jabber account is listed first.
    • If the Jabber account is offline, then Pidgin will contact the AIM account.

    If the accounts are not in the correct order, simply drag them into the correct position according to the instructions above.


    If you want to override these default priorities, simply use the Send To command from the Conversation window to select the account you want the message to go to.

    The Send To menu is the rightmost menu in the Conversation window. It includes options for each of the accounts assigned to the contact you are communicating with.  Each option shows a protocol icon to the left and the name of the account you will be using to contact the account on the right.

    The account you will be using to communicate with the contact is listed to the right of each destination account.

    The association between your account(s) and the destination account is determined when you add the contact to your buddy list, and is based on which buddy list the destination account belongs to.



    Some (or all) of my contacts do not show up in my Buddy List!

    There are several reasons why your contacts might not show up in your buddy list. To fix this problem, follow these steps:

  • Confirm that you are logged into the account for which you are missing contacts.
    You can do this by following the instructions for making sure your accounts are available in Pidgin; the relevant accounts should show up in the Accounts menu of the Buddy List window, and their icons should appear in full color if you are logged in.
    If the accounts are enabled, but you are not logged in:
    1. Go to Accounts > Add/Edit to open the Accounts Window
    2. Uncheck the Enabled box next to the account.
    3. Check the Enabled box again. Pidgin will prompt for your password, and you can close the Accounts Window after you log in.
  • Confirm that the Show Offline Buddies option in Buddies > Show Offline Buddies is checked.
  • Check to make sure that the buddy is not in a different group than you are expecting.
    There is currently a glitch wherein a buddy using AIM cannot show up in two buddy groups at once in the Pidgin Buddy List.
    This should not affect your AIM buddy list outside of Pidgin.
  • If none of these options work, try exiting and restarting Pidgin before logging back in again. If the buddies do not show up there, and you are sure you have already added those buddies for the account(s) you are using, please contact Library IT for assistance.