Getting started with IMVU is simple. Like many other instant messaging clients, you just need to download a piece of software from the Web site. First, though, you have to create an account by going to the main IMVU Web page and clicking on "Sign Up." You'll choose a name, gender and one of 10 predressed starter avatars. Next, you enter information about yourself, such as your e-mail address and birthday. Now you're registered and can download the file to install IMVU on your computer.
Once you've installed the software, log in with your chosen username and password. IMVU has a tutorial to walk you through the basics, such as changing your clothes, hair color, accessories and rooms. There are several free options in each category. The tutorial also explains how to change moods and expressions as well as perform actions that come with your avatar. For example, your avatar can get in a sad mood or do a back flip. It can also sit down by clicking on seat icons in the room and instantly teleport anywhere in the room with a single click.
Playing around with your avatar is a lot of fun, but IMVU is a chat client, after all. There's a random chat button that can connect you with someone else interested in chatting with a stranger. You can also specify if you'd like to chat with someone with specific attributes, such as a certain age range or gender. If you have friends who also have IMVU, you can add them to your buddy list. You still type words into a text box, but the avatars have balloons above their heads that show what you're saying. Now you can do things with other people, like shaking hands or high fiving. When someone else is in your room you can stream music -- more on buying it later.
Finally, you can enter rooms to chat with others. There are thousands of public rooms based on various themes -- vampire castles, dance clubs, hospitals and anything else in between -- including accompanying furniture, decorations and sounds. These rooms usually have a capacity of no more than 10 avatars at a time. Because they're user-created, there are often stipulations on who can enter the room and what kinds of actions can take place in it. For example, some rooms are female only, or don't allow accessories such as pets or wings (which take a lot of bandwidth to render and slow down the room). You can also participate in groups and forums.
Next, we'll look at what you need to really get the most out of IMVU: credits.