Featured Freeware: Adium

Although it suffered through a rough patch, Adium is, hands-down, the best chat client for the Mac--even with its problematic file transfer support.

Formerly one of the most popular and customizable third-party clients for AOL Instant Messager, Adium faded from the public eye during development. The supercharged new version emerges from hibernation as Adium X. It supports multiple services, including AIM, Yahoo, MSN, and Napster. Part of what made the original Adium so attractive was its multitude of options, which still forms the core of this revision.

Adium allows for an incredible level of customization, with near-infinite tailoring of the user interface to make the buddy dock and chat windows look and behave as you wish. Adium supports group chats, displays your status in several ways including the iTunes status which surfaces whatever song you're listening to at the moment, uses emoticons specifically tailored to the chat platform you're on, and does file transfers. Unfortunately, the transfers are wonky and need more work.

The latest version improves the contact list and features a refined, tabbed interface. Under the hood, the program is now powered by the same open-source core as multiplatform client Pidgin. Despite some quirks, Adium X should please fans of the original and snare new chat aficionados.