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How to Chat via Messages in Mountain Lion

If you’re a fan of the iChat application in previous OS X releases and wonder where it went in Mountain Lion, Messages is the answer. The program you knew and loved as iChat is now called Messages. Same great iChat tastiness and now with support for iMessages!

Your chats can be one to one, or they can be group bull sessions. Messages is integrated with Contacts, so you don’t have to enter your buddies’ information twice. It also communicates directly with the Mail application. Here’s all the essential info you need to get started:

  • To start a text chat, open Messages, select a buddy in your buddy list, and choose Buddies→Invite to Chat. If you don’t see your Buddies List, choose Window→Buddies or press Command+1.

    Each participant’s picture (or icon) appears next to anything she says, which is displayed in a cartoonlike thought bubble. If you find the thought bubbles a little too childish, you can turn them off by choosing View→Messages and an option other than Show as Balloons.

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  • To start a group text chat, hold down the Command key, click each person in your buddy list that you want to include, and then click the A button at the bottom of the buddy list. In a group text chat, everyone sees every message from every participant.

  • To attach a picture to a person in your Contacts, copy a picture of the person to the Clipboard in your favorite graphics application (Preview, for example). Now open Contacts, and display the card for the person you want to add a picture to.

    Click the empty picture box at the top of the card, and paste the picture on the Clipboard. You should now see that picture on the Contacts card and also when you chat in Messages with the person. Neat!

    If you’ve already attached a picture to a contact in Contacts, that picture will appear automatically when you chat.

  • To transfer files, just drag the document’s icon to the message box and press Return or Enter. The file zips across the ether. This is a very convenient way to share photos or documents without resorting to file sharing or e-mail.

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    When you drag an image file onto the Messages window’s message box, you see an oversize semitransparent preview, so you’re sure you’re sending them the right image and not something totally embarrassing. Way to go, OS X Mountain Lion.

  • To send an e-mail from Messages, just select a buddy in Messages’s buddy list and choose Buddies→Send Email (or press Command+Option+E). Mail launches (if it’s not already open) and addresses a new message to the selected buddy, ready for you to begin typing.

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