How AOL Instant Messenger Works

By: Dave Roos

New Features for AIM

Cell phone users can hold instant messaging chats by using AOL.
Cell phone users can hold instant messaging chats by using AOL.
© Photographer: Ron Chapple Studios | Agency: Dreamstime

One of the latest new features for AIM is the ability to send IMs to cell phones as text messages. To do this, you'll need to know the cell phone number of the person you wish to send it to. Here's how you send a text message in AIM 6.5:

  1. Open a new IM window by double-clicking on one of your buddies.
  2. Press the "TXT Msg" button at the bottom of the IM window.
  3. If you haven't already assigned a cell phone number to the buddy, you'll be prompted to enter one now.
  4. Type your message, click send and it'll go straight to your friend's cell.

There's even a new feature called IM forwarding that forwards IMs to your cell phone when you're away from your computer. You can activate IM forwarding by going into the main Edit menu and clicking on Settings. In the Settings window, choose Mobile and register your cell phone for IM forwarding. You can even reply to forwarded IMs with text messages from your cell phone.


AIM is capitalizing on the popularity of Voice Over IP (VoIP) telephony by offering free Internet phone calls to other AIM users. To make Internet phone calls through AIM, you'll need a headset with a built-in microphone or a computer with speakers and a microphone. Here's how to make a free voice call in AIM 6.5:

  1. Double-click on a contact in your Buddy List to open a new IM window.
  2. Click the "Talk" button at the bottom of the window.
  3. When your buddy picks up, start talking.

The same is true for free video calls. Simply double-click on a buddy and click the "Video" button at the bottom of the IM window. Of course, you'll need a webcam to participate in video calls.

AIM Call Out is another VoIP service, and this one is similar to Skype. You can call any phone number directly from AIM, but you'll be charged by the minute.

File-sharing is a useful new feature of AIM. You can easily send individual files or whole file folders to any other AIM user. Here's how it works:

  1. Double-click on a buddy or open a new IM window through the AIM menu.
  2. Click on the "Send Files" button at the bottom of the IM window and choose "Send File" or "Send Folder."
  3. This will open up a window asking you to select the file or folder from your computer.
  4. The recipient can choose to accept or deny the file transfer.

For sharing photos, AIM 6.5 has a special "Pictures" button at the bottom of the IM window. This feature lets you drag and drop photos into the IM window. The photos will be resized and sent instantly to the recipient as individual pics or a slideshow.

With AIM 6.5, AOL has also expanded social networking options for users. You can now create a public or private profile page on which to share photos, hobbies and links. These AIM Profile pages include links to your buddies' pages as well. You can access your profile page by going to the AIM menu and choosing "Open My Profile."

Now let's take a look at AIM Express, a new service that doesn't require downloading of software.