Use Apple's Messages app to communicate via AOL, Google Talk, Jabber, Yahoo Messenger and Facebook Messages.

iMessage is Apple’s text chat system that’s intended to supplant the functionality of traditional text messaging. It’s available on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and also every Mac via the Messages app.

The Messages app on OS X also lets you text, video and audio chat via AOL (AIM), Google Talk, and Jabber accounts. Additionally you can text chat via Yahoo Messenger and Facebook Messages.

Setup

When you start Messages for the first time you’ll be prompted to input your Apple ID and password. You’ll then be logged into iMessage and anybody with an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Mac who wants to get in touch should type your Apple ID email address within the To: field of the Messages app.

If you also have an iPhone you’ll probably want to register its phone number with Messages on your Mac so that all iMessages will appear on your Mac as well as your iPhone. Open the Preferences dialog box (Command+comma), then select the Accounts tab and then the iMessage entry in the list of accounts at the left. Ensure there’s a tick alongside the phone number under the heading that reads You Can Be Reached For Messages At.

You can also add other email addresses here by which people can contact you via iMessage. Each will need to be confirmed by replying to an email message sent to the address.

Adding other accounts

Once Messages has had an iMessage account added, you can add non-Apple chat accounts by opening the Preferences dialog box (Command+comma), then selecting the Accounts tab and clicking the plus icon at the bottom left.

To add Google Talk, Yahoo or AOL (AIM), simply select the option from the list that appears, then fill-in your details as prompted.

To setup Facebook chat, select Other Messages Account from the list, then from the Account Type dropdown list select Jabber. Then visit the Facebook Chat page, select the iChat instructions option, then follow steps 3 and 4 of the instructions.

Pro tip: If you’re in an office or household full of Macs, enable the Bonjour entry in the list of accounts. This will let you chat with other Mac users on the network who also have Bonjour enabled in Messages.

Chatting

Click Window > Buddies to see a list of who else is online, and right-click a buddy to see what chat options are available. Double-click any entry to start a chat, which will add a new conversation to the list at the left-hand side of the window.

If there’s a camera icon alongside the user’s name in the buddy list then clicking that will attempt to start a video chat (or Facetime call for Mac/iOS users). During non-Facetime video chats you can drag images, videos and certain office files onto the video window to activate theater mode by which you can give presentations remotely.

Instead of using the buddies list you can start a new chat conversation by clicking the Compose icon at the right of the search field at the top left of the Messages window. Then type the recipient’s username, email address or phone number (in the case of iMessage) into the To: field.

To start a group chat, simply enter multiple usernames in the To: field although beware that group chats can only take place amongst users on the same network – you can’t create a group chat involving AIM and Yahoo users, for example.

Pro tip: It’s not possible to group or video chat with some users. Select a buddy then tap Shift+Command+I to see their account type and what video and chat capabilities they have.