5 Great IRC Clients For Linux

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) has been around for a very long time. Many people could argue that it’s been around for too long. Still, when it comes to Linux, IRC still plays a major role. For example: most Linux distributions have a dedicated IRC channel that you can join to get support for your Linux distribution.

This type of chat is very unique. You, as the user, choose exactly how to interact with IRC. There are many, many clients out there. Since there are so many, we’ve decided to make a list containing 5 really great IRC clients.

Note: Most, if not all of the clients listed, can be found in your Linux distribution’s software repository. To install it, open your package manager (or software center) and search for the program.

1. Irssi

Every Linux user is not the same. Some prefer beautiful user interfaces; some don’t. Irssi is for fans of the latter. It’s a terminal-based IRC client with none of that fancy UI getting in the way.


Just because Irssi is terminal-based doesn’t mean you should count it out. Configuring Irssi might be just as simple if not easier than configuring a GUI-based IRC client. All you have to do is enter a few commands, and it’ll generate a config file for you. Easy.

This client is perfect for those who aren’t interested in pretty and are more interested in functionality. It’s a great choice, albeit a bit daunting if you’re not comfortable having to remember a few commands to get it fully configured.

2. HexChat

HexChat is a fork of the insanely popular XChat IRC client. The developers of HexChat say that it was created to fix some bugs that Xchat had. The developers also made HexChat completely free and open source (something that the XChat developer didn’t do). When it comes to being user friendly, HexChat is one of the best chat clients out there for Linux.


It’s great because it’s super easy to set up and get going. Right off the bat you’re taken through the process of setting chat up. This includes things like your nickname, server of choice, channel and even your password if you have a protected account.

If you’re comfortable with IRC but still want a bit of user-friendliness, HexChat might be your best bet in this department. It has the right amount of advanced features (admin controls, network options and the like). It really is a great choice, and a great addition to this list.

3. Pidgin

Pidgin in itself isn’t an IRC client. It’s a multi-platform messaging client. It allows you to log into multiple social network messaging accounts. Besides all of the social networking support, Pidgin also allows for the adding of IRC accounts.


It’s super user-friendly and easy to set up. The interface and chat text is customizable (somewhat). It makes this list because having the ability to message your Facebook, Google+ friends and IRC friends in the same program is awesome.

Pidgin is perfect if you’ve dabbled with IRC, and you like to use it, but it’s not the main thing you want to do. It’ll allow you to do some of the more basic functions that IRC has (like chatting and using commands), but it won’t overload you with advanced features. Just log in and chat.

4. Smuxi

Smuxi is a user-friendly chat program based on Irssi and aimed at more technical users.  It has tons of advanced options available to make your chat experience that much better (server settings, logging, the ability to execute join commands, etc.). The Smuxi IRC client is specifically designed to integrate with the Gnome desktop.


It follows the front-end/back-end way of connecting to IRC servers and allows for the client to be hand-offs from the back end of the program so that the chat client won’t disconnect. This is a great feature as it eliminates annoying disconnections which can interrupt chat sessions.

Another great thing about Smuxi is it has really great notification support.  This feature allows you to never miss a message. It even has support for Ubuntu’s message center in the system tray.

5. Quassel

The Quassel IRC client is a modern, QT based chat that feels right at home when you’re using KDE. However, even though it’s made with the QT framework, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t look great on GTK desktops.


The good thing about Quassel is that it allows for connections to multiple servers at a time as well as the ability to use different passworded identities. When loading a chat channel, previous messages are loaded in into the chat window.

Quassel has a lot of options. A lot of really great, really advanced options (loading multiple channels, admin options, multiple ways for connecting, etc.). However, getting to the options for a lot of settings can be particularly annoying. Some settings seem like they’re hidden away and not organized particularly well.

When using Quassel, the IRC client itself doesn’t ever interact with chat servers. Instead the client interacts with the core. The core then interacts with the IRC servers so that the client never gets disconnected.

If you’re set on having an advanced IRC client, Quassel is probably your best bet. It’s well-put-together, easy to get going and yet doesn’t shy away from letting users do more advanced things.


Even though Internet Relay Chat has shown its age, it is still really important. It’s still used for a lot of different things and in many ways. For example: it’s an easy way for open source communities to communicate with one another.

The protocol has been around for a very long time, and I don’t think it’s going anywhere. Sure, many people have switched away from IRC in favor of social networks, but I think it still has a place. Not many instant messenger platforms allow you to make your very own room (or even your own server).

Do you have a favorite IRC client that wasn’t listed? Tell us in the comments below!

Image sources: Smuxi, Irssi, Quassel, HexChat

Derrik Diener
Derrik Diener

Derrik Diener is a freelance technology blogger.

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