Adium (rhymes with Vanadium) is a multiple-protocol chat client for Mac OS X. It is based off of gaimlib (the library with which the popular X11/Windows chat client Gaim is written), and as a result shares just about everything that is good about gaimlib, as well as incorporating a number of features that chat users have come to expect, hope for, or just plain enjoy.

Adium supports every major chat protocol, as well as several minor ones. The list to date:

Adium is designed to be extensible and customizable. The buddy list, message windows, and many other parts of the interface are highly customizable, as new themes (or "Xtras", as the Adium team refers to them) are created using a relatively simple and comprehensible combination of XML and CSS, and (for the less code-inclined) the program provides an interface for editing downloaded themes to a minute degree, down to (in some cases) pixel-by-pixel spacing and coloration. Because the message window format is effectively just modified HTML, anything that a clever person can do with HTML, CSS, and Javascript is possible in a message theme, meaning that a lot of eye candy is done cleanly and effectively by a minimal amount of code. In this way, Adium is actually doing something that very few other chat clients have done, and taken modularity to another level entirely.

In addition, alerts can be added for just about any action taken by any person or group of persons that you have in your contact list. These can range from simple Dock-bouncing, to sound effects, to creating Growl notifications, to running AppleScripts.

The possibilities given to the theme designer are quite a lot more varied than those offered by any other chat client I know of. One could have the buddy list float on top of all other windows as a small, docked window, with everything wrapped in bubbles, exist as a streamlined part of the desktop with colors that accentuate the background picture, or be as generic as generic can be. I have seen message windows vary from clones of those of other chat clients up to a particularly eccentric one wherein all messages were in the form of sticky notes tacked to a corkboard, with buddy icons paper-clipped to the side.

Adium provides a website at for users to post, rate, and download Xtras. At the time of this writing, downloads exist in the following categories:

Adium is, of course, open-source. For a time it was hosted on Sourceforge, but has since moved to a server of its own. There is an extensive wiki for submitting feature requests, bugfixes, and other tidbits. The Adium team is quite open to coders submitting patches to the Adium codebase.

Adium was first released in 2001 by Adam Iser, who was at the time a simple college student, and who has since stayed on as lead developer and cow enthusiast. When it reached the point of becoming Adium 2.0, it was instead renamed to Adium X, and the version-numbering restarted. As of this writeup's current revision, the program is at version 0.89.

The Adium duck is central to the program's lore, as well as being its mascot. Hunting through the site will turn up the occasional tidbits about how the duck started life as a poorly-done drawing of some other bird, but who are we to question the duck?

If you are a Mac user, you should really try Adium. Just about the only feature that it does not yet support is audio and video chat, and you might be better off trying a program like Skype for that anyway. It's fast, customizable, and supports just about anywhere that could have given you a screen name. It also has a duck.


  • The main website:
  • The Xtras website: