New to IRC? Here’s Some Clients For You, and How to Set It Up

Ever wondered what IRC was? You’ve probably realized that it’s some sort of chatting service by this point, hopefully. Essentially IRC, or Internet Relay Chat, is a protocol used to communicate with others through special servers, and while it seems complicated it is quite simple to set up!

So you wanna get started with IRC, right? Well first you have to pick your IRC client! There’s tons of them available, and you don’t even have to install one if you don’t want to. You may have even used IRC without realizing it, as some people embed chat rooms into the bottoms or sides of their web sites.

Anyway, here’s some awesome IRC clients that I’ve found to be very useful!

Colloquy (Mac OS/iOS)

I’m going to start off with Colloquy, as it is what I consider “the mother of all IRC clients”. The UI is arguably the most user friendly out of any existing client, and you don’t have to feel like you’re using some outdated piece of software inside the Windows ’98 terminal. While I do consider this the best IRC software I’ve used to date, it is currently limited to Mac OS and iOS only.

Colloquy Homepage

XChat (Windows/Linux)

Next up is XChat, one of the best IRC clients for Windows. While it does look rather unappealing, I have gotten past that aspect of it as I figured out that it is fully customizable within the program, from text color, to background, to font. The user interface isn’t quite as friendly as Colloquy, but it’s still very usable and likable. Give it a shot!

XChat 2 Homepage

Pidgin IM Client (Windows/Linux/Mac OS)

This is the Pidgin IM Client, which isn’t just used for communication over IRC. It supports pretty much any chat system, you name it: Facebook, AIM, Skype, Jabber, GChat, and more. Among most of the IRC clients for Windows, this is frankly the most customizable and good-looking one. There’s native plugin and theme support, and the program actually comes with a bunch of plugins you can play with. Although, if you are one to sweat the small stuff, you may not get that same feel with Pidgin. Personally, I’ve had some minor crashing issues with this program, but hey, might as well try!

Pidgin Homepage

Nettalk (Windows)

Although I’ve never personally tried this program out, it looks like a pretty powerful IRC client. There is plugin support, scripting support, and from the screenshots what appears to be simple theme support. You also have the ability to easily right click a persons name to run a command on a user, which most IRC clients have but this appears to be pretty straightforward. The user interface is simple and I’d like to compare it to XChat, but Nettalk appears to have its own special way of organization, which in itself doesn’t look that bad or hard to use.

Nettalk Homepage

Setting It Up

Okay! So now that you’ve chosen your IRC client (or at least I can only hope you have at this point), let’s get started on how to connect to a server and a channel. I will do two examples with Colloquy and XChat, but I think by seeing these examples you should be able to pretty much figure it out for the other two programs.
Enter your nickname at the top, you can choose whatever you like! Make sure server protocol is set to IRC, and now choose which chat server you’d like to join. This all depends on what chat room you want to go to and which server it is located in. Let’s use the example of trying to connect to the channel #Colloquy in the server The server is the address where all these channels are located, and the channels are all the little rooms that you can join, hopefully this isn’t too hard to understand.
Upon hitting connect, you will be connected to the server, in this case it is Freenode. Now you can go ahead and join a room by clicking on the server and pressing “Join Room”, then type in a # sign followed by the name of the channel you’d like to connect to, in this case it is #Colloquy. Voila! You’ve successfully joined a chat room.
But wait! What if I don’t want to be in the Freenode server? What if I want to join an individually hosted IRC server, like PonyChat? It means that you just simply have to add the server to the list of other chat servers, but you must make sure you connect to that specific server ( if you want to talk in PonyChat’s #20pc channel. Go to File > New Connection, and next to chat server, just put the server name, in this case it is Now connect, follow the steps for joining a room, and you are now connected to PonyChat’s channel! It’s that simple.

You’ll notice that the UI is a little bit different, but the functions are all exactly the same! This is the network connection box, where you can connect to the server of your choice. If it doesn’t exist, simply hit “Add”, and type in a name for the server. This isn’t specific, call it whatever you want. Then, hit edit and type in the address of the server. If you’re wondering what “/6667” is, leave those there! It is the port number, which is usually 6667, and it must be left at the end of the server address. Go ahead and connect!

Now, XChat will prompt you to type in the channel you want to connect to, let’s say #PonyChat again. Well, type it in and hit connect! That’s it! Also, just in case you accidentally close out of that and you’re hopeflessly confused, head to the server window, in our case PonyChat. It should have a bunch of text such as Message of the Day and such. The text box at the bottom of XChat could ALSO be used for commands. The only one you should worry about right now is “/join #[channel]”, with channel being the channel you want to connect to (without the brackets, by the way). Try it out, be amazed, have a party!

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