Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a concept more than two decades old. We all know that it is a chatting system that entails a set of rules and conventions and client/server software. Open source movement encourages collaboration and mutual support. Hence, IRC with its capability to provide real-time communication environment is still popular among the open source communities. Let’s have a look at how IRC works and what are the top five open source IRC clients.
How it works
Taking part in an IRC discussion is not difficult. You need to have an IRC client or web interface through which you can connect to an IRC server which in turn connects you with other IRC users so that you can chat with them. There may be many discussions taking place at once and each such discussion is assigned a unique channel. It is not only possible for you to join an existing group but you can also create one.
Why you would like it
It is possible for you to freely join a channel that you like whether you are seeking help or thinking of making a contribution. Usually open source projects invite contribution from anyone without any restrictions. For that purpose open source projects typically list their IRC channel to encourage contributions.
Moreover, you don’t need to reveal your real name while chatting. Nicknames can be used during a particular session or can be reserved through registration for all sessions of a channel depending on the type of network. Some channels even provide personal space for including a profile, picture and home page link.
Another added advantage is that IRC etiquette is not intolerant to reticence. This would imply that you need not begin with a salutation or formal introduction of yourself. You can join a group and linger around and leave at your will.
The pick of the bunch
It wouldn’t be easy to pick up the best five among all the IRC clients mainly because these clients are not equally supported on all platforms. HexChat may be excellent for desktop but for mobile, Yaaic, is preferred because it’s based on Android. To list the top five, we will need to list them based on a single platform. Let’s consider the desktop platform and proceed.
HexChat was formerly called XChat-WDK because it is based on XChat. However, unlike XChat, HexChat is completely free for both open source OS like Unix and for Windows.
- Customizable interface
- Cross-platform support (Windows, OS X and Unix-like OSes)
- Highly scriptable with Python and Perl
Konversation is a user-friendly IRC client developed based on the KDE Platform.
- User-friendly Graphical User Interface
- Multiple identities for different servers
- Highly configurable
Quassel IRC is a modern and cross-platform IRC client built on the Qt4 framework.
- Easy to set up
- Cross-platform support (Linux, Windows, MacOS)
- GUI with dockable nicklist and topic bar
KVIrc is a free portable IRC client which is based on Qt GUI toolkit.
- Full GUI based configuration
- Built-in help browser
- Drag and Drop toolbar editing
NetTALK is a powerful yet user-friendly IRC client for Windows. It supports six other languages other than English.
- Automatic command completion
- Automatic syntax completion
- Spelling check
Nuts and bolts
Before you venture into the IRC through open source clients there are some basic ideas you need to keep in mind. As aforementioned, while deciding upon the best IRC, you should consider the platform you are using. The above open source IRC clients are considered to be top in the desktop platform. But the term ‘desktop’ is in itself ambiguous because desktop may have different operating systems. As you read earlier, not all of the above IRCs support all OSes. One may be best for Windows and the other for Mac and yet another for Unix. These points must be kept in mind.
Another point to note is that you don’t always need a separate IRC client installed in your system. It is possible for you to embed an IRC widget into your website for a free live chat. Kiwi IRC is an example for this type of Web IRC. It gives you access to a large number of supported networks without any detailed setting up. There is no need of any other downloads or plugins. Once embedded in your web browser, you are ready to go.
Many IRC channels support languages other than English and this capability promotes people diffident about their conversational skills in English to express themselves in the language they are most familiar with.
While seeking information on IRC, users don’t need to hesitate. They can ask a question directly without any prior indication that you are about to do so. Nonetheless, you should not ask pointless or ambiguous questions. Instead, try to provide all relevant details with specificity regarding your question. Also, you don’t need to feel discouraged if no one answers your question. It is probably because they do not know the answer to your question or the person who knows the answer is offline. If you ask a question in a lively channel, it usually gets answered. If you would like to know more about this, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.