Mac Basics: Messages

Learn about the features of Messages in Mountain Lion and how to configure it.

Messages brings iMessage to your Mac. You can send free, unlimited, secure messages containing text, pictures, videos, files and contacts to anyone who is using a Mac, or an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch (with iOS 5 or later).

You can continue your conversations across your devices and pick up your conversation from your iPhone to your Mac and vice-versa.

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Setting up accounts

iMessage uses Apple ID accounts. Take note of your Apple ID and password. Apple ID accounts are used for purchasing content in iTunes, App Store, and so forth. Read this article for more information about Apple ID.

Use any of these methods to add an iMessages account to Messages when:

  • Setting up your Mac or user account for the first time
    • When you set up your Mac or a new OS X user account, enter your Apple ID and password to automatically add Messages to your iMessages account.
  • Using Messages for the first time
    • When you open Messages for the first time, you should see the iMessages Setup sheet to sign in.
  • Messages is already set up to use an iMessage account:
    • Choose Messages > Preferences… > Accounts (toolbar)
    • Click iMessages in the Accounts tab on the left.
    • Enter your Apple ID and password or click "Create Apple ID…" and follow the onscreen instructions.

Tip: Messages sent to an Apple ID will appear on all devices configured to use that Apple ID for iMessage accounts, including Macs, iPhones, iPads and iPod touch devices.



To start a conversation, just start typing in the name or Apple ID of the person you would like to have a conversation with.

Note: To correlate a name to an Apple ID, create a card in Contacts with the person's name and Apple ID.

When messages is in the background and receives conversation content, you will see Notification banner slide down in the upper right corner of the screen for a short period of time. Then it will slide off to the right.

Tip: Click it to bring the conversation to the foreground.

The Messages window

  1. Search field – Enter text to find in your conversations.
  2. Conversation list – Click a conversation to bring it to the foreground. Tip: Double-click it to open in a separate window. Previews show the following: 
    • Icon / image
    • Name
    • Time / date of last exchange
    • A couple of lines from the last exchange.
  3. Compose new message – Click it to start a new conversation.
  4. "To:" field – Enter the persons name or Apple ID to send your conversation to.
  5. Body of the conversation – Shows the history of your conversation. Including the following:
    • Icon or image of you and the person you are having a conversation with.
    • The text of your conversation including emoji emoticons via item 9 and more in Character viewer (System Preferences > Language & Text > Input Sources tab)
    • Images / videos, contacts and attachments sent and received – Double-click to view in Quick Look. Tip: Drag and drop content to send.
    • "Delivered / Read" notification – Appears with time / date stamp under your icon / image, to let you know your content has been delivered and read by the recipient.
  6. FaceTime button – Click and select the Apple ID to start FaceTime with.

    Tip: Sign in to your iCloud account in System Preferences > iCloud to automatically sign into FaceTime when it opens.
  7. Reply indication – Content is being prepared to be sent to you.
  8. "iMessages" field – Enter text, images or videos to send by pressing return.

    Tip: Press Option-Return to get place a carriage return to your text message.
  9. Smileys – Click it to see a grid of basic emoji emoticons to choose.

    Tip: Use the Character viewer (System Preferences > Language & Text > Input Sources tab) to see more emoji emoticons to select.

Support for instant messaging services

Messages has support for the following instant message services and systems:

  • AIM – AOL's instant messaging service.
  • Jabber – Cross-platform, open-source instant messaging system.
  • Google Talk – Google's instant messaging service.
  • Yahoo! – Yahoo's instant messaging service

To add an instant messages account follow these steps:

  1. In Messages select Messages > Preferences… > Accounts (toolbar)
  2. Click the "+" icon in the lower left corner.
  3. Choose the appropriate instant message service or system from the "Account Type:" pop-up menu.
  4. Enter in the Account Name, Password and if present, Server Options.


Additional Information

Connection Doctor

In Messages, you can select Video > Connection Doctor to assist you with possible connection issues. Connection Doctor shows the following details:

  • Statistics–With the following details
    • Chat Duration–How long the chat has lasted.
    • Frame rate–The number of frames per second (fps) that video plays.
    • Bit rate–The average number of kilobits that one second of video data uses (kbits/s).
    • Frame size–The resolution, in pixels, of the video. The mew pixels, the more detailed the image.
    • Audio and video quality–100% means no loss of quality. Issues may occur if quality falls below 90%.
  • Capabilities–A pane that shows you what capabilities you have based on your computers hardware and Internet connection.
  • Network Statistics–Displays information about your bandwidth settings and network router type.
    • Bandwidth limitation–Indicates whether the bandwidth has been limited to a particular speed in Messages.

      Tip: Click "Settings…" to open Messages preferences and adjust your "Bandwidth limit:" setting.
    • Router type–Identifies the kind of network address translation (NAT) router your computer is using to communicate with other devices. Router type are:

      Consult with your network administrator, if you have a router type other than "Full Cone".

      • Full Cone–Anyone on the Internet can send replies to the computer.
      • Restricted–The router associates the translated address and port with a particular destination address. Replies from other addresses are filtered out.
      • Port Restricted–The router associates the translated address and port with a particular destination address and port. Replies from other addresses and ports are filtered out.
      • Symmetric–THe router associates the translated address and port with a particular destination address and port, but uses ad new translated port for each destination address and port.
      • Unknown–The type of router could not be determined.
  • Error Log–Inspect reported errors in the Messages error log. Note: This option is dimmed if there are no errors present.
Important: Information about products not manufactured by Apple is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute Apple’s recommendation or endorsement. Please contact the vendor for additional information.
Last Modified: Oct 21, 2013
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  • Last Modified: Oct 21, 2013
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