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!


  • Jai

    I just found your website yesterday and started subscribing to it purely because it seemed well designed and easy to use for a relatively new Mac user such as myself. After reading this article I’m am so glad I started subscribing now. This is exactly what I was looking for!!

    Thank you!!

  • http://www.kieru.com Rob

    The one reason I currently use Adium over iChat is multiple-account logins through the same protocol. I have two AIM accounts; one for personal use and one for client work; and I prefer not to clutter my screen with multiple buddy list windows.

    The last time I loaded iChat it insisted on using separate windows for each AIM instance; where Adium was intelligent enough to combine it with the rest of my lists. I really wish Apple would take a look at what some 3rd party developers are doing with instant messaging and update iChat to be a little more robust and a bit more supportive of other platforms without the use of Jabber as a middleman.

    • http://www.firelabstudio.com Aaron Bazinet

      You can use Chax (http://ksuther.com/chax/) to merge all windows into one. It has some other cool features too, and it’s free, donations requested.

    • http://twitter.com/kaypearl Kay

      Ever since Adium and MSN have been butting heads, I gave up and switched over to iChat using this Jabber method.

  • http://creativeexit.wordpress.com Haley C

    Great post! I love the versatility of iChat. I have many add ons and use it as my primary chat for a bunch of different clients. You can also use “Chax” to compact all of your contacts into one friend window.

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  • http://www.firelabstudio.com Aaron Bazinet

    Thanks for this tutorial. I’ve been wanting iChat to be able to do this for a long time, and have been using Adium while at work for people on MSN and AIM. I’m going to give this a shot.

  • http://iamoneman.com Paul Davis

    Works for me. Thanks!

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  • Evan

    This is great. Are there any Jabber services that support Facebook chat? That’s the only thing keeping me on Adium, as I’d love to have a Cocoa chat client but can’t give up my Facebook addiction.

    • http://twitter.com/kaypearl Kay

      You wanna try http://www.gabtastik.com/GabtastikMac.html for Facebook chat.

      It also supports Meebo so that you can sign to Yahoo, GTalk, MSN, etc.

      Although, it supports MSN as a standalone thing, too.

  • http://john.onolan.org JohnONolan

    Already commented on this once before: I do not subscribe to this blog to read about OSX features or built in apps. Will unsubscribe if this keeps up…

    • http://davidappleyard.net David Appleyard

      Sorry to hear that John – We do our best to feature a healthy mix of both third party apps and OS X features (some people still aren’t sure of the basics!).

      When we do cover OS X features we aim to add something unique, such as the Psi system in this case, or Hyperspaces in our previous Spaces post.

    • DigitalMonkey

      Then please unsubscribe. I did not come here to read comments like yours. I have read your first complaint a while ago. It is very annoying and childish (like your avatar). Do you notice that you are the only one that complains about this? Almost all people found this site very helpful including myself.

  • Jeroen

    I get the warning that the server is ‘Certificate self-signed’. Is it wise to continue or should I use a different one?

    • http://www.cuby.co.nr Henry Bennett

      Hi Jeroen. With the vairous jabber transports that I have tried, I have come across this sometimes. I have always just continued anyway, and it’s been fine for me, but you may wish to just run a quick Google search on the server name to check out for any dodgy information.

  • gforce

    Not working for me…

  • Carlos Vargas

    I successfully configured the xmpp server and I’m using MSN in iChat, but unfortunelly the it doesn’t show any buddy icons. Is there a way to fix this?

  • Vivian

    hey, bro. your last part has a small, but significant typo. When you’re talking about configuring ichat, you stated your user name as “[email protected]”. That’s not a proper server – you’re referring to “[email protected]”, i think. cheers.

    • http://www.cuby.co.nr Cuby

      Hi Vivian. Thanks for pointing that out, you’re right. If anyone else is having difficulties with this, make sure you have typed in the name of the jabber transport correctly.
      Cheers

  • Chester

    I’ve been trying to follow the instructions since yesterday, but at the point where I’m using Psi to register my account with xmpp.ws the application seems to hang. Well, not hang in the sense that the app is locked up. It’s rather that there’s no response from xmpp.ws. I have tried it with different account names but it doesn’t work. I also tried using a different server but had the same result. Am I just not letting it go long enough? More than 5 minutes seems excessive.

    • Chester

      Well, I just kept trying servers in the list until I found one that worked … neko.im.

  • http://www.pnetzer.de Philipp

    Working fine for MSN, but there are no biddy icons and ichat shows the contacts email adresses instead of the nicknames, any suggentions?

    • http://www.cuby.co.nr Henry Bennett

      Philipp, I’m not sure what to do about the buddy icons… perhaps just xmpp.ws doesn’t support it?

      For displaying names instead of email addresses though, in iChat just right click on the contact, and then choose ‘Show Info’. In here you can choose an address card from your address book for them, or just type in their names. You can also add your own picture for them from here if you like.

      Hope that helps.

  • http://www.chetiboy.com Chet

    Okay so I did it.

    But, I realize whenever I “label” my contacts (like writing they’re real names instead of their yahoo IDs, entries are added to my address book, which of course poses a problem, because my addressbook entries sync with my iPhone.

    I wonder though, how can I prevent iChat saving contact info in Address Book? and is it even possible?

  • Marius

    I’ve managed to make it work for a Yahoo account. BUT i have no webcam, no file transfer so i’ll wait till a better version of iChat. Many thanks for your tutorial.

  • fidel

    cool!!!!thanx!!!!!

  • Odessa

    Hi, i got problems in mounting it. it sez error in creating profile. What should i do?

  • Anita

    Hi there,

    I tried to set up iChat using your above instructions. However, when I get to the Service Discovery part, it doesn’t show a list with transports. I have tried it with the address being jabber.org and xmpp.ws (as shown in your screenshot) and jabber.freenet.de (as suggested on some other website) but unfortunately no Transports are being shown.

    I would appreciate your assistance.

    Greetings from Anita, the Netherlands

    • Nina

      Anita, That happens to me the same. I get the to bit where you have to select Service Discovery part and there is nothing to select.

      I too would like to know how to proceed.

      • Rohaq

        Are you guys using your apple account, or a jabber account elsewhere? Different domains need to be set up for protocols, or transport services won’t let you view or register their services.

  • http://www.chetiboy.com Chet

    will PSI work on Snow Leopard?
    will this tip still work with Snow Leopard?

    • http://www.cuby.co.nr Henry Bennett

      Chet, I see no reason why it shouldn’t… As long as PSI works with Snow Leopard which I am sure it would, then the rest of this set up is pretty much all online, so you just need iChat to continue to support Jabber which it does in Snow Leopard.

    • http://twitter.com/kaypearl Kay

      Yes, it does.

  • Ursula

    I can not set up an account, once a hit the next button in order to create a Jabber account shows up ERROR communicating with Jabber, server host not found. Any help is appreciated!!

  • http://twitter.com/kaypearl Kay

    Guys, when creating a new Jabber account, make sure to pick a server that has a high uptime.

    I use @jid.pl. Works totally fine.

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  • http://mybiteintoapple.com JD

    Thank you very much, I have searched forever on how to do this, and I have tried hundreds of times before, but this is the first time that it has actually worked. Thank you very much!

  • Tizzle Whoa

    Thanks this works great. I only have one question. How can I view the pics of my contacts (msn, aim, yahoo) instead of seeing the jabber lightbulbs?

    • Tiago Soares

      Have the same problem.

  • Sergio1983

    Do I have to execute the same process when I want to add a new buddy to my ichat buddy list?

  • Sergio1983

    For example, if I want to add someone new do I have to create another jabber account and look for a new jabber server and do all this again? Sorry for the dumb question I don’t know much about computers.

  • http://blog.naturadamus.com naturadamus

    Can you sign-in in various accounts at the same time?

  • Rico

    Anybody use chatmask.com? MSN works just fine and facebook chat worked fine the first time. I signed in again and now it doesn’t work anymore! Anybody have the same problem?

  • Paul

    I did all of the above, but if you want compatability with ever IM account just download
    PALRINGO works just perfect

    http://www.palringo.com/en/gb/

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  • Alvaro

    not working, please help. I followed the tutorial and everything went fine except for 2 things, 1st: the msn account won’t log in, iChat keeps trying but always ends up sending the message “disconnected” (desconectado my iChat is in spanish). And 2nd: even when it tries to get online, the msn account is shown on another iChat window, is this normal? I thought the whole point was to have only one contact list. Anyway, been waiting for this for a long time and I’d appreciate your help with this 2 issues. Thanks in advance!

  • Valerie

    OMG!
    Thank you so much for this post! It really rock ;-)
    V

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