naim was originally one of the ncurses AOL Instant Messenger clients, but now supports ICQ, IRC, and Lily. It compiles on Linux, BeOS, BSD, and Cygwin, and presumably any system with ncurses, and BSD Sockets. (From the webpage, which is

The main thing to know about naim that wasn't documented till recently, is: hitting tab changes between currently-online buddies.

If your distribution doesn't have naim, or the version it has is out of date, here are compile instructions

  1. unpack the naim tarball and cd into it's directory
  2. run ./configure. A good option to add to ./configure, if you have screen, is --enable-detach, which allows you to type /detach in naim, come back later or on another computer, and type screen -r to come back. This is a cool hack.
  3. After the configuration, make and make install.
  4. Run naim. At it's prompt, type /connect "your screen name". It will prompt for your password, then list all your buddies in the side window.
  5. In it's default configuration you will be in a chat with naim's creator, naim help. Anything typed that doesn't begin with a slash will be sent to him.
  6. A few commands you need to know:
    • /save saves your settings into .naimrc.
    • /sync uploads your buddy list to the server.
    • /jump "buddy name" goes directly to that buddy.
    • /join chatroomname joins an AIM chat room.
    • /set option value sets various options.
    • /closeall removes everyone from your buddy list that have signed off, not all the users as the command name suggests.
    • /disconnect signs you off, and remains on naim
    • /quit signs you off and exits naim.
  7. There's a couple of good options, too.
    • autoreconnect (1 or 0) is good for when you have a crappy net connection. It will automatically reconnect you when you drop offline.
    • autoclose (amount of minutes) removes users that message you, then sign off.
    • autoaway (number of minutes) sets you away with the message contained in autoawaymsg, in that amount of idle time.
    • autounaway (1 or 0) sets you back when you send an IM