AIM for Mac (Beta) review

Mac users have several chat applications to choose from. There’s iChat, of course, which is bundled with OS X. Skype is available on both Mac and Windows, as is Yahoo! Messenger. The big cheese, Microsoft Windows Live Messenger only comes in a Windows version – but Mac compatibility can be had from Messenger for Mac. Then there’s Adium X, a free, third-party chat client that interfaces with all the messaging protocols mentioned as well as Google Talk, AOL Instant Messenger and the open-source technology Jabber.

So, do we really need a Mac version of AIM, America Online’s chat application? That all depends on who you talk to. If you have lots of friends using AIM you can, of course, install Adium to chat back to them. If you want to have all the features of AIM reliably available though, this beta should do the job. You’ll have access to the same alert sounds, wallpapers and animated Buddy icons as your Windows-using chums.

Having said that, AIM for Mac is a pretty basic offering. The Windows version has sound and video alongside text chat. There are no such features here – so don’t think about ditching Adium X just yet if it’s voice chat you’re after.

There are some unique features that you won’t find in third party clients however. Adium X supports MobileMe, but AIM supports your MobileMe log in natively, flagging you as an AIM user. You can hold multiple conversations in one window, using tabbed IMs. This reduces clutter on your desktop but, irritatingly, also increases the chance that you might accidentally send messages to the wrong window. Potentially embarrassing if you’re gossiping about your other AIM mates.

OUR VERDICT

There are other AIM alternatives currently available. AIM for Mac comes as an iPhone app and there’s AOL Desktop for Mac with web browsing built in. For now, we’d recommend AIM for Mac only to AOL service users and iChat to everyone else.

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