How AOL Instant Messenger Works

By: Dave Roos

AIM Basics

AOL Instant Messenger allows users to chat online with friends in real time.
AOL Instant Messenger allows users to chat online with friends in real time.
Image courtesy of AOL

The easiest way to send an IM is to send a message to someone on your Buddy List. There are two basic ways to do that:

  • Highlight the contact's screen name in the Buddy List and click the IM button at the bottom of the window.
  • Double-click on the buddy's name and an IM window will automatically open.

If you want to send an IM to a person not on your Buddy List, go to the AIM menu in the main window and select "New IM." You'll then be prompted to enter the screen name of the person you wish to contact.


Once you've opened an IM window, it's easy to send a message. Simply type your message into the white text box near the bottom of the IM window. When you're finished typing, either hit the enter key on your keyboard or click the "send" button in the bottom right corner of the IM window.

The text that you entered will appear in the top half of the IM window. When your buddy replies, you'll see his or her response under your message like a conversation. You can save IM conversations from the File menu by clicking on "Save Window." You can also open the conversation later and pick up where you left off.

AIM will notify you with an alert tone when you receive a new IM. If someone IMs you who isn't on your Buddy List, you'll get a message saying that "[screen name] has sent you an IM. Do you want to read it?" You always have the option to ignore an IM and even to block a particular screen name from ever sending you an IM again.

If you want to IM several people at the same time, you can invite all the participants to join a temporary chat room. Here's how you set up a chat:

  1. Go to the AIM menu in the main window.
  2. Roll over "Chat" and click on "Buddy Chat."
  3. Enter the screen names of all of the people you want to invite to the chat.
  4. Your buddies will receive an invitation, which they can accept or deny.

A chat room works the same as normal IM. To send a message to the group, type it into the text box and press the enter key or click send.

OK, now let's look at some of the newer, more advanced features of AIM.