IRC Chat with ChatZilla

IRC Chat with ChatZilla

Many companies, like AOL and MSN, charge money to use their chat service. IRC is free! The easiest way to use IRC if your operating system didn't come with an IRC client is to download the ChatZilla extension for Firefox.

Note: if you are using Linux you probably already have one or two good IRC programs on your computer, but you can still add ChatZilla to your Firefox browser if you would like.

ChatZilla Quickstart

Many of you probably want to get started quickly so this section is for you. The first thing to do is to get a basic idea of what you are getting into. There are also links to more information about IRC at the bottom of this page.

Prerequisite Reading

IRC - Internet Relay Chat
A way for you to chat online for free with people from around the world.
Networks and Servers
There are many IRC networks that you can use.
A channel is like a "chat room". The name of each IRC channel starts with a # symbol. For example, you might find a channel about HTML called #html.
IRC Etiquette
  • Before typing anything on a channel be sure to read the Topic of the channel, which can be found at the top of the main chat window (see below).
  • If you are asking a computer question through IRC, search for an answer on Google first because that is often the first recommendation people in the channel will make.
  • If you are on IRC asking questions about a problem with your code, never post the code directly in the IRC channel. The Topic will display a URL where you can post your code. Then you can refer to that URL in the channel with a link (see below).
  • DON'T TYPE ALL IN CAPS, because it is considered "shouting".
  • Be polite.
Learn the IRC Commands
A basic list can be found at's tutorial. It would be a good idea to go through the first two sections on that tutorial page as you begin to experiment with IRC.
Other IRC Resources
See the bottom of this page for links to more IRC information.

Installing ChatZilla and Getting Started

Install the ChatZilla extension into your Firefox browser using the link at the top of this page. Close all Firefox browser windows and restart Firefox. On the Firefox menu bar click on Tools and then ChatZilla. Alternatively, you can start ChatZilla by just typing irc: into the Firefox address bar.

Note: If you have used IRC before and already know where you are going, you can type irc://<destination> into the Firefox address bar to launch ChatZilla. The destination can be a server name, or a network name that is recognized by ChatZilla (type /networks in ChatZilla for a list). Two basic examples that can be typed into the Firefox address bar:

  • irc://
  • irc://moznet

More advanced commands can be found on the Mozilla irc: URLs Page.

When ChatZilla starts it will show a page of information and a list of IRC networks. You can choose any of them, but for now, click on the one called "Freenode". Freenode has many channels related to open-source and free software. Wait for ChatZilla to connect to the network. The image below shows the opening screen in ChatZilla with an arrow pointing to the Freenode link.

ChatZilla opening screen

If this is your first time on Freenode you need to register a name on the network. You will see a box like the one below. You should enter a unique nickname in it. "IRCMonkey" is just the default setting and you should make your own nickname.

Enter a nickname

You will then be on Freenode and can register your nickname and attach a password with the following command:

/msg nickserv register <password>

Note: The site has more information on registering your nickname.

Next time you log onto Freenode, you can identify yourself with the following command:

/msg nickserv identify <password>

Now you can type in a command to view a list of available channels that you can chat on. In the case of Freenode it will be a very large list. The channels on Freenode are about open-source and free software topics.


Browse through the list and choose a channel to join. You can either click on the name of a channel to join it, or use a "join" command. In this case we will join the HTML channel with the following command:

/join #html

Important: Before posting any comments in the channel it is important to read the topic of the channel! The topic can be found at the top of the conversation window. If you don't read the topic, you are risking the chance of getting yelled at by the other members for not paying attention to the chat guidelines. The following image shows where to find the topic:

Always check the Topic before beginning your chat

In the HTML channel topic above they are listing a few rules, and if you don't understand what they mean by those rules you should follow the provided links before asking questions about your web site in the channel.

Another Way to Join a Channel

You can also join a channel from the menu, or by using CTRL-J.

Joining a channel in ChatZilla

That will open up a box where you can search for channels. In the image below I am trying to find a channel about HTML out of the 2593 channels available.

CTRL-J will open up this box

Getting Computer Assistance with IRC

IRC is a good way to get help with your computer questions. First you should search for an answer to your problem with Google or another search engine. If you can't find an answer, then you can try IRC or newsgroups. Generally, when posting in a computer-related chat room, you shouldn't post code directly into the chat room. There will be a separate web site where you post your code. Then you can ask your question, referring to your posted code on the other web site with a link to it. Instructions on how to post code will be found in the topic of the chat room (see above).

Other IRC Resources

If you are interested in more information about IRC, check out the links below.

IRC Tutorial -- Very useful information can be found in this tutorial.
A Short IRC Primer -- This link has a lot of good information on IRC. -- There is a lot of good information located here, including those two links above.
ChatZilla FAQ -- A good resource on everything about ChatZilla. -- More information about ChatZilla.

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