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How to Use IRC? Tips and Basic Chat Commands [Part 2 of 2]

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Yesterday, we explained IRC and how to get set up. Today, we’ll cover tips and basic commands for using IRC. In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • How to join IRC networks
  • How to join a IRC network channels
  • IRC tips
  • IRC basic commands

How to Join IRC Networks

An IRC Network hosts channels (more about that in a minute) on which you can chat and interact. A network is hosted by the server (what’s an IRC server?) and, generally, provides a chatting area for groups of interest or geographic location. There are many (tens of thousands or more) IRC networks, which can host anywhere from one to many thousand channels.

To join an IRC network, you need to know its address and port number. Once you’ve found a network, simply connect to it with your IRC client. For example:

  1. I found a list of popular IRC networks here.
  2. I took the top network (alphabetical), Aniverse, and clicked the Servers link.
  3. I noted the address and port and added them in my IRC client, Pidgin (how to configure Pidgin for IRC):
  4. Alternatively, you can join another sever by issuing the command (replacing irc.ircserver.net with the server address):/SERVER irc.ircserver.net
  5. Once, I joined, I can start issuing commands (more on that coming up):

How to Join IRC Network Channels

A channel is often referred to as a chat room. While it really isn’t a chat room, this is something most of us are familiar with and, for the sake of finding a better word for it (forum? meeting place?), we’ll think if it as a virtual room in which we can chat and interact with others publicly.

Once you’ve joined a network, you’re ready to join a channel. To join a channel, type the following command:


Some networks will have so many channels that this may take some time (some will boot you for flooding yourself, but I don’t recommend joining networks with such restrictions.)

You should see a list of channels like the one below:

Pick a channel and click Join to enter the channel as shown below:

IRC Tips

Okay, so we’re in a room. But, before we go crazy, let’s go over a few tips that will help you get the most out of your IRC experience:

These tips are made up by me and are in no particular order. Most, if not all, of them are common sense but it’s worth knowing them.

  1. Read the rules. All good networks have well established rules and regulations. Learn them before you inadvertently break them and get banned.
  2. Be polite. You are, for the most part, pretty anonymous. That doesn’t mean you get to be a jerk.
  3. Keep it legal. IRC, contrary to some stigma, is not just for file-sharers or those who live on the dark side of the net. Keep it legal. Please.
  4. Don’t flood, spam, pester, annoy… you get the picture.
  5. Respect others’ time and privacy. Please don’t randomly message people for no real purpose (see rule #4.)
  6. Use common sense and do not share personal information. Like every corner of the web, someone is sitting there trying to defraud you of what’s yours. Be smart and keep your personal information to yourself.

IRC Basic Commands

Now you’re clued up a little and you’ve joined a network, here are some basic commands you’ll need to use to successfully navigate IRC. Let’s start by reviewing the commands we’ve already learned:

Commands are preceded by a / “slash” (not a back slash, which is this \ and not a “forward slash”… it’s just a slash.) This way, you can chat to your friend ‘Nick’ without changing your username every time you address him.

/nick username

The /nick command is used to change your nick name. We learned about this command yesterday.

/msg recipient

The /msg command send a message to the specified recipient. For example:

/msg NickServ REGISTER your_password email@address.com

This command registers your nick name with a password and is tied to your email address. You can also message the NickServ (assuming your network has one) and identify yourself with your password if you don’t store your credentials.

/msg NickServ IDENTIFY your_password


The /list command lists out all channels on a network.

/SERVER irc.ircserver.net

Join a specific server.

Other Commands

There are a few other commands of which you should be aware:


If you’re stuck, issue the /help command–it will show you all available commands. You can suffix the /help command with an optional command name i.e. /help list to get help and parameters for a specific command.

/away I am away

Use the /away command and replace “I am away” with a custom away message so others can see you’re not available.

When you come back, issue the /away command without parameters to remove your away status.


To exit channels and the network to which you’re connected, issue the /quit command.

Go, Chat

From here on out, you’re on your own to explore and learn more about the world of IRC.

Know much about IRC? Just joined and have learned some useful tips for beginners? Share them in the comments below.

About Rich

Rich is the owner and creator of Windows Guides; he spends his time breaking things on his PC so he can write how-to guides to fix the problems he creates.

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