Thursday, April 23, 2009

Notes from the switch to a command-line IRC client

For the past few years, I've been using XChat for all my IRC needs. It's been reliable so far, though I've had a few issues with the way it handles logs and configuration files. Every few months, though, somebody will tell me to switch to irssi or one of the other command-line IRC clients, because they're "better" in some vague, ineffable way. So, for the past week or so, I've been using Weechat. Here are my thoughts on the transition.

Weechat > XChat:
  • Because it's command-line, I can use it with screen, which is incredibly convenient when I'm out somewhere.
  • The control commands are a bit nicer than XChat's
  • Handles configuration really well - you can make changes through the interface, and save them back to disk with a single command
  • Lower memory usage
XChat > Weechat:
  • Having a channel tree on the side of the screen is infinitely better than keyboard shortcuts for channel navigation. I've always said that the keyboard shortcut model for navigating between channels sucked hard, but now I have actual experience to back it up.
  • You can't click on URLs in a command-line client, unless the terminal has some special support for it, and the URL is short enough that it doesn't get wrapped in half
  • You can't copy/paste from a command-line client. I'm sure there's some kind of ugly hack to get around this, since it's a pretty basic thing to want to do, but there's no way to make it work cleanly.
  • It's impossible to get a command-line client to integrate with your desktop, so there's no way, for instance, to get a notification on highlights
  • I miss being able to scroll with a mouse wheel. Page Up/Down just isn't the same.
  • Many of the keyboard shortcuts are really obscure. Traditionally, this is where command-line client zealots say something inane about how I can change them to something better if I don't like them.


Kiriska said...

One of these days, I'll actually use IRC.

Frank Church said...

I have not commented on your blog in far too long. Here is a comment.

Æther said...

omg, Frank Church speaks! Now that I know he's there, I demand a blog post...eventually. :)

I tried irssi for about 20 minutes once. It was miserable. The biggest issue is that I prefer to click over using keyboard shortcuts. Also, I need a list of channels that I'm on so that I know what I'm doing. I don't think that I use IRC enough to figure out how to use a new client anyway, so I'll just stick with my noob client forever.