Irssi Secure IRC Client

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Setting up and using irssi

Although irssi is not known for its immediate ease of use, nor its visual appeal, it does contain some key features that cannot be found in any other IRC client. Unlike most IRC clients, it looks the same on all operating systems including smartphones. Also, you can maintain a complete record of all IRC activity as all conversations are stored remotely. It’s most important features are its high level of security, and its reliability. There are several steps that will need to be taken before you will gain access to irssi. If you are on a PC running Linux or a Mac, you can also install Homebrew, and then use the the following command on the terminal: brew install irssi.

A. Preparing to access the SSH terminal

Configuring PuTTY in Windows

  1. Download PuTTY and save it on the desktop.
  2. Open PuTTY and click run if it asks.
  3. Enter your assigned username and server address in Host name field. It should look #like an email address even though it’s not.
  4. Select Default Settings
    • Depending on your remote server's setup, you may want to set "translation" to UTF-8. This is the case on Obrussa.
  5. Select save
  6. Click open
  7. A new window will pop up and prompt you for your assigned password.
  8. Enter your password and press enter.
  9. Proceed to step B

* Steps 1, & 3-5 are only required during initial setup.


  1. Open your terminal.
  2. Type ssh and press enter.
  3. Enter your password and press enter.
  4. proceed to section B.


Instructions compatible with snow leopard and above.

  1. Hold down ⌘+space to open spotlight
  2. Type terminal and press enter.
  3. Type ssh and press enter.
  4. Enter your password and press enter.
  5. Proceed to section B.

B. Configuring GNU bash

If everything went correctly, you should be looking at a text based interface. On this particular screen, there is nothing of consequence besides a flashing cursor.

  1. Using the exact case provided type minus the quotes: “screen -S irc” and then press enter. It will not indicate that you performed this step correctly.
  2. Then type: “irssi” now the screen will change into the irssi IRC client.
  3. Proceed to section C

Important GNU bash commands

Unless you will be using this service for other purposes, these commands will do everything you need.

  • screen -ls lists all currently open screens. (red box)
  • screen -S “name of screen” -X kill closes the specified screen and terminates any program running within that screen.
  • screen -d “name of screen” If you have accessed any particular screen from another computer, sometimes GNU will think that computer is still using it. this command forces GNU to free up the screen, so you can view it on another computer.
  • screen -r “name of screen” allows you to view a specified screen on your current computer
    • On subsequent connections it will immediately take you to irssi with no further setup required.
  • screen -rd “name of screen” Combines the two commands above.

C. Setting up and using irssi

Once irssi is launched, you will be taken to a nearly empty screen with a blue bar at the bottom with a cursor.

  1. Type: /connect Once you have successfully connected to your server, you should see some kind of welcome message
  2. Type: /join #channel_name The channel name is where you will actually be talking
  3. Type: /nick your_name This will help people identify you, but you don’t have to use your actual name.
  4. Start chatting by typing at the bottom of the screen

Keyboard shortcuts

  • You can switch windows with alt-**n** where **n** is the number key corresponding to the number of the window.
    • In fact you can switch to up to window 19 this way, using alt and the keys in the row beneath the numbers; for example alt-e switches to window 13.
  • Ctrl-p and ctrl-n, alt-left and alt-right switch to the next and previous windows, same as /window prev and /window next.
  • Alt-p and alt-n and page-up and page-down scroll through the backlog.

Important irssi commands

  • /lastlog “search query” displays each line that contained your search query
  • /hilight “what you want to highlight” If there is a particular word or person you want to see highlighted in chat.
  • To navigate to different windows, press alt+the_number or alt+left/right
  • /query “nick” starts a private conversation with that name
  • /wc closes the window that you are currently looking at.
  • /sb end takes you to the end of the scroll buffer, if you're scrolled up at the time.