Create unique iChat status messages

Have you ever noticed a buddy in iChat with a really unique status message? Perhaps their text is uʍop ǝpısdn (upside down, for those not standing on their heads), or ⓒⓞⓝⓣⓐⓘⓝⓢ ⓕⓐⓝⓒⓨ ⓣⓔⓧⓣ or ✻interesting graphics✻. Ever wondered how they created those tricky status messages?

The answer is surprisingly simple—those messages are built with Unicode, a global computer “dictionary” containing over 100,000 unique characters. Unicode support is built into OS X, and it’s supported in most every application. All you have to do is create your status message using Unicode characters, and you’re done.

Because it’s not a lot of fun to work in the one-line iChat status message area, I prefer to build tricky Unicode status messages in a text editor that supports Unicode, such as TextEdit or Smultron. To create Unicode text, you’ll need to be able to see the Character Palette, which you can do through the Edit -> Special Characters menu in those (and other) editors.

Once the Character Palette appears onscreen, I set the View pop-up menu to All Characters, and then expand the Symbols category, as that’s where the most interesting characters reside. To create your status message, select it in the Character Palette, then either click the Insert button in the Character Palette, or (my preferred method) drag and drop it into your editor.

Once you’ve created your status message in the text editor, copy it to the clipboard, switch to iChat, click on the status message area below your name in the Buddy List, and paste (Command-V) your message. Keep in mind that the status message uses a relatively small font, so you’ll want to avoid some of the more intricate characters.

One final caveat is that if you chat with users on other operating systems, their chat programs may or may not understand Unicode—so if you get some questions about your weird-looking status message, that may be the cause.

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