Top Ten Tricks and Tips for New IRC Users by Paul Mutton, author of IRC Hacks
Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is an often overlooked medium of
communication. I’ve been using IRC for several years and have found it
to be a great way to collaborate and interact with other people,
wherever they may be.
If you’re used to traditional peer-to-peer chat systems, you may at
first feel rather daunted by the unfamiliar look and feel of IRC. Once
you’re able to gloss over this, you will start to appreciate the true
power of IRC and maybe even adopt it as your preferred chat medium.
Here is my top ten list of tips and tricks that will give you a good
start on the road to becoming an everyday IRC user.
1. Pick a good IRC client.
Because there are so many different IRC clients to choose from, you
could easily spend a whole day trying to decide which is best. The
good news is that many of them are free or available as shareware, so
there is often no harm in trying them out.
For Windows platforms, I would recommend mIRC, while on Linux, XChat
seems to be a firm favorite. Mac users may like to try out Snak. If
you’re the kind of person who prefers to work from a console, you can
find BitchX or irssi available for most platforms.
2. Register with NickServ.
Each IRC network can support thousands of users, but each user must
have a unique nickname. If somebody uses your nickname while you
aren’t connected, you’ll have no way of getting it back until they
If your favorite IRC network runs a NickServ service, you should
protect your nickname by registering it. Freenode is one such network
that runs a NickServ service.
All you have to do is connect to the IRC network and register your
current nickname by typing:
/msg NickServ register [password]
Be sure to specify a password. When you next connect to the IRC
network, you can identify yourself to NickServ by typing:
/msg NickServ identify [password]
NickServ will now recognize who you are. Once you are registered with
NickServ, you can do all sorts of other useful tasks, such as kicking
off people who have stolen your nickname. To find out what else
NickServ supports, simply type the following:
/msg NickServ help
3. Register a channel with ChanServ.
If you want to create your own channel for discussing a particular
topic, you will want to register this channel with ChanServ. This lets
you keep control over who can access the channel and what rights other
people can have on it. Simply create your channel by joining it: /join
First, make sure you are identified with NickServ; you then can
proceed with registering your channel: /msg ChanServ register
You are now the owner of this channel and can control every aspect of
it. For a full list of the commands supported by ChanServ, type: /msg
4. Save your fingers.
There’s no point typing more than you have to, and most IRC clients
will help to save your finger work when it comes to typing in peoples’
nicknames. Simply type the first few characters of somebody’s nickname
and press the Tab key. If you are using a modern IRC client, you’ll
see the characters expand to the full nickname of that user. If there
is more than one nickname that starts with those characters, you will
usually be allowed to cycle through all possible choices by pressing
the Tab key repeatedly.
5. Add a useful IRC bot to your channel.
An IRC bot is a program that acts like an IRC client but behaves
totally autonomously. These are often the slaves of the IRC world,
given mundane tasks that a human would be fed up with. One
particularly useful bot is ReminderBot, which reminds people to do
things after a set time period. For example:
hour and 30 mins to watch TV.
you about that on Sat May 29 20:45:28 BST 2004
One and a half hours later …
you to watch TV.
6. Turn your IRC channel into a group blog.
If you find an interesting web page or some such, you can paste the
URL into an IRC channel, thereby spreading the word to all of your
online friends. But why stop there? Why not run an IRC bot that
intercepts these URLs and also publishes them on a web page? Mobibot
is an IRC bot that does just that plus a whole lot more. Mobitopia
uses mobibot to capture URLs in their IRC channel and place them on a
web page at www.mobitopia.com/irc.jsp.
7. Avoid using colors and formatting.
Although most IRC clients will let you apply colors and formatting to
your messages, not many people bother with this. Some people take a
strong dislike to such extras, so as a general rule you should avoid
them unless everyone else uses them. Be aware that some channels even
ban the use of colored messages and will prevent you from sending
8. Advertise your IRC channel.
If you want more people to join your newly created IRC channel, you
can advertise it on a web page by including an IRC hyperlink. If a
user has an IRC client installed, their web browser may let them
launch their IRC client automatically if they click on an irc:// style
For example, if you want somebody to join your channel on the freenode
IRC network, you could include the following HTML on the web page:
Join my channel!
9. Avoid public arguing.
Whether you’re using newsgroups or IRC, arguing in public is only
going to make you look stupid. If you have a gripe with somebody on a
newsgroup, the sensible thing to do is to take it to email. With IRC,
rather than arguing your point with an individual on a public IRC
channel, you can take it to private messages. This relieves everyone
else from your arguing, and that can only be a good thing. You can
send a private message like so: /msg Dave You can’t be serious
This message will be sent only to Dave.
10. Keep log files.
Virtually all IRC clients give you the option to log your chat to one
or more files. This is extremely useful if you need to check back on
something that was said last week or even longer ago. Keeping log
files also lets you produce interesting statistics about your IRC
channels, such as those produced by the Perl IRC Statistics Generator.
Paul Mutton is the author of the PircBot IRC framework and several
other Java programs that can be found on his web site.