Adium – 6 Reasons to switch from iChat

Written by: Chris Christensen

Categories: Reviews

friends.pngWhen you received your new Mac it included iChat which you could use to connect to AOL’s Instant Messenger service. iChat is a fine application and particularly useful for video chats, but in this article I am going to try and talk you out of using it for normal text based chats and talk you into switching to the free application Adium.

Friend’s List

If you have a number of people that you chat with (I have around 100 people in my buddy list) then I find the Adium a more efficient display. You do give up seeing the current icon for people but most people I know have the same icon day after day. iChat supports groups as does Adium but if you only want to see the people who are online and use groups in iChat you can have all of the friends who are offline moved to a Offline friends group. Adium allows you to group your buddies and also show or not show offline buddies completely independently.


Multiple Services

iChat can connect to AOL and Jabber services (like Google Chat). Adium can also connect to Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, Gadu-Gadu, ICQ, Lotus Sametime, Novell Groupwise, and Zepher. You can also associate that Bob has this Yahoo screename, this AOL screenname, etc. When you connect Bob, you don’t even have to worry about which system is being used to connect to Bob unless you want to. So you are dealing with people in your budding list instead of screennames. You can then make a name for the people to use as an alias so that you don’t have to remember that Bob is really called Qzark2003Hairy on AIM.


Keep Your Secrets

When you use AIM your messages tend to go out across the internet in clear text, unencrypted. If you are chatting about what Kimberly said in Math class this is probably not a problem, but many people these days use AIM and other chat services to chat about their business. Adium can encrypt these messages with much more ease than other chat clients (like Fire) that I have used.



Adium allows you great freedom over how you get notified with new messages. Want you Mac to speak your messages (hint: this works better if you are not at work chatting about what stupid thing your boss recently said)? Adium can do that.

The other type of notification that Adium supports is Growl. Growl needs to be downloaded separately and installed. But when Growl is installed Adium will automatically detect it and use Growl notifications. If Adium is in the background when you get a new message a small translucent window will pop-up on the screen with the content of that message and then fade away. That is often enough information to know that you don’t need to respond and interrupt what you were working on.



Have you ever had someone send you and instant message that simply said “yes”. Now you know that you must have asked them a question, but it was probably hours ago and you have closed that window and lost the context of the discussion. In addition to keeping transcripts for archival purposes Adium also allows you to see your last conversation with a person whenever you open a new conversation with them. I set this by default to show me what we have been talking about over the last day. That might not be the right setting for you but Adium will let you choose. For someone like me, who increasingly walks into rooms without remembering why I went there, this feature alone would be worth the switch.

There are 26 comments on Adium – 6 Reasons to switch from iChat:

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  1. Josh | Dec 27 2006 - 12:43

    You can view a contact’s icon in the contact list. In the preferences, simply go to Appearance, then List Layout. Click the Customise button next to this then click show user icon

  2. Fin Springs | Dec 27 2006 - 12:47

    I like the Adium interface but I haven’t had much luck with Adium on my MacBook. I have 2 AOLs, 1 MSN and 2 Jabbers and it crashes when I try to bring up all of them. This is with 1.1svn.

  3. chris2x | Dec 27 2006 - 01:52

    Josh, I actually like it better without the icon so I can see more contacts. Sorry if I was not clear.

    Fin, that’s odd. I am using it on a MacBook Pro without problems. I am not using MSN. Does it get more stable if you leave that out?

  4. Dale | Dec 27 2006 - 01:27

    Can’t live without the audio and video chat abilities, so currently I have iChat, Adium and Skype sometimes open.

    The Holy Grail of a wholly combined chat app still remains undiscovered.

  5. Eray | Dec 27 2006 - 02:57

    I like the interface and the preferences of Adium but I am also using MacBook Pro and Adium crashes everytime I open my MSN account.

  6. g0rdo | Dec 27 2006 - 02:10

    I’m telling you, I’ve tried switching to Adium before, but I can’t. I keep coming back to iChat. Adium has cool skinning, but I can never find the perfect theme for me.

    iChat 4 lyfe

  7. chris2x | Dec 27 2006 - 02:10

    I am with Dale. I use Skype for audio, iChat for video and Adium for text. I would love to have one app that was the best of all worlds.

  8. Phoenixbwp | Dec 27 2006 - 02:22

    I use the H**l out of this program with old friends since I switched 2 years ago. you can customize the whole program with xtras. If you don’t like the default sounds, just download another, I use Tokyo Train Station. And if you like to one whole theme for all Internet apps, go to:

    I like the look and feel of Adium and Firefox with this theme. And you can change the opacity of Adium, so it seems to float on screen…

  9. h0 | Dec 27 2006 - 10:45

    I am assuming Veronica had something to do with your interest in Adium? I hope they get video on Adium Soon.

  10. chris2x | Dec 27 2006 - 10:16

    You would think so, but I had already taken the screenshots for this article when I heard the interview. I had to laugh.

  11. Bruce | Dec 28 2006 - 08:46

    Why can’t Apple just make iChat compatible with the other chat services? Especially yahoo. I don’t want to use another chat program. Tabbed chats sound nice too, but again Apple can just update iChat to do that. I’m crossing my fingers that iChat in Leopard will incorporate both these features.

    Can Adium show the current track you are playing in iTunes like iChat can?

  12. aplardi | Dec 28 2006 - 09:31

    iChat is an extremely limited (yet stable) piece of software in my opinion. I’ve been using chat apps on OS X and Windows for years and Adium is the most full featured of them all in my opinion. It’s certainly not perfect though, and iChat/Skype are great for video and audio respectively.

  13. Pineapple | Dec 28 2006 - 09:21

    To Bruce… you can get a plugin for Adium to allow the curent track

    I used to use Adium, untill i got my macbook, then I wantted to do video chats…
    I really wish adium would do that as microsoft messenger doesnt do a/v chats

  14. Frinkruds | Dec 28 2006 - 11:28

    “You do give up seeing the current icon for people but most people I know have the same icon day after day.”

    You can view a person’s icon by hovering your mouse over their screenname.

    Also under Notification section you should probably note that you can setup Dock actions, for instance show a badge when someone IMs you or logs on or off. There’s a whole preference area in Adium which allows specific actions to be taken when an event happens – for example when the first message is received from someone, you can have the dock bounce every 30 seconds, send a message back automatically, or even have an applescript run of your choice.

    You should also put in a section about customization – you can change the dock icon, the theme and appearance of the buddy list, the spacing (width, hight, etc) of the contacts, and in addition the emotions, window style, opacity, message window theme (background, style, timestamp format, message style, font control {override other people’s annoying fonts}, etc). There is also lots of control over status messages, even allowing “fake” idle times, and an option to set you away after a certain period of time, or when you’re fast user switching to another person’s account.

    Good article and will be linking to people who I still haven’t convinced to switch. :-)

  15. chris2x | Dec 28 2006 - 12:23

    Frinkruds, yes I thought about trying to cover all the possible things you could customize but gave up. :-)

  16. Grant | Dec 28 2006 - 05:22

    Personally, I wouldn’t switch from iChat (with the Chax plug-in) if someone paid me. I mean, I could see why some people would prefer Adium, but iChat has the exact feature set that I want.

    If you want to try chax, the URL is:

  17. Eray | Dec 28 2006 - 05:23

    someone has to bring the issue with the MSN compabilitity.. I do not say I do not like adium but whats the thing that it crashes everytime I open my msn account?? cos I got so many friends using msn and anybody has a suggestion you are more than welcome.. thank you

  18. Douglas | Dec 30 2006 - 12:50

    when i am chatting i usally have both ichat and adium open. adium deals with most of my text chats while ichat is the audio and video chats that i have.

  19. Marty | Dec 30 2006 - 04:12

    Hi — One of the big hang-ups, it seems, with IChatAV is that the i-site function is very hit or miss. Nothing in the review of any of these comments about the success with video chats…. anyone have any experience with this?

  20. chris2x | Dec 30 2006 - 11:13

    Usually if I run into problems with iChat or other video chat programs the problem can be traced to the firewall that someone’s connection is going through.

  21. Chris Meisenzahl | Jan 02 2007 - 05:46

    I may have to give that a try, thanks.

  22. Robert | Jan 05 2007 - 03:16

    I’ve been an avid user of Adium for about two years now. I use it to chat with people over MSN, Yahoo, AIM, GTalk, and .mac. They all work seamlessly with a much cleaner interface than iChat. I’m picky about how much I have laying around my desktop and this program definately allows me to customize it to be very minimalistic.

    The one problem I experience with it is when people send me customized emoticons via MSN. Other than that, it’s perfect.

  23. Jordan | Jan 06 2007 - 12:57

    “If Adium is in the background when you get a new message a small translucent window will pop-up on the screen with the content of that message and then fade away.”

    How did you get this to work? I would love to know.

  24. Chris (Amateur Traveler podcast) | Jan 06 2007 - 12:44


    Did you install Growl. This is a feature of Growl that Adium is using as mentioned in the article.

  25. Jordan | Jan 07 2007 - 10:18

    Yep, I have it installed.
    I’m thinking there’s an option to enable such a feature?
    Just wondering where you turn it on, specifically.

  26. Chris (Amateur Traveler podcast) | Jan 07 2007 - 11:23

    Ahhh, I remember now. In the preferences got to the events section and under events like Message Received add in the notification “Display a Growl Ntification”. Sorry, I did this so long ago I forgot. Glad you asked.