If you want to encrypt your IM conversations you can install and use Gaim. This open source application uses public/private key pairs to scramble each message that it sends to your recipient, as well as it will then de-scrambles that message and display it for you. If the recipient does not have the Gaim plugin installed, he/she will receive a message explaining that the text is encrypted.
Naturally all these routines work in background and do not require any kind of effort on your part - save of course the initial encrypting (just click on the lock icon).
Gaim works on Windows/Mac/Linux/OS portable, its latest stable version is 1.5. Be warned that Gaim IM security is not 100% foolproof, albeit it is certainly an easy way to obscure your sensitive conversations.
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