Introduction to Irssi

If you have been a follower this blog, I wrote a post awhile back that described my preferred settings in tmux and just recently wrote a post about getting set up with bitlbee.  Today we will be adding on another piece to what I will be calling my ultimate command line theme by introducing another useful command line tool for communications called Irssi.  Here are the back posts to these if you missed them.

Now that we have that out of the way let’s talk about Irssi.  Irssi is a console based IRC client that has been around for quite a while now.  There is somewhat of a debate holy war as to which console based IRC client is the best.  There are a number of hardcore Irssi users around that tout it is as the best, with the likewise being true for Weechat fans.  Before going any further I will say that there is definitely a certain amount of leg work to get Irssi up and running with the full set of customizations and features. That said, I believe the extra work is worth every minute of time and effort if you are looking for a fully featured, rich IRC experience.

I want to present both of these clients (Irssi and Weechat) to readers and let each person decide for themselves which is the best, because saying one is better than the other wouldn’t be a fair comparison, and is really like comparing apples and orages.  With that said, in a future post I will be going over the basics of using Weechat, the other touted console based IRC client.

Bitlbee in Irssi

Add an alias for Bitlbee.

/network add bitlbee
/server add -auto -network bitlbee localhost
/connect bitlbee

Register server account to tie to Irssi.

<desired password>

Automatically join and identify when Irssi starts.

/channel add -auto -botcmd '/say identify\; /oper' &bitlbee bitlbee

Add in your Gtalk account.

account add jabber
<gmail password>

Set up correct port and ssl stuff for gtalk.

account jabber server

Getting used to Irssi

Here we will assume that you have created and set up a user with  Once that step has been completed you should be able to follow these instructions without any issues.

/SERVER ADD -auto -network freenode

You may have to shutdown and restart Irssi at this point for it to recognize the network name “freenode” in the next step.

/CHANNEL ADD -auto ##/r/sysadmin freenode


First we need to download the script and put it into the appropriate place.  If you haven’t created your Irssi scripts directory and your autorun directory go ahead and make them quickly.

mkdir ~/.irssi/scripts
mkdir ~/.irssi/scripts/autorun

Change directories to your scripts directory and download the script.

cd ~/.irssi/scripts

Let’s quickly set it to be executable.

sudo chmod +x

Now we need to symlink this script and then run it in Irssi. To symlink it run the following,

cd ~/.irssi/scripts/autorun
ln -s ../

And finally to load it into Irrsi.


That should be it. This can come in handy when you have any more than a handful of windows and can’t keep your conversations straight. If we take a look at our Irssi session we can see that there is a name associated with each window number now.

As you can see there is now a name associated with each of the windows that we have open.  This looks pretty good but there are some cool features in this script that we are going to leverage to make it look even better.  In your Irssi session run the following commands to customize your display even further,

/statusbar window remove act
/set awl_display_key $Q%K|$N%n $H$C$S
/set awl_display_key_active $Q%K|$N%n $H%U$C%n$S
/set awl_display_nokey [$N]$H$C$S
/set awl_block 1

OK, this is looking better. We now have our current conversation underlined, our windows named and numbered with decent formatting and have set windows with activity to update and change colors. There are more options if you look at the script itself but this is a pretty good start.

Setting up

This script will add in the ability to check messages that contain your nick. This is a good way to easily check messages while you were away or didn’t get a chance to respond to.  First we need to make sure that the new window will split correctly.

SET autostick_split_windows ON
/hilight <nickname>

Now we add in and configure our new notification window.

/window new split
/window name hilight
/window size 4

Set up

The description from its creator is “right aligned nicks depending on longest nick”.  This script will help with the readability and organization of your different chats.  I’m not sure if it requires but I have it in my scripts folder and symlinked to my autorun folder just in case.  Just load in like you do for all other scripts and it will start doing its things.


Setting up themes

Definitely not a necessity but can help to make things cleaner and easier to read.  So far I have played around with the xchat and fear2 themes but will come back and update this post if I happen to find a better theme.  The good thing is that thems are really easy to set up and use.  So to load a specific theme just copy it into your /.irssi directory and turn it on in Irssi.

/set theme xchat

That’s all I have on Irssi for now.  If there is one complaint that I have about Irssi it is that the script doesn’t play nicely in tmux (however it should be fine in screen).  It is a manual process and is a pain in the ass to get set up so I have chosen not to cover it in this post.  It is possible I know, but for me, it just wasn’t worth the trouble.  If you know of an easy way to get this working inside of tmux let me know.


Josh Reichardt

Josh is the creator of this blog, a system administrator and a contributor to other technology communities such as /r/sysadmin and Ops School. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.