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Ask the MACist -- IM on the Mac

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Welcome to the latest edition of 'Ask the MACist', the column where I answer your Macintosh and other technology questions. Our question this week comes from Alexa in Beverly Hills. She asks: I know the Mac comes with iChat but is there anything else I can use for IM that lets me use other accounts besides .Mac?

When you decide you want to explore the world of Instant Messaging on your Mac, you are not necessarily locked into using Apple'siChat program that comes with every Mac and is part of OSX. While iChat is an ok program that offers several features including video chat and encrypted chat sessions, if you don't use Apple's .Mac or have an AOL instant messenger account, iChat won't work for you.

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If you are a user of Yahoo, MSN, Google Talk, Jabber and/or AIM (or any combo of those), you will need a program that allows you to use some, or all, of these services to IM with your buddies on whatever system they happen to be on. Of course, you could just use the software available for each of these IM systems as each offers a Mac version.

But really, why bother with that? That's just too much trouble. Instead, choose a program that allows you to use an IM account from pretty much any of the popular IM systems including AIM, Yahoo, MSN and GTalk. What is this miraculous program? It's called Adium and its pretty cool. Oh, and its also completely free.

Adium allows you to include accounts from all the popular systems and chat with your buddies across those systems. For example, I have IM accounts with all the most popuar systems because you never know who a friend or client might be using. So, by using Adium I can be signed in to all of the services at the same time and can respond to IM conversations from buddies using AIM, Yahoo, MSN or whatever they happen to be using. Its a great way to make sure people can find you and as a benefit uses far fewer system resources than having four (or more) seperate programs open at the same time.

Unfortunately, as useful and feature-rich as it is, Adium doesn't do everything. If you want to Video Chat, for example, you will have to use something else such as Apple's iChat or even Skype to do that. So, in the end, what I usually end up doing is having both Adium and iChat open if I know I'm going to need to do some video chatting. If I don't think that's going to be necessary, then I just use Adium by itself.

Ok, that's it for this week's 'Ask the MACist.' But remember, if you have a question about anything Mac, Mac-related, or even something about other tech like TiVo, Blackberry or even Windows, send it to me, The MACist, at: themacist at gmail dot com.

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