Using Multiple IM Protocols with iChat

How annoying is it when all of your friends use different types of instant messaging networks? Some use AIM, some MSN, Yahoo! – the list goes on. It can be a real nuisance to have multiple applications and windows open just to keep up the communication.

There are of course applications such as Adium to allow multiple accounts, however many Mac users prefer iChat’s simplistic interface (myself included). In this tutorial I will show you how to set up iChat so that you can keep all of your contacts in one simple window – whether they’re on AIM, MSN, Yahoo, or any other network.

Whilst this isn’t the simplest of tasks, once completed you should never have to worry about it again.

Setting up your Accounts

First of all, you’ll need to download another IM client called Psi. The reason for this is basically because iChat is incapable of using accounts other than MobileMe, Mac.com, AIM, Jabber, and Google Talk. However, more options can be enabled by using a Jabber ‘transport’, and running other accounts through this.

Don’t worry about the technicalities – it isn’t as complex as it sounds! Essentially PSI is a middle-man for iChat to connect to contacts on other networks.

Once downloaded, fire up Psi, and you should be asked if you’d like to register a new account, or use an existing one. For now, just click “Cancel”, and then in the menu bar click: ‘General -> Account Setup’, followed by the “Add” button. Where it asks you for a name, just type in anything you like. Now tick “Register new account” and then hit “Add”.

Adding a Psi Account

Adding a Psi Account

Psi will then ask you to enter the name of a Jabber server you’d like to use. There is a good list of some of them here which you can choose from, but you need to make sure that the one you choose allows the transports you’d like to use (eg. MSN, Yahoo!). I use ‘xmpp.ws’ because it has all of the different transports that I use.

Now hit the next button, and type a username and password for your new Jabber account. You should see a newly made account appear in the Psi window. Right click this, then select ‘Status -> Online’. Once logged in, a profile window will pop up. Type in your Full Name, and anything else you wish, and then hit “Publish”.

Once done, close that window, and right click your new Jabber account, selecting ‘Service Discovery’. In this window, you’ll see that there are lots of different transports listed, from which you can enable whichever you need. You will however need to already have an account of the one you’d like to enable.

For example, lets say you’d like to enable the MSN transport. Double click on ‘MSN Transport’, and then type in your email and password for your MSN account. Repeat this for any other transports you’d like to add.

Adding Transports

Adding Transports

You should notice that all your contacts from MSN and any other transports are added to this new Jabber account. If all looks good then we’re all done with Psi, so you should be able to close that up for good (cross fingers).

Psi with Accounts Added

Psi with Accounts Added

Configuring iChat

Ok, now fire up iChat, and in the menu bar click: Mail -> Preferences, and select the ‘Accounts’ tab. In the bottom left hand corner of this window, click the little plus button. This allows you to add a new iChat account.

Under ‘Account Type’, select ‘Jabber Account’. Then type in your account name. This is the name of the account you made while in Psi. So for example, if you registered with xxmp.ws, then you’re account name will be “[email protected]”. Type in your password and then just click Done.

Adding a Jabber Account in iChat

Adding a Jabber Account in iChat

Now, within the Account Information of your newly made account, make sure that both the first two check boxes are ticked and give your account a description.

Configuring Accounts

Configuring Accounts

Close the iChat Preferences, and now you should be able to log into this jabber account from iChat. Once logged in, you should find that all of your contacts from MSN, AIM, and any other networks are all located within this account, right within iChat!

Enjoy all your Contacts in iChat!

Enjoy all your Contacts in iChat!

Whilst this works very well on the most part, it should be noted that multi chats between some networks such as MSN can act a little oddly, and features such as video chatting and screen sharing are unlikely to work. With this in mind, it may sometimes be a good idea to have another account for just AIM so that if you need to access those extra features you can.

Conclusion

iChat is a great application, and integrates incredible well with OS X. Going through this process is fairly long-winded, but it is worth spending a few minutes to unleash the full capability of iChat.

Enjoy chatting to your new-found friends!