Introduction to IRC

May 07, 2013 | Tag: » how-to, irc

Updated March 7, 2019

IRC is a great way to get in touch with open source developers around the world. The FreeNode network hosts chat rooms, formally called channels, for almost any open source project or framework which you are likely to encounter as a Python developer.

PyLadies has it very own IRC channel #pyladies on the FreeNode network. Here’s a guide for getting started with IRC and joining the discussion on the #pyladies channel. Let’s start by using a web based IRC chat client, setting up an IRC nickname, and joining the friendly #pyladies channel.

Connect to IRC using a web client

Let’s start by using a web based IRC client:

  • Go to
  • For an IRC “Nickname”, pick an available username (legal characters are anything A-Z, 0-9, - and _)
  • Fill out the captcha code
  • Do not fill in any other fields (other than nickname and captcha) and hit the “Connect” button

Register your Nickname

Once you decide that you will use IRC on a regular basis, you may wish to register an IRC nickname that you may use each time you connect to IRC. Here are the basic steps to registering a nickname:

  • Pick a VERY INSECURE password (all communication with IRC is viewable by anyone on the internet so don’t use a sensitive password!!!) and use it to register, via email.
  • At the bottom of the messaging window, type the following (all IRC commands begin with the forward slash):

    /msg nickserv register YOUR_INSECURE_PASSWORD [email protected]

  • Check your email and verify that you are now registered by following the email’s instructions (it’ll tell you to type something like the following in the message window):


Installing an IRC client

While a web client is a handy way to get started with IRC, you may wish to use an installed IRC client which is especially useful to follow multiple channels. There are many different IRC clients available for Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, as well as Android and iOS.

Some popular clients are:

  • XChat (Linux, Mac OSX, Windows)
  • LimeChat (Mac OSX)
  • mIRC (Windows)

Installing XChat

  • Download from
  • Install and open. You will get the following window. Fill in Nickname with the nickname you just registered. Fill in the * other fields if you’d like.
  • In “Networks”, find and select “FreeNode”

(Optional) XChat Configuration

Configure XChat so that you can Identify yourself to IRC and automatically join #pyladies whenever you open XChat.

Otherwise, you will have to do run these commands yourself to connect manually every time:

/join #pyladies

IRC Etiquette

  • Although IRC is an instant-messaging medium, people are not necessarily expected to respond immediately, even if they appear to be available in a chatroom.
  • To call someone out in particular, you can write (into the channel input line) ping PERSON'S_NICK. When they are available, they will respond to you with the word “pong”
  • You are free to speak directly to specific people in the general channel (with the understanding that literally everyone will be listening in on your convo.
  • You may also privately message a person. It’s good etiquette to first ask in the general channel if you may send them a private message. (Note: In XChat, right-click their nick and select “Open Dialogue Window”)
  • Please be aware that IRC communication is transmitted in plaintext - i.e., it is very insecure (which is why you should register with a very casual password which you are not using for other accounts and NEVER share critical or privacy information over IRC)

Well-known Python Channels on FreeNode

  • #pyladies
  • #python
  • #pycon
  • #django
  • #pyramid
  • #pocoo
  • #positivepython
  • #openhatch

Helpful commands

Other useful commands to get you started:

  • /help – get help from the IRC bot
  • /join #CHANNEL – join a channel
  • /me ACTION – describe yourself performing an action
  • /msg OTHER'S_NICKNAME MESSAGE– send someone a private message
  • /part – leave a channel
  • /quit – leave IRC