5 Amazing Linux IRC Clients to Keep You Chatting

Joel Lee 02-03-2015

People still use IRC. It’s been one of the most resilient forms of conversation in the history of online communication How We Talk Online: A History of Online Forums, From Cavemen Days To The Present Let’s take a step back and think about the wonders of modern technology for one second. The web has made it possible to participate in near-instant communication on a global scale. Join me as I... Read More , and while it’s certainly past its prime, IRC is still alive and kicking today – so alive, in fact, that dozens of clients are still being actively developed.


Most people use IRC on mobile devices Chatting On Android: The 4 Best IRC Client Apps These Internet Relay Chat (IRC) client apps will keep you connected even when you're on the go. Read More these days, which is the more convenient path to take given how far mobile apps have come in terms of features and usability. However, if you’re on a Linux computer like me, you’ll probably benefit from a robust desktop client.

Here are some of the best clients that are still in active development.


Several years ago, XChat was a top contender in the realm of cross-platform IRC clients. It was so good that most Windows users switched over from the reigning giant at the time, mIRC, and most Linux users considered it the de facto standard. Then tragedy struck: XChat stopped being maintained.


Thankfully, because XChat was open source, a successor named HexChat filled the void with an IRC client that was even better, faster, and more polished. The lightweight aesthetic design is what won me over, but just because it looks minimalistic doesn’t mean it’s lacking in features.


In addition to a customizable interface that can be themed according to your tastes, HexChat can be scripted using either Python or Perl – a big step up from mIRC where scripting was limited to the outdated mIRC scripting language. It has a handful of other advanced features, like multi-network support, and bugs are squashed regularly thanks to active development.

If you don’t know what you want in an IRC client, HexChat is the safest choice that anyone could make.


Back when I was using IRC on Windows The Top 7 Best Free IRC Clients for Windows 7 For most of us, chatrooms might seem like a relic of the past, but they're still around. If you're interested in that sort of thing, you’ll want to look into the IRC protocol. For those... Read More , I found that there was a lot to like about Quassel but also a lot that turned me off.



It’s cross-platform, which is great, and it sells itself on the idea of a split client-and-server: if you run a Quassel server somewhere, you can attach and detach a Quassel client at will. This way, you never miss any conversations because the server stays permanently connected.

But the interface is a bit too dated and lifeless. However, that might just be a personal thing since Quassel is built on top of Qt and I’m just not a fan of the way Qt looks and feels. Since IRC is usually something that’s always up and running, I have to be happy with the interface. It’s non-negotiable.

Thus, while Quassel is a great client on paper, it falls short for me. But don’t let that turn you off. You may find that you love it even more than HexChat.


If you like the split client-and-server feature of Quassel above but you don’t actually like Quassel itself, Smuxi should be right up your alley. Even if you don’t care for the detachable client concept, Smuxi is still a fantastic client that you should really consider using.



This awesome client is both clean and modern thanks to its GNOME-based design. It integrates seamlessly with GNOME desktop notifications (useful for incoming messages) and Ubuntu’s messaging menu. It’s not just for IRC either. Smuxi can tap into Twitter, Facebook, GTalk, Jabber, and more.

On top of that, Smuxi is beyond feature-complete. So much of its functionality can be customized in the configurations, including support for multiple networks and multiple identities, plus full control over keyboard shortcuts and interface theming.


For a long time, Irssi (pronounced like IRC) was the most popular terminal-based IRC client for Linux and was most used amongst Linux veterans. After all, it wasn’t until recently that Linux became detached from the stigma of being “that difficult operating system that forces you to use a command line 4 Ways to Teach Yourself Terminal Commands in Linux If you want to become a true Linux master, having some terminal knowledge is a good idea. Here methods you can use to start teaching yourself. Read More “.



And to be honest, Irssi was a huge pain to use when I was a Linux newbie 9 Lethal Linux Commands You Should Never Run You should never run a Linux command unless you know exactly what it does. Here are some of the deadliest Linux commands that you'll, for the most part, want to avoid. Read More . The same features that made Irssi so loved were the same features that had me scratching my head: the terminal interface and the heavy reliance on keybindings. But once you get over the learning curve, it’s almost preferable.

Irssi also has a theming system that lets you change up the various colors and formatting used in the interface. It’s surprising how much a terminal-based layout can be altered.


WeeChat is a terminal-based IRC client that’s more accessible to newbies than the aforementioned Irssi. Everything about its interface is more intuitive than its competitor, which means you won’t be confused as often. The layout is simpler and easier on the eyes as well.


It’s also built as a modular program, so the core is lightweight but can be extended through plugins written in C, Python, Perl, Ruby, Lua, Tcl, or even Scheme. WeeChat provides a central website where WeeChat users can upload and share their scripts.

Honestly, if you’re looking to use IRC on the command line, WeeChat is the best option. You cannot go wrong with it, even if you’ve never used a terminal-based IRC client before. Despite having very little experience with these kinds of clients, I found myself having a blast with WeeChat.

And for more power and flexibility, consider using WeeChat with something like tmux. I hear it’s a great combination, though I’ve personally never felt the need to try it.

Which One Do You Like Best?

I’m surprised by the IRC offerings that are available on Linux. All of these are available on Windows in one form or another, but they just run better and look better in their native environment. IRC may have peaked long ago – Slack is more modern Slack Makes Group Communication Faster and Easier Group emails can really kill productivity. It's time to put mail clients to rest and use collaboration services like newly launched Slack. Read More , like an IRC 2.0 – but the clients for it have never been nicer.

So, which client is best? It’s a hard call to make, but I’d have to say HexChat if you want a graphical client and WeeChat if you want a terminal client. But really, you should try all of them and see which one feels best for you.

What do you think? Are they any Linux IRC clients that I missed? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Related topics: Chat Client, IRC, Online Chat.

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  1. Sean Realer
    March 28, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    Yeah zulip terminal is really cool!!

  2. Random Guy
    March 23, 2018 at 3:22 am

    Do check out Zulip-Terminal( This project is still under development but already has some great features.

  3. Dirk Haar
    February 22, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Have a look at "Franz", too:

  4. matrix
    November 15, 2015 at 7:53 am


  5. Megh
    March 9, 2015 at 9:14 am


    • Joel
      March 10, 2015 at 3:52 am

      I do like Chatzilla but I hate that it's dependent on the browser being open. Was there a way to run Chatzilla outside of the browser? If so, I might give it another go!

  6. arko
    March 4, 2015 at 4:39 pm is the best

    • Joel
      March 10, 2015 at 3:51 am

      I didn't know KVIrc was still around! Neat. It looks different than how I remember it last (which was at least 5 years ago...)

  7. Priswell
    March 4, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    I've been using Irssi about 7 years. Love it. Doesn't use a lot of resources, and I rather like the keybindings idea.

    • Joel
      March 10, 2015 at 3:50 am

      I think people with a heavy Unix background will love Irssi, but newer Linux folks won't. I don't have too much experience with vim and emacs but Irssi feels a lot like them, right?

  8. Sourabh
    March 3, 2015 at 8:32 pm

    Weechat FTW!

    • Joel
      March 10, 2015 at 3:49 am

      I fell in love with Weechat as soon as I used it. It's perfect. :)

  9. Zhong
    March 3, 2015 at 4:21 am

    Isn't IRC different than sites like Omegle? I use Instantbird, a multi-protocol client that allows me to connect to various chat accounts.

    • Joel
      March 10, 2015 at 3:49 am

      Yes, IRC is different from Omegle and sites like that. It's a separate protocol that lets people host their own networks and each network is comprised of separate chat channels.

    • Zhong
      March 11, 2015 at 2:52 am

      Is there a linux client that support Tencent QQ protocol?

  10. thedress
    March 2, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    I don't use Linux but I like Miranda IM for Windows.

    • Joel
      March 3, 2015 at 2:48 am

      Wow, MirandaIM... there's a program I haven't heard about in a long time. Brings me back to those days when AOL/Yahoo/MSN messengers were the main form of social online communication. I'm surprised Miranda is still being developed! Very cool. :)

  11. John Nhoj
    March 2, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Personally using Konversation that comes with pretty much every KDE distro. It's great, can't find anything missing except one weird issue where it will attempt to join channels that are restricted to registered users (e.g. #python) before doing the indentifying.

    Before that I used HexChat which is great as well but Konversations just seems to be more intuative and pleasant on the eyes.

    • Joel
      March 3, 2015 at 2:49 am

      I've run into that issue on various clients here and there (joining before identifying) and that's a dealbreaker for me if there aren't any valid workarounds. It's just too much of a nuisance, imo. Is there a workaround in Konversation?

  12. Kejsi Bihcoh
    March 2, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Quassel is my first choice, given it's cross platform & client-server. QuasselDroid, the client for Android, works well.

    • Joel
      March 3, 2015 at 2:46 am

      Nice choice. I didn't know Quassel had an Android app. It looks good!