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How To Install Irssi And Use IRC From The Linux Terminal

IRC is one of the primary means of communication within the Linux community. Despite its age, major projects still use it. There are a lot of different IRC clients on Linux to choose from, but by far one of the most popular is Irssi. The reason that Irssi is so popular is that it is a terminal program. This means that as long as you’ve got a terminal, you’ll be able to communicate over IRC. Best of all, since it is a text-only program, it uses very little resources. Here’s how to install Irssi on your Linux distribution of choice.



sudo apt install irssi


sudo apt-get install irssi

Arch Linux

sudo pacman -S irssi


sudo dnf install irssi


sudo zypper install irssi

Other Linuxes

Building Irssi from source requires a few dependencies but not too many, as the program is text oriented. To build, make sure that you’ve got Glib 2.6 or newer, pkg-config, OpenSSL, git and Terminfo. Keep in mind that these dependencies may have different names, depending on the operating system. For best results, check pkgs.org, or search your Linux PC’s package manager.

Start the Irssi compilation process by first grabbing the source code from Github using the git command in terminal.

git clone https://github.com/irssi/irssi.git

Use the CD command to change the terminal working directory from ~/ to the newly cloned Irssi folder.

cd irssi

Inside of the folder, all of the code necessary to build the Irrsi IRC client is there. The first step to building it is to run the autogen script. This will automatically generate necessary files.


Running the autogen script will generate a few files, including the configure script. Configure is used to scan a PC and create a new “make” file (aka build instructions).


Configure generated a new “make” file. From here, use the makefile to start the compilation of Irssi. Understand that this might take a bit of time as compiling software is never quick.


When GCC finishes building the software, log in as the root user on your PC and install Irssi to the system.


make install

From here you’ll be able to launch the Irssi IRC client by opening a terminal and entering “irssi” as a command.


The Irssi IRC client works pretty well out of the box, but if you want to get the most out of it, it’s best to configure it. The configuration file for Irssi is in ~/ for each user. Every user on the PC that wishes to use the IRC client must configure their own ~/.irssi/config file. To edit the file, open up a terminal and type out the following command.

nano ~/.irssi/config

Joining Channels

Use the /server command to join the IRC server of your choice.

/server irc.test.net

Optionally, make it so that Irssi always joins your IRC server at startup, by entering:

/server add -auto -network test irc.test.net


With the server configuration setup, join the channel using /join.

/join #testchannel

Leave with:



Setting A “nick”

When Irssi installs, it will create a new configuration from the default settings on your PC. For example, if your “real name” on Ubuntu is “John Smith”, and your username “jsmith”, Irssi will add “John Smith” in your config as your “real_name”, and “jsmith” as both the “nick” and “user_name”.

For most people, there isn’t a reason to change the settings, as the defaults are fine. However, if you’re very particular about IRC, there’s a way to change it. Start out by pressing Ctrl + W, and searching for “real_name”. After real_nameuser_name, and nick, change the values to something else. Then save the config file with Ctrl + O.

Auto Connect

Need your IRC client to automatically connect to various channels at startup? Here’s how to do it. Start off by joining the server with the /server command.

/server irc.test.net

Use the /channel command with -auto to automatically log in.

/channel add -auto #test test

Once all channels are added, save the changes to your config file.


Backup And Encrypt Irssi Configuration

We’ve only covered the basics in Irssi configuration, as the average user most likely won’t need to do anything more than this. Still, if you’re an advanced user and you’ve got a lot of personal stuff in your ~/.irssi/config folder, it’s best to keep an encrypted backup.

Going the encryption route means nobody but you will have the ability to access your configuration file. To start the encryption, be sure that GPG is installed. Then, open up a terminal window and encrypt your config.

cd ~/.irssi
gpg -c config

The output of the encryption should be ~/.irssi/config.gpg. Move the encrypted configuration file to your /home/ folder.

mv config.gpg ~/

Now that the file is secure, feel free to upload it to Dropbox, Google Drive and etc. Decrypt the file at any time by running the decryption command in GPG.

gpg config.gpg 

mv config ~/.irssi

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