Mac Basics: Messages helps you chat instantly

Message is the built-in chat client included with OS X. You can use it to send messages using iMessage, or one of many third party messaging services.

Setting up accounts

If you have an Apple ID, you already have an iMessage account you can use to send and receive messages. Your Apple ID is usually the same account name and password you use with iCloud, the iTunes Store, or Mac App Store. 

If you haven't already set up your Apple ID on your Mac, you're prompted to enter it the first time you open the Messages app.

iMessage setup window

Messages also supports the following messaging (chat) services:

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

You can use multiple services at the same time. Messages automatically adds these account types when you set them up in the Internet Accounts pane of System Preferences. You can also add a messaging service from Messages preferences.

  1. In Messages select Messages > Preferences.
  2. Click the Accounts button.
  3. Click the Add Account (+) button.
  4. Select the instant messaging service you want to use and click Continue.
  5. Enter in your account name and password. If prompted enter the server options as well.


To start a conversation, enter the name, Apple ID or chat address of the person you would like to have a conversation with in the To field of the Messages window. You can also enter this information in the Contacts app to make it easier to remember. Messages automatically displays the name of the person related to the ID you are chatting if it's in the Contacts app.

entering a recipient in the to field

Enter the text you want to send to the other person by typing it in the message field. Then press the Return or Enter key to send it.

typing a message

Text sent back and forth between you and the recipient is displayed as "text bubbles". This makes it easier to distinguish who typed each message.

chat bubbles

To start a conversation with another person, click the Add Message button and repeat the steps. Each conversation you are having shows up in the list on the left side of the Messages window.

 the add message button 


When Messages isn't open, you can still see when a message arrives. A notification banner appears on screen for each incoming chat. Move your pointer over the banner to reply. Or, click the banner to open the Messages app to that conversation.

chat notification

Video and audio chats

When chatting with someone using Messages, you can quickly switch to an audio or video chat if the messaging service you're using supports audio or video. You can even share the contents of your screen with the person you are chatting with. Click the audio or video buttons at the top of the window to change your chat. 

the FaceTime buttons appear at the top of your conversation

If the person on the other end of your chat is using a Mac, iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch that supports FaceTime, clicking the video or audio icons initiates a FaceTime call. Note: FaceTime audio calls require OS X v10.9.2 or later and iOS 7 or later. 

If you don't see audio or video options available in the Messages window, the person you are chatting with may be connected using an older operating system, or a messaging service that doesn't support these chat methods.

Messages everywhere

All of your messages are available on any of your devices when you use the same accounts with your Mac and your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. You can start a conversation on one device, you can continue it from another.

messages appear on all of your devices

Learn more

You can learn more about Messages by selecting Messages Help from the Help menu when you're in the Messages app. If you have difficulty reaching someone using Messages, use the built-in Connection Doctor feature to troubleshoot your connection.

FaceTime is not available in all countries or regions.

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