iChat is a great little chat client, especially considering it comes baked right in to OS X. However, a common complaint is that it doesn’t support some IM networks such as MSN or Facebook chat. Here’s a way to chat to friends on networks which aren’t technically supported by iChat.
In the latest developer’s preview build of Lion, it’s been reported that iChat now supports Yahoo! Messenger, but there’s still no sign of being able to use iChat with other networks, including MSN messenger. Also noted is the fact that iChat now consolidates contact lists into one window, like third-party multi-protocol client Adium does, so you only need one window open.
In order to use other networks like Facebook chat, you can use Jabber, a chat protocol which iChat does support, as a kind of intermediate connection. To do so, you’ll need to download Psi, an application which will allow you to create a Jabber account and connect it to other chat networks.
Once you’ve downloaded and opened Psi, the application will ask you to either sign into an existing account or register for a new one. Assuming you haven’t done this before, click Register new account. You’ll then be asked to enter a server name. The server I use is headcounter.org, which isn’t in the drop down list, so you’ll have to enter it manually. It’s free, open to all and it works. Don’t worry about the other settings, and click Next. Once Psi has contacted the server, you’ll need to create a username and password.
The next thing to do is link your Jabber account with MSN (or any other chat protocol). To do so, first sign in to Jabber by right clicking your username and choosing Status > Online. Now right-click your username at the top of the Psi window and choose “Service Discovery” from the contextual menu. This will open a new window.
In the new window will be a list of services available to connect to. Find the one called MSN Transport and double-click it. Then enter your MSN credentials and click OK. You should see a message saying that the registration was successful, and another new window should open with a system message from msn.headcounter.org. In this window, click Add/Auth and your Jabber account will be connected to MSN. If everything went as it should, you should see your MSN contacts appear in the Psi window.
The final step is to connect iChat to your Jabber account. Open up iChat’s preferences under the iChat menu and navigate to the Accounts tab. On the left is a list of accounts you have set up in iChat. At the bottom of this list, click the + button to add a new account. In the new account window, select Jabber from the drop down list and enter your Jabber details, including the @headcounter.org part of your username. Leave the server settings to auto. Click OK, and the account will be added to iChat.
The first time you connect to Jabber in iChat, you will see a whole bunch of pop ups asking you to authorize your contacts. Unfortunately there is no way to get around this, and you’ll have to authorize each contact separately. However, that’s only a one-time problem, so you’ll never have to do it again. You also don’t have to keep Psi running all the time. Once the account is set up in iChat, you don’t need Psi at all; it was just for the initial setup.
One final thing: iChat can connect directly to Facebook chat without using another Jabber account, since Facebook’s chat service is based on Jabber. Go through the new account process in iChat, choosing Jabber again, and enter the following details:
- Username – this should be in the form email@example.com. Your username is the end part of the URL of your facebook profile. For example, if the URL of your profile page was www.facebook.com/fred then your username would be firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Password – your usual Facebook password.
- Under Server Settings, the Server should be chat.facebook.com and the port should be set to 5222. Leave the ‘use SSL’ box unchecked.
Click OK and you should be signed into Facebook chat. This can sometimes take a while, so be patient.
Got any other tips for getting the most out of iChat? Share them in the comments.