Tips For Getting The Most Out Of iChat While Dazzling Friends

A couple of my recalcitrant family members have just gotten their first Macs. I don’t know if it is to shut me up….naaah. They just got fed up with their PCs. 

Knowing they will have questions, I am in the process of introducing them to the wonders of iChat because it will allow me to access their desktop, at their invitation, to help demonstrate or problem solve.  

Once the basic setup was out of the way and we had set up all the mundane things necessary to using iChat, like creating a Buddy Lists, setting font preferences, and adding pictures, I heard mumblings of “well, you can do this stuff on a PC.” I hadn’t razzle-dazzled them with screen sharing yet, But I decided to show them some of the cool stuff while passing along some hints to make iChat more fun. 

You might enjoy these as well. 

Tip: When sending a text message through iChat, you can make the text in your chats bold or italic or change your font or font color.

For bold press B and for italic press I. To change fonts choose Format → Show Fonts and for colors choose Format → Show Colors. If you use a far out font that your chat buddy doesn’t have installed on their machine, they will see something different. 

iChat Screen OneAdd interest to text iChat messages

Tip: You can save chat transcripts when you wish to do so. Choose iChat → Preferences → Messages panel. Turn on “Save chat transcripts to.” Select a folder on your hard drive for them to be saved to. From that point on, the text of your conversations are automatically saved. This is particularly helpful when you have already asked your kid three different times for the Apple help line telephone number and really don’t want to have to ask again. 

Set up a folder for saving iChat text messages

Tip: When participating in video chats it may seem as if the folks you are talking to seem unwilling to make eye contact, it’s not because they don’t want to. They are looking at you on the screen, rather than at the camera. You probably are doing the same thing. 

Tip: When participating in audio or video chats only the person who starts the call can add more people. Click the + button in the chat window, or drag a buddy’s name into the window.

Add another participant to a video chat

Tip: When participating in video chats, if you don’t want to see yourself in the picture during a video chat choose VideoHide Local Video. It can be creepy staring at yourself. 

Remove yourself from the screen while video chatting

Tip: You can send large files using iChat that you can’t send by email. Just drag and drop them in the text field and click return. 

Tip: You can quickly access your Buddy List by pressing 1. 

Tip: The image that identifies you in other people’s Buddy list can be animated. There are hundreds to choose from or you can even pay to have one specifically designed just for you. In order for a buddy to see your animated picture, he or she needs to choose iChatPreferencesGeneral, and then select “Animate buddy pictures.”You can find some nice free animations at and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of SPAM connected to it. 

About that screen sharing. If you don’t know how to do it here are the directions. I’ve talked about this before, but it can save you a drive across town or a long phone call with a newbie so it is worth knowing about it. 

There is a preference that must be set on any involved computer. 

Select Apple Menu → System Preferences → Sharing. Put a check in the box next to Screen Sharing.

Preference setting for screen sharing

Then, to share screens: 

Select a buddy (who is on line), and open the Buddies menu and choose one of the screen sharing options.

  • To share your own screen, choose “Share My Screen.”
  • To share your buddy’s screen, choose “Ask to Share.” 

These are my iChat recommendations. They can add to the fun, but they can also add to the efficiency of using iChat.