You're Here! Great!
Now let's start beknowledging your internetting smartity!
WHAT IS !?
IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat, but what the hell does that mean? Simply put,
Internet: well that's where you are right now. Relay: that's what happens when we
wish others to partake of something, and Chat: usually self-explanatory, but for
the sake of argument, the chattening is when many people try to shout the most
useless info and trivia as loud as possible and is summarily ignored by the listener.
Now if you put all these things together, it becomes a framework for efficient
communication which all who know of it love and cherish.
IRC has been around since the late 80s and hasn't changed much in
all this time, why? Because it is already optimal, changing it would
detract from its usability.
Anyone on the internet can start an irc server, much like anyone can
create a website, but there are many good established irc networks
already. The difference between an irc server and an irc network is that
the latter is comprised of many of the former. Many irc servers can be
joined together to form a huge irc network, for redundancy.
Since IRC is so old, it is an open standard and if you know what RFC
is then you can find many references for it there, if you don't it
doesn't really matter, RFC is a knowledge base for creating standards.
But since it is open, there have been many many clients created for it,
a veritable ocean of choice, if one doesn't suit you, then you can
always find another that you feel more comfortable with.
An IRC server is made up of several irc "channels", and a channel is a meeting place for people,
any number of people can join a channel, although the channel "operators" - or just ops - can
restrict who and how many can join a channel. Once in a channel, whatever message you send will end up
in the channel, and anyone who is in this channel will see the message. One can also talk privately one-on-one,
or send messages to people who are offline, I will explain more of that later.
I shall be talking about a client called X-Chat, which exists for (click the name
of the operating system you want to download it for) macosx, linux, and windows. Just hit that download link and off you go.
X-Chat is open source, and if you have no idea what that is, just pretend I said "superiorily-whizzbang-kicktastic!".
After it is installed, when you first launch it you will see a server browser. There are a few
preset networks you can choose, and you can always create your own, or edit existing ones. There is
a little box you can tick to never display this server browser when you start up the client, tick it
if you want. You can always bring up the server browser by clicking a menu option for it, or hitting ctrl-s.
Anyway, the first thing I do is always to tick that box, and shut down the client, then start it up again.
In the empty window that comes up we're going to perform some basic irc commands to get you started.
The following commands are universal, they will work in any irc client, all commands are prefixed with /, and
for this example I will use the irc server freenode, substitute with whichever irc server you want to connect to.
Ok, now the client will connect to this server on port 6667, this is the default port for irc. For some it may take a while,
because the server is looking for an ident response, (ident is another type of server), if you lack an ident server you just wait it out.
Once connected, you may wish to specify a nickname
If you get a message from nickserv saying that this nickname requires identification, it means that this nickname
is already taken by someone, you can then change your nickname to something else, maybe adding an underscore (_) after
it or some such. But once you have a unique nickname, and wish to prevent others from using it you can type
/ns help register
and the help message that comes up will show you the syntax, on some servers /ns doesn't work, and you'll have to resort to
the more classical /msg nickserv help register.
Once you have registered your nickname, although not necessary, you can join a channel, and if you haven't
figured it out by now, this is how you'd join a channel:
The /join command can be shortened to /j. Notice the hash mark (#) infront of the name. This is to denote that it is
a channel, so if you have a channel called InsertGuildNameHere, you would type /j #InsertGuildNameHere.
If the channel does not already exist on the irc server, it will be created when the first person enters it,
and any subsequent people who enter that channel, will end up alongside you. The person that creates the channel,
i.e. enters it first will become the OP, the operator, and can designate this status for any non-op. In IRC lingo
this is known as opping someone.
As with nicknames, channels can be registered aswell, but instead of nickserv you would use chanserv, or /cs
After the last person leaves a channel, the channel will cease to exist, until the next time someone joins it.
Again, the first person to join it will become op, and only the first person in the channel is able to register it.
Registering a channel will allow it to persist even if there is noone in it to keep it "alive", and to remember
settings and channel modes.
The owner of a channel has full control, and can designate which people become auto-opped on entry etc, the ops
have full control in the channel, but not of the channel like the owner does. The ops can op others (unless the owner has
specifically told the channel to not allow non-listed people to become ops), kick people, ban people, or the more
effective combination; kickban people. Banned people can not enter until they are removed from the banlist.
Ops can also give voice, which is a more or less meaningless status unless you have a big "official" chat type of thing
going. Voiced people do not have the power to op, to kick or ban, they can't even voice others. An op can set a channel
to be "moderated", when a channel is moderated (+m in channel status) only ops and voices can speak, those who are neither
are simply muted until the channel is set to -m, removing moderation.
Traditionally, ops have always been signified with the @ character infront of their nickname, voice has the + character,
a semi-new mode called half-op (or hop) has the % character (a half-op can do anything an op can do,
but only to non-ops and non-hops), similarly, channel owner has its own character, but these two latter ones only exist
on some irc servers. In X-Chat these traditional characters have been replaced by dots with colours, purple for a channel
owner, green for ops, turqoise for hop, yellow for voice.
Sometimes nicknames in the nicklist have an alternative colour, this means they are in away mode (/away).
You can also message people privately, you do this with the /msg command,
/msg nickname Hello!
would send the message "Hello!" to nickname. By default when you receive a message from someone, a new tab will pop open,
however this can be configured to other settings in the preferences. These private messaging windows with other people
are called queries, and to bring up a query for another person, you would type
As mentioned previously, communicating with chanserv and nickserv is done through /msg, but newer servers have put in
shortcuts for these "services", so /ns is the equivalent of /msg nickserv, /cs would be /msg chanserv, and so on. Another member of "services" is memoserv (which as you guessed is accessed with /ms), memoserv is used to send memos to individuals
or channels, and if the person is offline, it will be stored until he comes online, and he will be notified of new
All of these services have their own functions, and the best way is to explore what they do is to message them help,
/ns help, /ms help, /cs help, and so on, and then you can go further into the help menu by calling for a specific
function, for example /msg nickserv help register (/ns help register), would show the help text for how to register
your nickname, likewise /cs help register would show you help for how to register a channel.
Some IRC networks do not contain services at all such as Eris Free Network (known as efnet), there the nicknames
are up for grabs, if you get it you will have it until you disconnect by or against your will and someone else takes it.
The abbreviations of /ns, /cs, /ms etc are also not universal, not all irc networks have implemented these abbreviations,
but the universal /msg will always work.
As with any new piece of software there's a learning curve, and you need time to get used to it. Giving up is very
human, but it won't help you. I would suggest you play around with the preferences of the client, it's the best
way to learn.
Well wasn't that fun kids! We'll have to do it again someday! But now you have much knowledge, GO FORTH AND IRC!
A couple of things that I do in preferences: Set the font to verdana, tick the box "colored nicknames", uncheck the box
"show marker line" (the red line for when you last hit enter, for easy scrollback to see where you left off, but we
hates it!), tick "indent nicknames", tick "enable timestamps" and set them to [%H:%M:%S], "use the textbox font and colors",
and if you're like me and don't want a separate tab for server notices, uncheck "open extra tab for server messages", and uncheck the same one for server notices. Oh and hit ctrl-s to bring up the server browser, and uncheck "MOTD", then you won't get
the message of the day text when you connect to a server.
In the menus, it is also possible to open new server tabs, or hit ctrl-t, that way you can be connected to multiple IRC
servers. You may join as many channels on any server as you like.
Many of the commands we've gone over have functions for them within menus, but knowing the basics of irc is important too.
You can send files over irc aswell using /dcc send nickname, you can also chat privately with a person without using
the irc network with /dcc chat nickname, a direct chat connection with nickname.