Wednesday, 17 September 2008

IRC Clients for Linux Part 2: List of 5 CLI Clients

A while ago I reviewed 6 GUI clients for IRC, so today I'll continue with the second part with this review of 5 CLI (Command Line Interface) clients.

This was once the most popular IRC client for Linux, but now it is not maintained anymore and distributions like Debian and Ubuntu don't include it in their repositories. The official IRC channel of BitchX is located on EFNet, on #bitchx.

Also known as 'the client of the future', Irssi is one of the most popular, well-documented, powerful and configurable IRC client for command line at the current time. It supports Perl scripting and the official website provides hundreds of scripts for any possible task, from now listening and weather scripts to system information scripts. Irssi is one of my favourite applications for CLI, and it really deserves it. Although it can be a little tough to learn it, the FAQ and abundant documentation on the homepage cover every aspect regarding Irssi, from how to use it up to how to create Perl scripts for it. Irssi includes an effective way to switch between networks and channels using the keyboard, and some of the shorcuts are Emacs-like. They can also be changed.
Irssi 0.8.2 running in Konsole

This is yet another well-known client, although its interface is not as user-friendly as the one Irssi has. But Epic4 allows you to customise it the way you like via scripts instead of coming with a friendly way of handling how messages are displayed, or how a /WHOIS or /NAMES output is printed. According to the official website, Epic was forked from ircII-2.8.2 in the fall 1994. It uses its own scripting language, called ircII, which borrows many concepts from Perl, Tcl, Ruby and PHP. You can find more help on scripting on the official homepage, here. The last stable version of Epic4 is 2.8, and you can get it from here.

Epic4 2.6 running in Kubuntu 8.04

WeeChat is a user-friendly IRC client which is describes on the homepage as a 'fast, light and extensible IRC client'. It supports Perl, Python and Lua scripts, and provides many other features, like connections to multi-servers, DCC, proxy and SSL support. Together with Irssi, I think WeeChat should be the client of choice for beginners to IRC who want to use a CLI client instead of a GUI one like XChat or Konversation. It's user-friendly and provides a scripting interface, so you can customise it the way you like and turn it into a powerful client which matches your taste. According to the official website, Qt and GTK interfaces are planned for WeeChat.

This is a minimal IRC client, providing a very basic interface and only basic features. I can't recommend it for using IRC on a daily basis, but it is worth a try if you only want to connect to a network fast and just start chatting without the need of features, colours, or scripting languages. It has no TAB completion feature and doesn't seem to support more than one network connection at a time.

As a conclusion, I strongly recommend Irssi, followed by WeeChat and Epic4. The first two are powerful enough, flexible, documented and have scripting support, while the latter is a little harder to use (at least in the beginning) and it has its own scripting language. Despite this, Epic4 has the advantage of giving you total control over how you want its interface to look like, and it also provides many scripts on the official website for customising it. BitchX is too old now and it's no longer updated, while TinyIRC offers only the minimum features needed to connect and interract with an IRC server.

Related articles
IRC Clients Part 1: List of 6 GUI Clients

Updated: Sep 17, 2008


Cameron Horsburgh said...

It's a good round up, but you missed clients that are prts of other software. I'm sure Firefox has a squillion of them. Emacs has two out of the box, rcirc and ERC.

I like the Emacs ones, because they're multi-platform, work in a terminal or whatever GUI you might have, and you can log into a session on one machine from another one. I frequently do this---if I have a session going at home I can go to work and log in to my home machine and pick up where I left off.

Dan Craciun said...

Thanks for the feedback, Cameron. Actually I knew about the Emacs clients (although I never used them) but I tried to keep this list to the ones which come as a standalone application.

I'm sure there are many others out there, not only those, but these are the most popular (at least as far as I know). Thanks for the additions, again.