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How Yahoo Messenger Works

Yahoo Messenger Features

Yahoo Messenger extras like imvironments allow users to customize the appearance of their messenger screens.
Yahoo Messenger extras like imvironments allow users to customize the appearance of their messenger screens.
Image courtesy of Yahoo

With Yahoo Messenger features, Yahoo gives you options beyond the basics of instant messaging. You can set Yahoo Messenger to alert you of incoming messages or e-mail. You can protect your privacy, personalize with IMVironments and avatars or add webcam features. Here's more about each of these features.


Alerts let you know when you receive an IM, when someone on your messenger list comes on or goes offline, when you receive e-mail, or when your calendar shows an upcoming event. To set an alert:


  • Go to the Messenger menu, select "Preferences," click "Alerts" and select "Enable Alert Sounds."
  • Pick when you want an alert, using the Event menu.
  • Choose the type of alert you want for each event. This can be a sound from the menu or one you add yourself.
  • Close the window to finish.


By using stealth settings and ignoring unwanted contacts, you can help ensure your privacy and security. Stealth settings allow you to appear offline to some contacts and online to others. To set this, start by right-clicking on the group name or contact. Select "Stealth Settings," and choose online, offline or permanently offline. Click "OK" to finish. You'll know you appear offline to a certain contact or group if their name is in italics in your messenger list.

You can block messages from a single contact or up to 100 by ignoring them. You'll always appear to be offline to them. First, though, you have to delete the contact from your messenger list. Here's how you can block, or ignore, someone.

  • Click on the Messenger menu, select "Preferences" and then "Ignore List." Choose "Ignore only the people below."
  • Click on "Add" and enter the Yahoo ID of the person you want to ignore.
  • To finish, click "Ignore" and "OK."
  • To later stop ignoring the person, enter the contact's ID and click "Remove."


Avatars, audibles and IMVironments (themed IM window backgrounds) let you make Yahoo Messenger your own. An avatar is a character that you can personalize by changing its physical appearance, clothes, accessories and backgrounds and then show as your personal icon on Yahoo Messenger.

To create and customize your avatar, go to To display the avatar in IMs and the messenger list, follow these steps:

Go to the Messenger menu, select "Preferences" and click on "Display Image." Click the Avatar box to show your avatar, and select "Enable display images everywhere" to see pictures and avatars from your contacts.

Audibles are talking animated characters you can send in an IM to comment or make a joke. Click the lips icon below the conversation window to access the audibles. Click the Send button above the one you want to send. Click "More Audibles" to see them all.

An IMVironment (IMV) is a themed conversation window that you select. You and your contacts can see your IMV every time you IM. Your messages print over IMVs like Fishtank, which is animated with swimming fish. The Doodle IMV lets you and your contact draw in color on the same canvas, while other IMVs let you play interactive games together.


Webcam capabilities let you view a contact's webcam video or send your own. Viewing someone else's webcam is easy. Just click "Contact" in the IM window and select "Contact Options" and "View Webcam." Sending your own is more complicated. For specific requirements, see Yahoo Messenger's Webcam Help section.

Yahoo Messenger also offers tools to simplify instant messaging -- and make it more fun. Go to the next page to learn more.