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MSN, nowadays going by the name Windows Live Messenger, is in many parts of the world still the leading instant messaging protocol.

One of the less pleasant discoveries upon migrating to Mac OS X is that Microsoft’s Messenger client (for Mac) is as bad as they come. Or, as others might put it, complete crap.

Of course, there are alternative IM applications for our beloved Mac. I’m thinking about aMSN, an expendable but oftentimes messy MSN clone; Trillian, multi-protocol minimalism; and, most famously, Adium.

The latter is the leading Mac IM client, with great expandability, looks, and support for most popular protocols. The downside of this multi-protocolism is the lack of support for some MSN features that are now deemed essential, most notably the ability to use custom emoticons.

Below is an Adium fix, so you can hang out with the cool guys once again.

1. Receiving Custom Emoticons

Later versions of Adium already allow you to receive and display custom emoticons while talking with MSN correspondents. However, a bug has kept some Adium installs from putting this, otherwise default, feature to use.


Double-checking doesn’t hurt. Open Adium -> Preferences… -> Advanced -> MSN and make sure the checkbox next to ‘Display custom emoticons‘ is ticked. If you can’t find this setting, and you’re using at least Adium v.1.4, you needn’t worry about this bug; it’s already taken care of in some later releases.

2. Sending Custom Emoticons (Unofficial Fix)

Sending custom emoticons is not a default feature (yet), but Fabio Gallonetto made his own alterations to Adium’s (open) source code. Read more about it on his blog. The essence of the matter is that after appending said changes and recompiling the application, the preferences pane shows an option to add custom smileys with nothing more than a shortcut and the path to an image file.

Once we’re done, you’ll be able to find this option under Adium -> Preferences… -> Appearance by clicking on the Customize… button next to your default emoticon pack.

Adium can sometimes be stubborn about the shortcut you’re trying to specify. To avoid this, click outside of the text field to deselect it, before pressing Close.

2.a – Download An Already Fixed Adium v.1.4 (Beta)

Compiling an application (i.e. creating an executable file from the source code), although considered rudimentary among programmers, can be quite daunting for us regular folks. In consideration, Fabio Gallonetto (the developer of this fix) put online a precompiled copy of the fixed Adium.

This file uses Adium version 1.4 (beta), so know that even though it performs admirably at the moment, at some point in time it’s going to be outdated. But, for now, it’s everything you could wish for.

Download fixed Adium-1.4 [alternative link]

This ZIP file contains the (fixed) Adium application. Head over to your Applications folder, put your current Adium installation somewhere safe, and replace it with the unpacked file you just downloaded. This Adium replacement should retain all your current preferences!

2.b – Fix & Compile A Different Version Of Adium Yourself

You might be enticed to fix and compile a different version of the Adium source code. Before you do, note these concerns. Appending this fix, and recompiling Adium is only advised for advanced computer users; (amateur) developers that know their way around applications like Xcode. Xcode alone is a 2GB download, and although a relatively user-friendly application, still a mighty impressive suite.

Rather than a how-to guide, this part is for reference. To build Adium, you’ll need Xcode, which can be obtained here after registering for the free Apple Developer program. Where to get the source-code is specified on the Adium Wiki. The patch can be downloaded from here (as a diff file).

Do you have anything to add to this subject? Perhaps you feel like Mac users are missing out on a wholly different IM client that doesn’t even require a fix. We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

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  1. Simon Slangen
    July 1, 2010 at 1:08 am

    Thanks for making this possible. I dearly hope your fix will be added to future releases. :-)

  2. duhanebel
    June 30, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Hi, thanks for linking to my article. I've updated the build to the last version of Adium1.4 (aka 1.4b18) today. You can find the new version here:

  3. duhanebel
    June 30, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Hi, thanks for linking to my article. I've updated the build to the last version of Adium1.4 (aka 1.4b18) today. You can find the new version here: