In their noble quest for knowledge, scientists have discovered an amazing new element that will revolutionize the use of online chat. It is called Adium and its powers are prodigious. Although not able to leap tall buildings in a single bound or see through people’s clothing with xray vision (darn), Adium unites every major chat protocol under a single interface – AIM, ICQ, GoogleTalk, MobileMe (otherwise known as .Mac), MSN, Yahoo – not to mention a horde of lesser known services. And it’s easy enough to use by us mere mortals, while still giving us super chat powers. Take that, chat client villians!

Features – Text chat, file transfer, events, chat encryption, AppleScript support, Addressbook support, Spaces support, Growl support, yadda yadda yadda. Auto-login, password saving, auto-responders, insert web links, I could fill my entire article with the feature set alone. And what isn’t built-in can be added through the use of Extras (otherwise known as plugins). The highlights are the Events, which you can target to groups or individuals that triggers responses by the program. The iTunes Token feature is pretty cool, too, which allows you to inject iTune’s info into your chat or automated responses. There’s a System Script feature that also does a similar thing but for system status messages. Nice. Suffice it to say that Adium covers all of the features of the other chat clients, plus adds a few neat tricks of its own.

Can we say everything including the kitchen sink? The interface sports themes, backgrounds, status icons, menu bar icons, dock icons, user icons, fonts and sound effects. Everything is customizable. The window can auto-size (or not) to accomodate the number of active users as well as snap to the screen edge (or not), and you can set the transparency of the windows (or not). You can create groups (like folders), and sort the listings by name.

Adium provides plugins for services, themes, icons, sounds, and more. I have never seen a program that can be so widely modified, which is great because you can really make it your own. For me, I am of the minimalist persuasion and like the contact window lean and mean. My chat window is a little Matrix-y, though… and no sounds, they drive me crazy. Adium even boasts its own Extras website. Crazy!

Denied requests for chats should not be logged in the Chat Transcript Window. I’ve had to shut off MSN auto-login because all I get from it is spam (shocking). Yahoo is the second worst offender, but nowhere near as bad.

The Chat Transcript Window needs a sort option for service. I would like to see those all grouped together so I can easily remove them. Of course, should my first issue be addressed, I wouldn’t need this option, at least for that purpose, but it still would be a nice feature.

I would like to see Button Wrapping™. I know this is not quite Apple standard, but I miss out on some of the options while keeping my windows narrow that then can only be accessed by cliking an arrow and selecting a feature. Bah! I want to just be able to click on the command no matter how narrow the window is (I’m lazy). So just wrap those buttons when the window is too narrow, okay?

The current version is 1.3.1 but I am still using 1.2.7 for the simple reason that in version 1.3 and above, the authors have implemented a new Extras protocol and one of the added service Extras that I use called XBlaze (which supports XFire chat), has not yet been rewritten to support the new protocols.

The Future
The authors are looking towards supporting audio and video chat across services in the future, so that is something also to look forward to. In the meantime, you can get audio/video functionality by checking out the MeBeam Extra (requires Adium 1.3 or later).

Did I mention that this application is free? They do ask for (and deserve) donations for it’s constantly being updated and supported. Reduce the clutter of multiple chat windows and applications by checking this great app out. And if you use it, consider donating.

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