What you probably already knew about iChat
Back in July of 2002, Apple released a major update to their operating system taking it to version 10.2 and with it a slew of new applications and interface changes.One such application that came free with the new OS was iChat – an instant messenger much like AOL’s AIM – but with an Apple sense of style and coolness. IChat allows you to chat with others using your AIM, AOL or .Mac accounts and is the first third party messenger AOL has officially allowed onto their networks. Rendezvous, Apple’s zero configuration network technology, is also built into iChat allowing users to chat on their local network.
Since it’s release I have dropped my AOL Instant Messenger in favor of Apple’s iChat, not because of feature-to-feature comparison, but because of the experience Apple brings to my computing. IChat integrates so well with my other applications that it makes communicating with others easy and fun. For example, when you add a user to your Buddy List, they are also added to your Address Book, keeping both your lists neat and tidy.
Setting up iChat
You have your choice of accounts when first setting up iChat, you can use your AOL, AIM or .Mac account. Of the three accounts, the AIM account is the most trouble-free to use and is the only one that's free. So if you don't have an account on any of these, AIM is the way to go for sure. IChat itself has no simple way of helping you get this type of account, it only offers setting up a .Mac account, but it's as simple as moseying on over to AIM's screen name setup page and registering a new screen name.
Once you have your screen name, setup your new account in the Preferences dialog, from the iChat menu. Check any options you'd like to turn on, such as auto login, menu bar status and status shapes. Then once again from the iChat menu, choose Log Into AIM. If you already had an existing AIM account, then your buddy list should be present otherwise you will need to find some.
If you have a .Mac account, the setup procedure is the same, just make sure you use your entire email address as your screen name. Buddies will see your name listed as your .Mac address. Above I mentioned AIM being the most trouble-free account, there are a few reasons for this. I have had login problems when logging in with .Mac account, I have experienced disconnection, unable to login errors, and sometimes users with full AOL accounts not available in my buddy list or vice versa.
There are some issues with the version of AIM with support for .Mac addresses. If you want to chat with .Mac users from AIM or setup a .Mac account using AIM, you should be using version 4.5 for Mac or 5.1 for PC. If your AIM buddy hasn't updated to at least AIM 5.1, you won't be able to chat with them using iChat
You can download iChat here (Mac only).
Rich Testani is our resident Mac guru. He's been using Macs since the first generation PowerMac and AOL 2.5. Rich is an illustrator and designer for Big Enough Clothes, and also runs the Mac-related Apple-Sauce web site.