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How to Converse with FaceTime on Your MacBook

Although MacBookMessages’ standard video chat is downright nifty, it has limits: You’re confined to your IM buddies. With Apple’s FaceTime technology, however, you can video chat with owners of iOS devices and Macs without the constraints of instant messaging accounts — and if they can run FaceTime, they’re guaranteed to have the right video hardware.

At the time of this writing, FaceTime-compatible devices are

  • Macs running Lion and Mountain Lion

    Mac owners running Snow Leopard 10.6.6 or later can also buy the FaceTime application from the App Store.

  • An iPhone 4 or 4s running iOS 4.1 or higher

  • A second- or third-generation iPad running iOS 4.1 or higher

  • A fourth generation or later iPod touch running iOS 4.1 or higher

If you’re running a device under iOS 6 or later, you can use FaceTime over Wi-Fi, 3G, and 4G connections. If you’re using a device running iOS 5 or earlier, however, you’ll need a Wi-Fi connection to use FaceTime with a mobile device. A 3G or 4G cellular connection will not work. A Mac requires either a wired or Wi-Fi connection to the Internet to use FaceTime.

To launch FaceTime, click the jaunty- looking video camera icon in the Dock. The first time you use the application, you have to enter your Apple ID and your e-mail address. The folks you chat with on the other end use that same e-mail address to call you via FaceTime. (iPhone 4 or later owners can be called using their telephone numbers.)

To change the e-mail address that other FaceTime users use to call you, choose FaceTime→Preferences and then click the E-mail link under the heading You Can Be Reached for Calls At.

After you sign in, FaceTime displays your Contacts database. To initiate a call with any contact, click the name in the list, and FaceTime displays the e-mail and telephone numbers for the contact. Click the e-mail or telephone number that FaceTime should use, and the connection process begins. To return to the Contacts list and choose another person, click the All Contacts button at the top of the window.

Apple isn’t satisfied with a mere Contacts list, however. You can use a number of other methods of selecting someone to call:

  • Recent Calls: Click the Recents button to choose a contact that you’ve called (or attempted to call) in the recent past. Click the All or Missed buttons at the top of the window to further filter the Recents list.

  • Groups: If you’ve set up one or more groups in your Contacts database, you can display them by clicking the Groups button. For example, if you’ve created a Contacts group containing all fellow employees in your company, you can easily locate and call a specific person without wading through all your friends and family as well.

  • FaceTime Search: Click in the familiar Search box and begin typing the contact’s first or last name, and FaceTime displays the matching entries.

  • Favorites: Sure, you have folks you like to chat with all the time, and it’s easy to add them to the Favorites list. (Those who don’t make the Favorites list don’t have to know, right?) Click the desired contact, and then click the Add to Favorites button. To display your favorite contacts at any time, click the Favorites button in the FaceTime window.

When the call is accepted, you’ll see a large video window with a smaller picture-in-picture display (you can drag the smaller display to any desired spot in the window). The video from the other person fills the large window, and the video that you’re sending to them appears in the small display.

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Move your cursor into the FaceTime window, and you’ll see the window controls appear, as well as three icons at the bottom of the window:

  • Mute: Click the mute icon to turn off the sound coming from your MacBook. FaceTime displays a reminder that mute is enabled. (You’ll continue to hear the audio from the other person.) To restore your audio feed, click the mute icon again.

  • End: Click this icon to end the FaceTime call.

  • Full-screen: Click the full-screen icon (or press cmd+Shift+F) to switch FaceTime into full-screen display mode. To return to windowed mode, press cmd+Shift+F again, or move your cursor and click the full-screen icon again.

To switch FaceTime to landscape mode and take advantage of your MacBook’s widescreen display, choose Video→Use Landscape, or press cmd+R. (Why let the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad owners have all the landscape fun?)

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