Quick Start Guide

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What is IRC, and how does it work?

IRC (Internet Relay Chat) provides a way of communicating in real time with people from all over the world. It consists of various separate networks of IRC servers, machines that allow users to connect to IRC. Generally, the user runs a program (called a 'client') to connect to a server on one of the IRC networks. The server relays information to and from other servers on the same network.

Once connected to an server on an network, you will usually join one or more 'channels' and converse with others there. There often are many different channels, each devoted to a different topic. Conversations may be public (where everyone in a channel can see what you type) or private (messages between only two people).

Some details

Channel names usually begin with a #, as in #irchelp. The same channels are shared among all IRC servers on the same network, so you do not have to be on the same IRC server as your friends.

Each user is known on IRC by a 'nick', such as smartgal or FunGuy. To avoid conflicts with other users, it is best to use a nick that is not too common, e.g., “john” is a poor choice. Channels are run by operators, or 'ops' for short. They control the channel by choosing who may join, banning or kicking undesirable users and even who may speak. Ops have complete control over their channel and their decisions are final. If you are banned from a channel, send a /msg to a channel op and ask nicely to be let in (see the /who command in the next section to learn how to find ops). If they ignore you or /who gives no response because the channel is in secret mode (+s), just go somewhere else where you are more welcome.

Talking and entering commands

Commands and text are typed in the same place. Commands begin with the character '/'. When entering commands, pay close attention to spacing and capitalization.

Some examples are given below. In these, suppose your nick is “yournick”, and that you are on the channel #coolness.

   /join #coolness

You join the channel #coolness.

   /who #coolness

Gives some info on users in the channel.

   hello everyone!

Everyone on #coolness sees "hello everyone".

   /me is a pink bunny

Everyone in #coolness sees "[yournick] is a pink bunny"

   /leave #coolness

You leave the channel.

   /whois Tom

You get some info about Tom or whatever nickname you entered.

   /nick newnick

Changes your nick to “newnick”

   /msg Tom hi there.

Only Tom sees your message (you don’t need to be on the same channel for this to work).


This works in many clients. Try it!

/quit good night!

   You quit IRC completely, with the parting comment so that others see “*** Signoff: yournick (good night!)”.

General Advice

Typing in all caps is considered shouting and should be avoided. Likewise, do not repeat yourself or otherwise flood the channel with many lines of text at once. While in a channel, follow the lead of the channel ops there. If you antagonize them, you may be kicked off the channel and possibly banned from returning. On the other hand, some channel ops are power-hungry and may kick or ban for no good reason. If this happens, or if someone on a channel is bothering you, simply leave the channel — there are thousands of others.

Nickname registration allows you to “own” a nickname, and prevent others from using it on that network. Consequently, if you try to use a nickname that someone else already has reserved on such a network, you will recieve a warning message from the network, and after a few seconds, your nickname will be changed or your will be disconnected. In the event that this happens, simply change your nickname until you find one that’s not taken. Consult the MOTD or network homepage for details if you want to register your nickname.