Arduino mini pro advice needed

I do not yet have a usb to ttl adapter. Is it possible to use a serial port to ttl adapter (with MAX232 chip) to program the Mini Pro?
I have tried various combinations but so far unsuccessful. I have Mini Pro Board selected on Comm 1 but cannot see the tx led on the rs232 board flashing as I have when using it with a PIC. Looks like the a Arduino software is not seeing the adapter.
Don m5aky