Linux Soft Phone Roundup

By | November 12, 2010

I’ve been working heavily with VoIP for the last couple of years, and every few months I find myself looking at SIP soft phones again.  I haven’t really used them at all under Linux in a long time because none of them quite fit my needs or are as good as the ones available under Windows.  Because of this, and the fact that I do 99% of my work under Linux, I’ve got 8 SIP phones, 3 ATA’s and 2 regular phones sitting on my desk right now.  This makes for quite a bit of clutter.

As I said, every few months I look again to see how the various soft phones have progressed.  The projects I’ve been working on the for the last few weeks would have gone much easier if I had a soft phone that would have suited my needs.  Make a minor software tweak, dial from one phone on my desk to another, wait 10 seconds, repeat 30 or 40 times in the average day depending on what I was testing.

This is a rather big posting, so it has been split into multiple pages.  Click the Read More link below to get to the actual roundup.

I’ve got my faithful X-Lite running on the Windows machine, but that, too is a bit of a pain because its not running on my primary machine and I have to shift focus just like I do with a hard phone.  So that doesn’t really give me much of an advantage.  I know that there is a version for Linux, but its interface doesn’t really fit in well under my Gnome or XFCE desktop environments.  I’m currently running 64-bit Ubuntu 10.10, so it needs to run there as well.

So this week I decided to look again at what was available under Linux.  Here are the requirements I had:

  • Must work reliably in my environment.  I know this seems like a no-brainer, but its important.  When I call it, it needs to ring.  When I answer, I need to have two way audio through my firewall.  When I make a call, it needs to go through.  I don’t need to chase down problems with my SIP system if the problem really lies with the soft phone
  • A usable interface
  • Able to support multiple SIP accounts
  • Stay out of my way when its not active and not take up 1/3rd of my screen when it is active
  • Easy to access and make or answer calls
  • Multiple audio profiles, at least two — one for “speaker phone” and one for “handset or headset”
  • Ability to assign global hot keys to answer calls
  • Video support would be nice, but not required

Doesn’t sound like too much, right?  Unfortunately it seems that it is.  So here are the packages I looked at:

This list is by no means exhaustive of all the soft phones that are available, but these are probably the most used and most well developed of them all.  The notable exception to that being Empathy.  Its relatively new as far as soft phones go, but it is now the default messenger and communications client in Ubuntu and Gnome so I thought I would include it in the list.

There isn’t a single of them that fits my needs perfectly.  I’ll list each of them individually and hopefully cover some of the strengths and weaknesses of each of them and why I chose to use one over the other.

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