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Setting up IRC


Internet relay chat is a protocol for real-time text messaging between internet-connected computers. While it is dated in comparison to some other messaging protocols, it continues to be used regularly by SRCF members and as the emergency messaging platform of choice, with several servers located around the world.

In this tutorial, you’ll be setting up a persistent IRC connection using irssi and screen. It’s a great entry point to the terminal and beginners are encouraged to follow this tutorial!


Install irssi

sudo pacman -S irssi # Arch
sudo yum install irssi # Red Hat derivatives
sudo apt-get install irssi # Debian derivatives

Install screen

sudo pacman -S screen # Arch
sudo yum install screen # Red Hat derivatives
sudo apt-get install screen # Debian derivatives


Create logging directory

mkdir ~/irclogs

Getting this ready for later…

Check if screen is installed

screen -list

If there’s more than one screen session, you’ll have to enter its name at the end of the next command in Step 5.

Start a screen session

screen -RD

Consult the GNU screen manual (

Start irssi


Having done this you should be presented with an empty irssi window.

Essential settings

Enter these commands in your irssi prompt.

/SET nick <nick>
/SET alternate_nick <alternate nick>
/SET user_name <username>   # not necessary if ident enabled
/SET real_name <real name>
/SET use_msgs_window OFF

# Highlight lines containing your nick
/HILIGHT <nick>

# Set timestamp to something useful
/SET timestamp_format %d.%H:%M:%S

Set up logging

Logging is useful because the IRC connection is not persistent over system restarts (logging will allow you to see any messages you missed between the last time you checked IRC and the time the system restarted). It’s also useful if you’re receiving e.g. tech support, so you have a record of any instructions you were given!

/SET autolog ON
/SET autolog_path ~/irclogs/%Y/$tag/$0.%m-%d.log

Set quit message

/SET quit_message <message>

Default is ‘leaving,’ mine is ‘Scotty, beam me up!’ (which is actually the closest Kirk ever came to saying the commonly misquoted ‘beam me up Scotty!’ He never said anything remotely like this in the TV series but said the above in Star Trek IV).

Add network(s)

For example, ‘srcf’.

/NETWORK ADD [-nick <nick>] <Network name (your choice)>

Add one or more servers

The FQDN in our case is

/SERVER ADD [-auto] -network <network name> <server FQDN>

Add one or more channels

Check out an overview of the channels on our server to decide which ones to add.

/CHANNEL ADD -auto #<channel name> <network name>

Connect to a server

/CONNECT <network name>

Once on a server you can use Alt+num, where num is 0-9, to change channel.

Joining channels whilst on a server

/JOIN #<channel name>

Window Positioning

Move around windows until you get them in an order that you like (first go to the window that you wish to move):

/wm <position to move to>


/window move <position to move to>

Save settings and layout


Restart irssi and confirm everything is set correctly


You should now arrive at a terminal, where you can type irssi to restart the client and check that everything is working.

Scheduled restarts

You will also need to create the screen session every time the SRCF reboots, unless you set up an @reboot cron job containing screen -Udm irssi using crontab -e.

To disconnect from screen without quitting IRC press Ctrl-A, and then press D. This will place you back onto the command line, where you can just type Ctrl-D to quit.

When you want to reconnect later use screen -rd after you have logged in, and your should find your irssi exactly as you left it.


Appendix A: useful irssi commands

  • List current networks: /NETWORK

  • Remove servers (especially useful for getting rid of irssi’s default servers):

    /NETWORK REMOVE <server>
  • See all settings (to verify that there’s nothing unexpected in there): switch to status window and type /set.

  • Indent (useful with very long lines, so messages can be distinguished; experiment with exact value):

    /SET indent 4
  • Quit irssi:

  • Leave channel (after having gone to the channel’s window):



    /part <message>

An alternative, but less elegant way, is to just close the window. This method is needed if it is a split or hidden (e.g. for closing a query window): /wc or, in full, /WINDOW CLOSE

  • List all channels on IRC server that are public to join (not good for large networks): /list

  • Set topic: /topic

  • Switch between networks: Ctrl+X

  • List channels known to irssi: /CHANNEL LIST

  • Reload configuration:

    /RELOAD <filename>   # for loading a different config file
  • List users in the current channel:

  • Display user information for a given <nick>:



A number of useful things can be done here.

If you are in relatively few channels that have problems with people joining/leaving frequently, then just ignore for that channel:

/ignore #<channel> MODES JOINS PARTS QUITS
/ignore -except -pattern <yourNick> #<channel>

Replace # with the wildcard operator (*) to do this for all channels.

An alternative way for doing this for all channels is to add the following to ~/.irssi/conf:

ignores = ( { level = "JOINS PARTS QUITS"; } );

For a more in depth discussion of levels, and how to put all join/part/quit messages into their own ‘junk’ window (freeing up other windows for discussion), see

Appendix B: useful screen commands

Screen is an incredibly useful tool for keeping any process (not just IRC) running after you terminate an ssh section. There are lots of useful commands listed in the screen manual, and a few are listed below

  • ctrl+a x locks screen.
  • ctrl+a c creates a new window.
  • ctrl+a n switches to the next window.


Did you like this or find this cool? We invite you to check out more tutorials

If you have a better way to join the SRCF IRC server (or any other suggestions for how we could improve this documentation), send us an email at or submit a Pull Request on GitHub!

Last modified on Sunday Oct 30, 2022 by Jason Brown