iChat 5 How-tos

iChat Icon

iChat 5: How-Tos: Use The Menus

There is little change from iChat 4 to iChat 5 that comes with Snow Leopard that if you have Updated your Intel Mac computer to Snow Leopard then iChat will be easy for you.

If, on the other hand you have never used iChat before this page and the ones it links to are the places to Start.

First though the Quick Links iChat 5, Pictures and How-tos in the other iChat 5 Section of this site.


Menu For the Different How-to pages




Most things in iChat can be done from the Menus. Some items list Keystrokes that can also be used. In some case a Right-Click on a two button mouse or a Control Key + Mouse Click (my Keyboard Viewer in OS 10.5.5 shows this ^ symbol on that Key) will also bring up a contextual menu floating over where you clicked on an iChat window.

iChat Menu pic

iChat menu

As you can see it gives you access to the About iChat window. This will tell you the Version number.

The Preferences with the dots afterwards tells you it will open something else. The Preferences window or pane has several items you access from the icons in the ToolBar it has. It will open at the last one you were using.

You can change the My Status between Offline, Invisible, Available (with or without Status Message), the Current iTunes song or Away (again with or without Status message).

In Accounts you can Log in or Log Out any Buddy List that you have in iChat (the same list as Preferences > Accounts)

You can Log Out of the current front (selected) Buddy list. This will keep the Buddy List visible if it isn't already and show it as "Offline" and shrunk in size as no Buddies are showing. The words change to Log In when you are logged out.

Services is a pop out sub-section that lists the Apps and Apple things that are supposed to be able to interact with iChat. I never use this myself so I am not the best one to tell you how this works.

As I have mentioned in the very top panel and in several others it is possible in this application to Hide various Windows by pressing the Red Button top left of any window (rather than Quitting). This is the Menu equivalent but it does it for every iChat window.

Hide Others does just that and leaves iChat as the windows on show.

Show All is used to get the other applications that are open to show their windows again

Note:- One iChat window can still hide another if it is bigger. Use the Window Menu to pick one of the listed windows when they are open to bring it to the Front

And, of course, the Quit item.

File Menu pic

File Menu

The "New Chat" items opens a Chat dialogue box where you enter the Room Name (or create one) after choosing either AOL Instant Messenger, Bonjour or Jabber (not all Jabber servers run or link to group chats).


The "New Chat with Person" is a Direct Chat start up method. This forces the chat to use the UDP protocol and tends to be more "Private", as the Messaging is not routed the same way through the AIM servers. Sending a file or a Picture also coverts the Text chat into a Direct Chat.

The top of the Chat will tell you how you have started a chat and if it changes one of the smaller grey text messages in the middle of the Chat window will appear. I find that if you start a Direct chat that does not involve files or pictures then it will end the Direct chat and make it just a plain IM one after a period.

Go to Chat pic

"Go to Chat" is specifically for joining Group Chats (Chatrooms).

As you can see there can be confusion about what sort of chat you are starting. I tend to use Double Clicking on a Buddy in the Buddy List to start a One to One Chat and make it Direct when sending files or pics. I start or join a chatroom from the menu Item Go to Chat and create or join as required.

The "Open" and "Open Recent" options are only about opening Saved Transcripts. It navigates to ~/Documents/iChats by default. Open Recent only opens those that you have opened before and are still in the Recent List which has a maximum of 10 at one time (Or whatever you set in System Preferences > Appearance for the Documents setting near the bottom).

The "Save As" option allows you to save the Text as an iChat transcript document but with your choice or placement and name for it rather the the default of Buddy's Name with date and time which gets suggested when the save window pops up.

I must admit to never having Printed a Chat transcript so I could not tell you how well it works. Hopefully it prints as it is shown on the Screen.

Edit Menu

Edit Menu picClear gif

As you can see it has the fairly standard things of Undo, Redo, Cut, Copy, Paste Delete etc. Spelling is also here. The most useful in Chat is the option to Insert a Smiley. This has a pop out that shows you the choices as shown above.

Adding a (Hyper) link can be done two ways from this Button. If a word or phrase is not selected in the text and you use this Button a pop up shows to enter the URL. Hyperlink boxIf you enter one without highlighting some Text and hit Enter, iChat will substitute the word "here" in the Text Field as a link (Blue and Underlined).

Here substituted

Highlighting a word or Phrase will change those to be the Link.




View Menu

View Menu pic

The items in this menu go dark or grey depending which Window is the "front" one of iChat.

The first section deals with the Text in a Chat Window (and Not in the Test Entry Field.) It can be useful for one Buddy sending small text rather than Reformatting Incoming IMs in iChat > Preferences > Messages

The second section has six items that deal with the Buddy Lists and are to do how a List is displayed. Turning off the various options does reduce the Buddy List to just names but loses the Double Click on a Video or Audio icon to start a chat.

The ones that are Dark text in this picture are the one that deal with a Chat window when it is open and "front". Each Buddy List can be displayed differently.

Show/Hide Chat Participants Shows/Hides (it will change words depending on current state) the Pop out drawer for people in a Group Chat or Chat Room.

Buddy Names gives you options on how the Buddies appears in the List. They can be either Full Names (Whatever you have in the Address Book), Short names (First names only) or Handles (Screen Names)

Sort Buddies give 4 choices; By Availability, By First Name or Nickname, By Last Name and Manually. Nicknames are added to the iChat Info Card or to the Address Book entry > Edit button and then where it Lists "Company" in grey text.

Messages has three Sections. Show/Hide Smileys, Hide displays plainText at your end. The next section is the choices of how IMs are displayed. The default is Show as Balloons The various Show Names Show Pictures or Show Names and Pictures options are also in Messages.

The name and Picture Items also apply to Chat windows and Participants drawer (Group Chats).

BAckground to Chat window

As mentioned in the Section about Sending Pictures in a Chat you could, in Previous Versions, by dropping it in the Chat Message view part, set a Picture as the Background Mostly accidentally. The last but one section in the View Menu is to Set Chat Background - when a Chat window is Open and is now the only place to set this. Clear (the Picture from) the Background.

Use Alerts in This Chat is useful if Files are sent "loose" or separate from the Chat and you need to Accept a File, particularly in Video or Audio Chat

Buddies Menu

Buddies Menu picClear gif

This Pic was grabbed without a Buddy List being highlighted and as a consequence most options are greyed out.

Basically it works on the basis you highlight a Buddy in a Buddy List (AIM. Jabber or Bonjour) and you can then Start a Chat from the lower items or send and email if the person has an email address in your Address Book. (in the United States there is also a SMS option here)

The One-Way chat options will show up if the Buddy does not have a Camera (or a Microphone for Audio only). The One-Way Video will do Audio if they have a Mic.


You can also Share My Screen or ask to Share Remote (Buddy's) Screen as part of the A/V options. A Screen Share has an accompanying Audio Chat.

You can also Show the Info Card in iChat for that Buddy. As you can see it has the "Get Info" keystrokes listed of CMD/Apple key + i key only ( or ⌘ + i) ( or ⌘ are the same key. You may have one or other or both symbols on you Key depending on the keyboard that you use).

iChat 5 adds a Search In Spotlight item. It will tend to find Emails, Saved Transcripts and their Address Card or, as I found out once any part of someone's name in any other document.

The Add Buddy Option changes during an Active Chat. If the Buddy has not been added to your Buddy List you can Add them from here during the chat or at least whilst the Chat window is still open if they end the chat at their end. (If they are already added they are listed but greyed out.)

The "Ignore" option is to not answer a Chat Invite.

Request Authorization only applies the Jabber Buddies. It is a formal Request for them to accept you adding them as a Buddy. iChat only send this once when you select it. This can leave an Buddy in the (Jabber) Buddy List "Waiting for Authorization" Other Jabber apps/clients send it repeatedly until the Buddy refuses or accepts. To "Correct" this a Buddy has to be removed from the Buddy list and Re-added and the request sent again (when they are known to be able to answer/accept)

Part of this Menu forms the same menu will pop up if you Right-Click or Control Click on a Buddy in the Buddy List. It does not have the Ignore option though, as in most cases you will be starting a Chat or looking at their Info Card.

The Video Menu (or Audio)

Audio MenuVideo Menu

The Menu to the right of Buddies will display Audio if you only have a Microphone and Video if you have a camera. I have edited the picture for space but lower down it has the same items as the one on the right.

The three items concerning "Enabled" can be toggled On or Off (Shows Tick or Not) by selecting the items concerned. You can, however, Share your Screen from the Buddy List if the Share option is Off AND You do the Inviting. But you can only let someone share your Screen IF the Screen Sharing is Enabled (it depends on who does the Inviting). If it is not set the options in the Buddies Menu will not be active.

If you click your Own Camera icon in the Buddy List the Snapshot option is available. (it brings up a Preview Screen) and a button for countdown purposes like Photo Booth.

During a Video Chat the Full Screen option is active.

The Mute option has a corresponding button on Audio and Video Chat windows to cut your Microphone as well as the menu option here.

Volume of the Microphone and Input source is controlled in System Preferences > Sound > Input tab. On Macs that have a Line-in option has to have any 3.5mm source pre-amped to register on the volume scale as this is the way Mac work. A PC Mic will not do as these tend to be pre-amped by the Windows OS and hardware.

Format Menu

Format Menu

These menu items give you Menu control over formatting the Text in addition to the Font and colour of Font you have already made in the Messages section of the Preferences. You can not change the Balloons colour (or the plain text equivalent).


Example of Coloured text

It tends work best to either select a Font and Colour of Text here for a particular message or highlight a word or phrase before sending.

Remember the other end will only see the Font Choice you make if:

  1. They do not Reformat Incoming text active themselves.
  2. They have the same Font you do.

You can of course set the Message Section of the Preferences to Reformat and over-ride any incoming choice by your Buddies.

Window Menu

Window Menu pic

Minimise window puts it in the DOCK.

Zoom does what it says but just tell your Buddy their Text/Font is too small or Override it via the Messages Preferences if many people are using too smaller Font for you. The top three items in the View Menu do a similar job.

Another option is to Bring All Windows to the Front (remember smaller iChat windows can still be behind bigger ones if you dragged one over another).


Previous and Next Chat work when you have selected to "Gather Chats in one Window" in the Messages pane of the Preferences (and have multiple text chats going on).

The next section lists your Logged in Buddy lists either by Type ("AIM Buddy List" or "Jabber Buddy List") if you only have one of each or by Description name (As in Accounts in Preferences) if you have more - like I do in the picture. If in the Accounts section of the Preferences you have left the Description box reading the Screen Name then this is what you will see here (as in the two AIM names listed). As there is only ever one Bonjour Buddy List this is always it's name.

At the end of the Line is the Keystrokes you can use to bring a hidden Buddy list to the Front or back from the DOCK. This means using the keys CMD/Apple ( or ⌘) + a number will open the Buddy List shown. If you have reordered the List in the Accounts Preferences the order will e personal to you. They will not show in this list of windows if the Account is Logged Out though.

shortlist of accounts

A smaller part of the menu but with more Accounts logged in. I have labeled them as to the Services they Log into. As you can see my Google Account has that as the Description name which makes it stand out here.

As you open other windows such as Text Chats, Video chats or File Sending items these will also be added at the bottom of the Menu and work like the Address Book Link so that clicking them will bring that item to the front.

Bottom of Window Menu pic

This Pic has some Chax (An iChat Add-On) items as well as the Address Book link but shows an open Chat window.

File Transfers opens a list similar to your Browser Download Folder but is iChat stuff only.

Help Menu

It only has one item in it and it launches the iChat Help. As with most Help items it has a comprehensive overview of the application.

Next - How-to Use the Preferences.



© Ralph Johns June 2010



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The Menu section is subdivided, each into it's own part
Video (Or Audio) Menu
Format and
not forgetting of course, Help.

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