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I don't want to see the groups at all in Empathy. Instead I just want to see a flat list of contacts just like I can in Adium. Is this possible?

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OP are you still looking for an answer? If so, you may need to repost your question as this is flagged for closure. Regards, – Ringtail Mar 25 '12 at 18:41

Open the terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install dconf-tools



Browse according to this list:

  • org
    • gnome
      • empathy
        • ui

Unpick show-groups.

Dconf Editor - Empathy's page

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working solution, thanks, although I'm baffled that this is not exposed in the empathy preferences UI or so... – Christoph Aug 4 '12 at 12:53
Agreed, that's just insane. – That Brazilian Guy Dec 21 '12 at 11:34

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