XFire is one of the handiest pieces of software on my computer. The main function of it is to have a useful messaging tool that you and your gaming friends can use.
The main feature of Xfire is the in-game chat. This means that instead of having to alt-tab games whenever you get an MSN message, you can just press a button combination if your choice, and all messages you have recieved pop up. Not only does Xfire have an in-game text chat but you can use VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) to have realtime voice conversations.
Most games that you have installed on your computer, the list is vast, should be recognised by Xfire. This allows you to have the in-game chat funciton and much more. With Xfire installed you can launch games straight from the main window. While you are playing a game it will show your friends what game you are playing, and if you are playing online will let them join straight into the same server as you. With a game installed, Xfire will automatically find and download the newest updates ready for you to install.
The in-game chat is not the only function Xfire has for you in game. A new feature of Xfire is an in-game web browser. This does not have full functionality, but is useful for just quickly visiting websites. You can also take screenshots and take videos of your in-game action. These can then be uploaded to your Xfire profile to show all your friends. You can also broadcast to your friends or just to anyone on Xfire. This means that you can send a live video of your game to anyone in the world.
If you are a gamer you need this software!
XFire rocks. There, that's it, that's all I can say. No, seriously...
Ok, so you want some more detail? XFire is an Instant Messaging program with all the features of your average one (contact list, history, file transfers) - a bit like MSN, ICQ, AOL Instant Messenger, or Yahoo Messanger. The difference is, it is aimed at gamers.
XFire does a number of nifty things. The most obvious is that when you log into a game, if XFire recognises the game (and it recognises almost all modern games, and quite a lot of older ones too) it will show up at the bottom of its window that you are playing it. If you have allowed it in the options, it will also show everyone who has you on their contact list that you are playing that game too.
The aim of XFire is to help you find people to play games with, (or against :) ) - When you look at your contact list, you can see the current status of everyone on it (AFK, Offline, Idle, Playing whatever game). For certain multiplayer games you can right click on the name of a person and join the game - it will automatically log you in and join the right server for you.
If you have the option turned on, you can see people online who are 'friends of your friends', and they can see you too. You can disable this if you don't want strangers seeing you online, but I leave it on out of curiousity. It's actually quite useful sometimes if you are looking for people who play a game that most of your immediate friends don't like.
XFire has a nice feature called, cleverly 'XFire In Game' which allows you to send instant messages from within a game without the annoying tab out / change window hassle you get with other messaging programs. It doesn't support this for every game, but the web site has a list of games that support this feature, and it is pretty impressive. (You can look at the list of games, and what is supported for each of them, here: http://www.xfire.com/xf/modules.php?name=XFire&file=games )
The thing that really appeals to me though, is the feature that keeps track of how long you spend in a game. This ties in to a profile picture that you can put on your web site, or in your signature for various forums. The profile shows the game you are currently in, the game you have played most in the last 7 days, how many hours you spent in that game in that time, and then the same again for the game you have played most since joining XFire.
So far, its identified every single game I've played, except for games that are brand new out, and have came out on the same day everywhere (if a game has been out a few days in the US before coming out over here, the chances are XFire will already know about it) and one game that runs in Windowed mode - Dark Age of Camelot. Its not the windowed mode in general it doesn't like, since it can see Star Wars Galaxies when that is played in windowed mode - it seems to be something about the way Camelot handles it. If I play Camelot in fullscreen it can understand it though.
If someone visits your profile, they can see the statistics for all the games you have ever played. This makes for quite interesting, and sometimes scary, viewing. The site also has statistics for which game has had the largest amount of time spent in it on that day by ALL of its users. The collective amount of time wasting is amazing!
XFire isn't just an instant messaging program however, it allows you to keep track of your favourite game servers and their current online status, and it also has a file system a bit like FilePlanet where you can sign up to various 'channels' and download files from them automatically. If you don't want every file from a channel you can just request the ones you want when you want them, but if you are lazy the channel subscription service can be handy.
The files on offer are mostly patches for games, but you can also get game demos, free trials of online games, and player made videos.
You can set up options to restrict the speed you download games at during different circumstances. It seems they assume you have a slow connection because the default options are to disable downloading while you are in a game, and then download at 30K when you are at your computer but not in a game, and 60K when you aren't using your computer.
Like most instant messaging programs these days, XFire is skinable - there are skins available from the official site, and also several user-ran sites that offer them. I don't like most of the skins myself, but there are several to choose from, plus some good tutorials to help you make your own if that is the kind of thing that you are into. There is also a busy forum for XFire where you should be able to get help if you need any.
I now run several instant messaging programs as not all of my contacts are gamers, so some of them don't want to convert over to XFire. I have found that it is a very stable program and it doesn't use very much memory or processor time. I leave it running 24/7 and it hasn't crashed yet. It also didn't require any major changes to my firewall or router configuration, unlike some of the 'universal' clients that attempt to replace things like ICQ and MSN.
Its not often I rave over something, but I really do love this. I put it on to keep in touch with friends in a guild that all but broke up after they all left one game to play different ones, and I'm really impressed with it.
I highly, highly recommend XFire to anyone who plays multiplayer games of any kind, or even just people who play single player games but who want a 'games friendly' client.