After much waiting, Cerulean Studios released a public beta [to the tune of a few thousand downloads] of the IM client Trillian Astra. This application is a much needed update to the Trillian application that we all came to know and love. The Great Wait lasted for quite a bit of time, as the regular version [3.1] was not very Vista friendly and featured a very bland user interface. The new Astra retains many features of the old Trillian IM client, but also adds support for more IM based applications in order to stay in tune with the times.

Trillian intends to conquer all the IM market - combining conventional IM clients with social networks is the ultimate ticket to ride.Up until now, because of all the issues between Vista and Trillian, you were forced to go to other applications such as Pidgin [formerly known as GAIM]. And those programs limited the user even more than Trillian did, and did not look nearly as visually appealing.

Most noticeable change of Trillian Astra is the overall shape and design of the program as it has smoother edges and a very friendly light blue dark blue color scheme. The controls are also fairly similar to those of the other Trillian versions but the placement is slightly different and maybe even better. Another thing that has changed over the older Trillian version is that now, the application appears to look more like Apple’s iChat in a way that your messages, and the messages of the person who is replying are no longer on top of each other, but rather separated by left and right columns that are then stacked based on how your messages are timed and the other person’s messages are timed.

The newly supported applications added to Trillian Astra increase the usability of the application. There is now support for social networking programs such as Facebook and Twitter as well as MySpace IM. There is also now support for Skype, which to me, was quite surprising as Cerulean Studios seems to have left no stone unturned. Simply going to the official Trillian site will point you in the right direction to sign up for this new beta as well as see what the application looks like and explore the features of this new version before you test it out.

There is a downside, though. We noticed  that there were quite a few bugs and crashes of this program, but as it is a beta – that can be expected. And to add to all of that they have also created an alpha version of its iPhone app that allows you to manage all of your instant messaging applications from the comfort of your own home. Remember, that this application is in alpha stage, so any installations you intend to perform – do so at your own risk.