6 years, 10 months ago

WeeChat — an interesting console based IRC client

I have been addicted to IRC ever since my first days as a mIRC scripter back in 1996-1997 and the true wonders of DALnet and DCC chat. After I jumped the Slackware Linux wagon in 1998 I was first introduced to X-Chat as the “one true IRC client”. However, with my thirst for having an “always-on” presence on IRC after I got my first ISDN connection (paid for by my parents, of course), I switched to irssi+GNU Screen after one of my geek friends enlightened me. I was hooked. GNU Screen allowed me to open irssi in a window and detach the session to the background when I was out and about. And it was 100 % console based, which meant I could just stick to the keyboard. Whilst everyone was moving on to ICQ in 1998 and MSN Messenger in 2001, I was happily chucking away on my Debian 2.2 (“Woody”) powered home server with irssi running in a 24/7 Screen instance.
I upgraded my home server the other day (running FreeBSD) and I thought it would be interesting to see what other alternatives to irssi exist out there. Not much has happened to irssi over the years, at least not on the front end. I recently converted to tmux from screen after it was incorporated into the OpenBSD base tree and discovered that it was so much better. After looking around I found WeeChat in a Linux Journal article where it received there warmest recommendations — especially for irrsi users. I have now decided to give it a spin.
When it starts, it looks very much like irssi. A simple command window. Everything accessible via keyboard commands. The easily recognisable blue status bar at the bottom actually caused me to think if I had accidentally symlinked /usr/local/bin/weechat to irss. But no! After connecting to my usual channels, the following hidden gems appeared:

  • A list of channels on the left-hand side
  • A list of users in the current channel on the right-hand side
  • A nice default colour scheme (it looks very nice in combination with the Zenburn theme in urxvt
  • Buffers allowing me to create multiple vertical and horisontal window splits displaying multiple channels in the same console (without having to scoot with ESC+ between different channels)
  • Lots of customisation and scripting features (I know, irssi has that as well)
  • irssi-compatible keyboard bindings and commands, which mean that you can easily get started without too much getting-used-to-a-new-way-of-doing-things-around-here.

I will give WeeChat a spin and see if it is something worth sticking to.