Chapter 21. iChat
Somewhere between email and the telephone lies a unique communication tool
calledinstant messaging. Plenty of instant messenger programs run on the Mac, but guess
what? You don't really need any of them. Mac OS X comes with its very own instant
messenger program called iChat, built right into the system and ready to connect to your
friends on the AIM, Jabber, or Google Talk networks.
To start up iChat, go to Applications iChat, or just click iChat's Dock icon. It looks
like a blue speech balloon with a camcorder inside, which is a clue to one of iChat's best
and most substantially beefed-up Leopard features: live video chats over the Internet.
This chapter covers how to use iChat to communicate by video, audio, and text with your
21.1. Welcome to iChat
iChat does five things very well:
• Instant messaging. If you don't know what instant messaging is, there's a teenager
near you who does.
It's like live email. You type messages in a chat window, in real time, and your
friends type replies back to you. Instant messaging combines the privacy of email
and the immediacy of the phone.
In this regard, iChat is a lot like AOL's popular Instant Messenger (AIM) and
Buddy Chats. In fact, iChat lets you type back and forth with any of AIM's 150
million members, which is a huge advantage. (It speaks the same "chat" language
as AIM.) But iChat's visual design is pure Apple.
• Free long distance. If your Mac has a microphone, and so does your buddy, the
two of you can also chatout loud, using the Internet as a free long-distance phone.
Wait, not just the two of you—the10 of you, thanks to iChat's party-line feature.
• Free videoconferencing. iChat's old name was iChat AV, where AV stood for
audio-video. In Leopard, the program is just called iChat, but its multimedia
heritage remains. If you and your buddies each have broadband Internet
connections and a camera—like the one built into many Mac models or even a
digital camcorder—up to four participants can join in video chats, all onscreen at
once, no matter where they happen to be in the world. This arrangement is a jaw-
dropping visual stunt that can bring distant collaborators face-to-face without
plane tickets—and it costs about $99,900 less than professional videoconferencing
• File transfers. Got an album of high-quality photos or a giant presentation file
that's too big to send by email? Forget about using some online file-transfer
service or networked server; you can drag that Filezilla directly to your buddy's
Mac, through iChat, for a direct machine-to-machine transfer. (It lands in your
• Presentations. You can open up most kinds of documents, at nearly full size, to
show your video buddy, right there in the iChat window, without actually having
to transfer it. That's a new feature called iChat Theater.