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msn musicGaim is an open source instant messenger, which is compatible with AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, ICQ and more. A few months ago Steven Garrity told me they were looking for new event sounds and asked if I’d be interested in contributing something.

It sounded like a fun challenge and the work of Steven (and associates) helping with the design of Mozilla Firefox has been real intriguing to me. I like the idea of getting artists involved in the open source design process because the interface often gets neglected which drives away the users who don’t care how awesome it is under the hood.

Steven and I agreed on the requirements for good instant messenger sounds, and they’re fairly demanding: the sounds must be communicative, attention-grabbing and at the same time can’t get annoying after the user has heard them a thousand times. Tricky!

For a week or so I came up with sound ideas and Steven gave me a lot of helpful feedback. I’d tweak the sounds, throw a bunch out, and we’d go through them again. It was actually a lot more work than you’d expect for some tiny bleeps and boops. Here’s the sound pack we came up with:

I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. It was my first attempt at any sort of UI sound design and I think they balance sexiness and functionality pretty well — they get your attention but are mellow enough to keep from getting annoying too quickly.

A couple of weeks ago I wound up in the Gaim IRC channel and was told that the sounds have been committed to the Gaim 2.0 CVS, which means they should be the new default sounds for Gaim 2.0 whenever it’s released. So I’m pretty happy about that and thanks a lot to Steven for getting me involved in this project in the first place.

Also: by being included with Gaim the sounds are now under the GPL, I believe. So if you’re an open source developer and need some sounds, feel free to use them.

Update: Steven has posted a before and after of the Gaim sounds for y’all here.

Posted on - November 20, 2004 [at] 3:59 pm by Brad
Tagged in - , , ,

19 Comments on this post

Steven Garrity on Sounds for Gaim
November 20, 2004 at 4:37 pm

Thanks Brad – these are one step towards a better open-source desktop.

Jason on Sounds for Gaim
November 20, 2004 at 6:15 pm

wow great stuff. Gotta look into the Gaim thing. If it’s by the Mozilla guys then hell yeah :)

Thomas Sibley on Sounds for Gaim
November 21, 2004 at 12:37 am

It’s not by the Mozilla guys Jason, but it’s still one heck of a slick piece of software.

kaddar on Sounds for Gaim
November 21, 2004 at 4:26 am

Neat, I’ve been using gaim for the last two weeks, and I didn’t really like the current sounds. That’s awesome.

Reivec on Sounds for Gaim
November 21, 2004 at 4:59 am

freggin sweet. I have been using gaim for about 4 years now. I had actually already compiled the CVS and had the sounds before I read this post. Had no idea you made em. This really makes me want to finish my unified smiley theme I was working on. It was a smiley theme that included smileys from all protocals that all looked the same and were based on the GTK color palette. Only got like 14 done or so, still a ton left to do. I need to stop playing so many games ;)

Reivec on Sounds for Gaim
November 21, 2004 at 1:38 pm

Also, I would think the alert would be better if you looped it once or did something to make it more noticable. I use the alert sound to tell me if someone I need to talk to logged on and I am in another room. I need to be able to hear it in those cases.

Chris Messina on Sounds for Gaim
November 22, 2004 at 3:38 am

Hey Brad, Steven talked to me about this project when he visited me in San Francisco. I was really excited to hear what you might come up with and now that they’re out, wanted to extend the value of your work to the Adium community… This I created an Adium soundset using your sounds. Hope you don’t mind, but I think that they’re great!

jim on Sounds for Gaim
November 24, 2004 at 12:29 am

open source is so hot

Pete Prodoehl on Sounds for Gaim
November 30, 2004 at 4:08 pm

Reivec, you want the sound looped so it is more noticable? Perhaps this should be a preference to set in Gaim, or you could create a looped/longer version yourself and have Gaim use that?

barry on Sounds for Gaim
December 14, 2004 at 11:21 am

dude the link to the zip file is so broken! (In the meantime:

Mere Usability on Sounds for Gaim
January 3, 2005 at 11:31 am

Said it at Steven’s blog, too. Nice work! This is a great improvement!

jamesw on Sounds for Gaim
June 29, 2005 at 10:31 am

I think one of the biggest hassles with instant messaging is that it’s tied to the computer. If I’m away from the computer, like watching tv, I may miss an important IM. I can leave the speakers on the PC really loud, but then I’m always jumping up and running back to the PC to read an incoming IM in case it’s important. Most of the time it’s not. I can subscribe to a service with my cell phone—but that costs money. So here is (I think) the perfect solution, and a good GAIM plug-in that’s not too much work.

I just installed a Pluto Home system ( It’s a free, open source smarthome and media server. You put Bluetooth dongles on all the pc’s in your house, and then when you enter a room your Symbian Bluetooth phone turns into a remote control for everything in that room. It already tracks your movement—if you start listening to music in 1 room, your music will follow you as you move with your phone to another room. And it already sends messages to the phone based on events. For example, when the song changes, the cover art shown on my phone changes to show me what’s playing.

So that got me thinking… Why not make a GAIM plugin for pluto so that whenever I get an IM, I see it on my Bluetooth phone? That way I can either type a reply on the phone, or go back to the computer if I want to use the keyboard, or ignore it if it’s not important. And I’m not having to run back and forth to the computer to check IM. And it’s free since it uses Bluetooth! Plus, I think it’s such a real convenience it would be a great way to get people to switch to GAIM.

I talked to the programmers at Pluto and they said it would be really easy since their stuff is already written in small modules and plugins. However, since we’re all open source, we could also just take whatever pieces were useful and do something completely new using the same concept.

Many of the other GAIM projects listed are either specific for only some users (like Apple iChat), or would only be used by geeks (like the Perl interpreter). But not having to run back and forth to the computer is something everybody wants (imho). I don’t see how to recommend a new idea for GAIM, so I’ll just try the forums and hope somebody else likes it too.

Keith on Sounds for Gaim
October 5, 2005 at 6:07 am

Gaim is great.
I was looking for a messenger to use in Linux and I came across this and found out that in Linux or Windows it is simply great ;)

David Duncan on Sounds for Gaim
May 22, 2006 at 9:39 pm

I was really happy to stumble across your GAIM sounds today. I found them pleasant and ear-catching. You did a great job. Thank you for making them available. I hope you submit them to be included with the GAIM package.

Brad J on Sounds for Gaim
July 20, 2006 at 9:06 pm

Wow, i had no idea you made the sounds haha, thats kool… i’ve used gaim for a year or so now, and i loved the new 2.0.0 sounds. it’s neat i learned u made them.

Mitch on Sounds for Gaim
September 5, 2006 at 12:27 pm

I came accross your sound pack today. Thanks for the sounds! I’ve used them for a few days. I’ve found that they’re impossible to hear if I’m watching a movie or listening to music, however, they blend in too easily.

Izzy on Sounds for Gaim
January 15, 2007 at 12:13 am

All right…I have a really stupid question. If I have just installed Gaim on Linux, and I want to set up my sounds…how do I do that? I went to preferences and found the “Sound” section and everything, but I don’t know where sounds are located. Or what setting I should use…”ESD”? “Automatic”? “Arts”?

If anyone could help clear up my technological incompetence and explain this to me, thanks in advance….

Ed on Sounds for Gaim
February 6, 2007 at 1:37 pm

This will sound really lame, but I’d like to get more of that mystic gong xylophone sounds that are default in 2.0. Any links to that in an extended music format?

julie skye on Sounds for Gaim
May 20, 2011 at 11:13 am

no idea what ya’ll are talking about so I’m going to click the link to make me smarter.

Comments are closed on this post.