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Create Your Own iChat Smiley

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Create Your Own iChat Smiley
iChat Smileys - Create Your Own iChat Smiley

Creating your own iChat smiley isn't a difficult process, but it does require a bit of time, some creativity, and a few tools you may not have, unless you happen to be a Mac developer. But don't let the phrase 'Mac developer' scare you off. All you need is one of the free tools included in Xcode, the freely available development environment for the Mac.

Before we get started, it would be a good idea to review how the iChat smiley system works, and where the smileys and other important information are stored on your Mac. Instead of repeating all of that information here, take a look at:

iChat Smileys - Modify an Existing iChat Smiley

OK; welcome back from the basic iChat smiley review. Now that we have the basics tucked away, let's get started with creating your own iChat smileys.

The only difference between editing an existing iChat smiley and creating your own is the need to inform the iChat application that a new smiley with a new name and new keyboard shortcut is available to the application.

Smiley.plist

iChat uses multiple property lists (also called plists, pronounced "pea-lists") to store information about how it should behave, and what resources are available to it. When you change any of the iChat preferences, such as the font you like to use, the background color, or even your iChat account information, the data is stored in one or more plists. That way, iChat can easily recall the data the next time you launch it.

The same is true for iChat smileys. When iChat launches, it checks the smiley.plist to see what smileys are available to it, what their names are, and which keyboard shortcuts invoke which smileys in an iChat conversation.

When you create a new iChat smiley, you not only have to create the actual smiley image, you must also add the smiley information to the appropriate plist.

Tools You Will Need to Create iChat Smileys

  • An image editor that can save images in TIFF format.
  • A plist editor.

A plist editor is actually just a basic XML editor. If you have an XML editor, it will probably work just fine. But in case you don't, I'm going to show you how to edit plists using Apple's Property List editor, a free editor included with the Xcode developer environment.

Installing Apple's Xcode

  1. Xcode is available as a free download from Apple's Mac Dev Center. You will need to register as an Apple developer, but registration is free, and gives you access to the basic Apple development services.

  2. After you register, return to the Mac Dev Center page and click on the Xcode download link.

  3. When the download is complete, double-click the Xcode install icon to start the installation process, and follow the onscreen instructions.
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