10 Top Free and Open Source Console Based IRC Clients

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a form of real-time Internet text messaging (chat) or synchronous conferencing. It is primarily a method of group communication in discussion forms called channels, but the facility to participate in one-to-one communication is also available. IRC was invented by Jarkko Oikarinen (known as WiZ) when he was employed at the University of Oulu, Finland. This system enables millions of people around the world to communicate in real time.

Command-Line InterfaceIRC is an essential way of engaging with the Linux community. Being able to tap into the wealth of knowledge of individuals logged into IRC enables users to engage directly with developers and other users of distributions and applications. IRC is not just limited to obtaining and giving technical support to others; it can be used for many other activities.

Users typically connect to an IRC network using an IRC client. The client takes the raw IRC traffic and turns it into an easy-to-use interface. The number of Linux IRC clients that are available is rather daunting. To narrow it to a small selection of clients, this article focuses on proficient clients that run from the console. The graphical desktop environment has become so ingrained in almost everyone’s computer activities. However, console-based IRC clients are a good fit; small, lean clients, that can be run on any hardware, and still make full use of the power of IRC.

To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled a list of 10 high quality console based open source IRC clients. Hopefully, there will be something of interest for anyone who wishes to engage with the IRC community using the console. Here’s our verdict captured in a legendary LinuxLinks-stylized ratings chart.

Ratings chart for the best free and open source console-based IRC clients

Click the links in the table below to learn more about each client.

Console IRC Clients
WeeChatWee Enhanced Environment for Chat; very light and extensible
glircAdvanced client maintaining a model of the IRC connection state
tinyRust based IRC client
IrssiConsole based client supporting SILC and ICB protocols
ERCPowerful, modular, and extensible IRC client for Emacs
ScrollZAdvanced ircII-based IRC client
EPICBased on ircII, EPIC excels at scripting
catgirlTargets FreeBSD, OpenBSD, macOS and Linux
BarnOwlForked from the ktools owl project
irccA single C file which implements a usable IRC client

This article has been revamped in line with our recent announcement.

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