iChat is a great way to communicate and share files in real time with friends and colleagues, whether they’re across the hall or around the globe. With iChat, you can conduct text chats with anyone who has a MobileMe, AIM, Jabber, or Google Talk account. And if your Mac is equipped with a built-in iSight camera (or an external iSight or other FireWire camera) you can conduct video chats with up to three buddies at once.
But there’s another way to chat: via audio. You can invite as many as nine buddies to an audio chat, which makes it great for group communication. As with video chats, you can record audio chats with permission from the participants. Audio chats are especially useful for interviews, long-distance business meetings, family conferences, and other situations when you’d like to communicate verbally with more than a few people at once, or save an audio record of your conversation.
Audio chats require a built-in microphone or an external mic connected to the audio input port of your computer. If a telephone or camera icon appears beside a name in your buddy list, it means they too have the software and hardware needed for an audio chat. (A “stacked” telephone or camera icon indicates that your buddy’s computer has enough power to participate in a multiple-person chat.)
To start an audio chat, open iChat and select the buddy or buddies you want to chat with. To choose multiple buddies, hold down the Command key as you click on their names. Then click on the telephone icon at the bottom of your buddy list, or select Invite to Audio Chat under the Buddies menu.
When they receive your invitation, your buddies simply click the Accept button to join the audio chat. All audio chat participants are listed in the chat window along with their buddy pictures. Each participant also has an individual sound level meter, which makes it easier to tell who is talking.
To enable recording in an audio iChat, select Record Chat under the Video menu. A message is sent to all participants asking for their permission to record the chat. To grant audio recording rights for this chat, your buddies click on the Allow button. When participants want to leave the chat, they just close the chat window. Recording stops when the person who initiated the recording exits the chat.
Recorded audio chats are saved by default in the iChats folder in your user’s Documents folder. You can change this default location under the General tab of iChat Preferences, and search for saved chats by date or title using Spotlight. You can also play your saved audio (and video) iChats in iTunes.