This manual is for ERC as distributed with Emacs 27.2.

Copyright © 2005–2021 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with the Front-Cover Texts being “A GNU Manual,” and with the Back-Cover Texts as in (a) below. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled “GNU Free Documentation License”.

(a) The FSF’s Back-Cover Text is: “You have the freedom to copy and modify this GNU manual.”

All Emacs Lisp code contained in this document may be used, distributed, and modified without restriction.

Detailed Node Listing

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1 Introduction

ERC is a powerful, modular, and extensible IRC client for Emacs. It is distributed with Emacs since version 22.1.

It comes with the following capabilities enabled by default.

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2 Getting Started

The command M-x erc will start ERC and prompt for the server to connect to.

If you want to place ERC settings in their own file, you can place them in ~/.emacs.d/.ercrc.el, creating it if necessary.

If you would rather use the Customize interface to change how ERC works, do M-x customize-group RET erc RET. In particular, ERC comes with lots of modules that may be enabled or disabled; to select which ones you want, do M-x customize-variable RET erc-modules RET.

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2.1 Sample Session

This is an example ERC session which shows how to connect to the #emacs channel on Freenode. Another IRC channel on Freenode that may be of interest is #erc, which is a channel where ERC users and developers hang out.

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2.2 Special Features

ERC has some features that distinguish it from some IRC clients.

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3 Keys Used in ERC

This is a summary of keystrokes available in every ERC buffer.

C-a or <home> (erc-bol)

Go to beginning of line or end of prompt.

RET (erc-send-current-line)

Send the current line

TAB (erc-complete-word)

If at prompt, complete the current word. Otherwise, move to the next link or button.

M-TAB (ispell-complete-word)

Complete the given word, using ispell.

C-c C-a (erc-bol)

Go to beginning of line or end of prompt.

C-c C-b (erc-switch-to-buffer)

Use read-buffer to prompt for a ERC buffer to switch to.

C-c C-c (erc-toggle-interpret-controls)

Toggle interpretation of control sequences in messages.

C-c C-d (erc-input-action)

Interactively input a user action and send it to IRC.

C-c C-e (erc-toggle-ctcp-autoresponse)

Toggle automatic CTCP replies (like VERSION and PING).

C-c C-f (erc-toggle-flood-control)

Toggle use of flood control on sent messages.

C-c TAB (erc-invite-only-mode)

Turn on the invite only mode (+i) for the current channel.

C-c C-j (erc-join-channel)

Join channel. If point is at the beginning of a channel name, use that as default.

C-c C-k (erc-go-to-log-matches-buffer)

Interactively open an erc-log-matches buffer

C-c C-l (erc-save-buffer-in-logs)

Append buffer contents to the log file, if logging is enabled.

C-c C-n (erc-channel-names)

Run "/names #channel" in the current channel.

C-c C-o (erc-get-channel-mode-from-keypress)

Read a key sequence and call the corresponding channel mode function. After doing C-c C-o, type in a channel mode letter.

C-g means quit. RET lets you type more than one mode at a time. If l is pressed, erc-set-channel-limit gets called. If k is pressed, erc-set-channel-key gets called. Anything else will be sent to erc-toggle-channel-mode.

C-c C-p (erc-part-from-channel)

Part from the current channel and prompt for a reason.

C-c C-q (erc-quit-server)

Disconnect from current server after prompting for reason.

C-c C-r (erc-remove-text-properties-region)

Clears the region (start,end) in object from all colors, etc.

C-c C-t (erc-set-topic)

Prompt for a topic for the current channel.

C-c C-u (erc-kill-input)

Kill current input line using erc-bol followed by kill-line.

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4 Modules

One way to add functionality to ERC is to customize which of its many modules are loaded.

There is a spiffy customize interface, which may be reached by typing M-x customize-option RET erc-modules RET. Alternatively, set erc-modules manually and then call erc-update-modules.

The following is a list of available modules.


Set away status automatically


Join channels automatically


Integrate with the Big Brother Database


Buttonize URLs, nicknames, and other text


Mark unidentified users on freenode and other servers supporting CAPAB.

completion (aka pcomplete)

Complete nicknames and commands (programmable)


Wrap long lines


Launch an identd server on port 8113


Highlight or remove IRC control characters


Save buffers in logs


Highlight pals, fools, and other keywords


Display a menu in ERC buffers


Detect netsplits


Don’t display non-IRC commands after evaluation


Notify when the online status of certain users changes


Send you a notification when you get a private message, or your nickname is mentioned


Process CTCP PAGE requests from IRC


Make displayed lines read-only


Replace text in messages


Enable an input history


Scroll to the bottom of the buffer


Identify to Nickserv (IRC Services) automatically


Convert smileys to pretty icons


Play sounds when you receive CTCP SOUND requests


Check spelling of messages


Add timestamps to messages


Track channel activity in the mode-line


Truncate buffers to a certain size


Translate morse code in messages

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5 Advanced Usage

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5.1 Connecting to an IRC Server

The easiest way to connect to an IRC server is to call M-x erc. If you want to assign this function to a keystroke, the following will help you figure out its parameters.

Function: erc

Select connection parameters and run ERC. Non-interactively, it takes the following keyword arguments.

  • server
  • port
  • nick
  • password
  • full-name

That is, if called with the following arguments, server and full-name will be set to those values, whereas erc-compute-port, erc-compute-nick and erc-compute-full-name will be invoked for the values of the other parameters.

(erc :server "" :full-name "Harry S Truman")


Function: erc-compute-server &optional server

Return an IRC server name.

This tries a number of increasingly more default methods until a non-nil value is found.

  • server (the argument passed to this function)
  • The erc-server option
  • The value of the IRCSERVER environment variable
  • The erc-default-server variable
User Option: erc-server

IRC server to use if one is not provided.


Function: erc-compute-port &optional port

Return a port for an IRC server.

This tries a number of increasingly more default methods until a non-nil value is found.

  • port (the argument passed to this function)
  • The erc-port option
  • The erc-default-port variable
User Option: erc-port

IRC port to use if not specified.

This can be either a string or a number.


Function: erc-compute-nick &optional nick

Return user’s IRC nick.

This tries a number of increasingly more default methods until a non-nil value is found.

  • nick (the argument passed to this function)
  • The erc-nick option
  • The value of the IRCNICK environment variable
  • The result from the user-login-name function
User Option: erc-nick

Nickname to use if one is not provided.

This can be either a string, or a list of strings. In the latter case, if the first nick in the list is already in use, other nicks are tried in the list order.

User Option: erc-format-nick-function

A function to format a nickname for message display

You can set this to erc-format-@nick to display user mode prefix

(setq erc-format-nick-function 'erc-format-@nick)
User Option: erc-nick-uniquifier

The string to append to the nick if it is already in use.

User Option: erc-try-new-nick-p

If the nickname you chose isn’t available, and this option is non-nil, ERC should automatically attempt to connect with another nickname.

You can manually set another nickname with the /NICK command.


User Option: erc-prompt-for-password

If non-nil (the default), M-x erc prompts for a password.

If you prefer, you can set this option to nil and use the auth-source mechanism to store your password. For instance, if you use ~/.authinfo as your auth-source backend, then put something like the following in that file:

machine login "#fsf" password sEcReT

ERC also consults auth-source to find any channel keys required for the channels that you wish to autojoin, as specified by the variable erc-autojoin-channels-alist.

For more details, see auth-source in Emacs auth-source Library.

Full name

Function: erc-compute-full-name &optional full-name

Return user’s full name.

This tries a number of increasingly more default methods until a non-nil value is found.

  • full-name (the argument passed to this function)
  • The erc-user-full-name option
  • The value of the IRCNAME environment variable
  • The result from the user-full-name function
User Option: erc-user-full-name

User full name.

This can be either a string or a function to call.

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5.2 Sample Configuration

Here is an example of configuration settings for ERC. This can go into your Emacs configuration file. Everything after the (require 'erc) command can optionally go into ~/.emacs.d/.ercrc.el.

;;; Sample ERC configuration

;; Load authentication info from an external source.  Put sensitive
;; passwords and the like in here.
(load "~/.emacs.d/.erc-auth")

;; This is an example of how to make a new command.  Type "/uptime" to
;; use it.
(defun erc-cmd-UPTIME (&rest ignore)
  "Display the uptime of the system, as well as some load-related
stuff, to the current ERC buffer."
  (let ((uname-output
          ", load average: " "] {Load average} ["
          ;; Collapse spaces, remove
           " +" " "
           ;; Remove beginning and trailing whitespace
            "^ +\\|[ \n]+$" ""
            (shell-command-to-string "uptime"))))))
     (concat "{Uptime} [" uname-output "]"))))

;; This causes ERC to connect to the Freenode network upon hitting
;; C-c e f.  Replace MYNICK with your IRC nick.
(global-set-key "\C-cef" (lambda () (interactive)
                           (erc :server "" :port "6667"
                                :nick "MYNICK")))

;; This causes ERC to connect to the IRC server on your own machine (if
;; you have one) upon hitting C-c e b.  Replace MYNICK with your IRC
;; nick.  Often, people like to run bitlbee ( as an
;; AIM/Jabber/MSN to IRC gateway, so that they can use ERC to chat with
;; people on those networks.
(global-set-key "\C-ceb" (lambda () (interactive)
                           (erc :server "localhost" :port "6667"
                                :nick "MYNICK")))

;; Make C-c RET (or C-c C-RET) send messages instead of RET.  This has
;; been commented out to avoid confusing new users.
;; (define-key erc-mode-map (kbd "RET") nil)
;; (define-key erc-mode-map (kbd "C-c RET") 'erc-send-current-line)
;; (define-key erc-mode-map (kbd "C-c C-RET") 'erc-send-current-line)

;;; Options

;; Join the #emacs and #erc channels whenever connecting to Freenode.
(setq erc-autojoin-channels-alist '(("" "#emacs" "#erc")))

;; Rename server buffers to reflect the current network name instead
;; of SERVER:PORT (e.g., "freenode" instead of "").
;; This is useful when using a bouncer like ZNC where you have multiple
;; connections to the same server.
(setq erc-rename-buffers t)

;; Interpret mIRC-style color commands in IRC chats
(setq erc-interpret-mirc-color t)

;; The following are commented out by default, but users of other
;; non-Emacs IRC clients might find them useful.
;; Kill buffers for channels after /part
;; (setq erc-kill-buffer-on-part t)
;; Kill buffers for private queries after quitting the server
;; (setq erc-kill-queries-on-quit t)
;; Kill buffers for server messages after quitting the server
;; (setq erc-kill-server-buffer-on-quit t)

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5.3 Options

This section is extremely incomplete. For now, the easiest way to check out all the available options for ERC is to do M-x customize-group RET erc RET.

User Option: erc-hide-list

If non, nil, this is a list of IRC message types to hide, e.g.:

(setq erc-hide-list '("JOIN" "PART" "QUIT"))
User Option: erc-network-hide-list

If non, nil, this is a list of IRC networks and message types to hide, e.g.:

(setq erc-network-hide-list (("freenode" "JOIN" "PART" "QUIT")
("OFTC" "JOIN" "PART""))
User Option: erc-channel-hide-list

If non, nil, this is a list of IRC channels and message types to hide, e.g.:

(setq erc-channel-hide-list (("#erc" "JOIN" "PART" "QUIT")
("#emacs" "NICK"))
User Option: erc-lurker-hide-list

Like erc-hide-list, but only applies to messages sent by lurkers. The function erc-lurker-p determines whether a given nickname is considered a lurker.

User Option: erc-rename-buffers

If non, nil, this will rename server buffers to reflect the current network name instead of IP:PORT

(setq erc-rename-buffers t)

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6 Getting Help and Reporting Bugs

After you have read this guide, if you still have questions about ERC, or if you have bugs to report, there are several places you can go.

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7 History

ERC was originally written by Alexander L. Belikoff and Sergey Berezin. They stopped development around December 1999. Their last released version was ERC 2.0.

P.S.: If one of the original developers of ERC reads this, we’d like to receive additional information for this file and hear comments in general.

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Appendix A GNU Free Documentation License

Version 1.3, 3 November 2008
Copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2008 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies
of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

    The purpose of this License is to make a manual, textbook, or other functional and useful document free in the sense of freedom: to assure everyone the effective freedom to copy and redistribute it, with or without modifying it, either commercially or noncommercially. Secondarily, this License preserves for the author and publisher a way to get credit for their work, while not being considered responsible for modifications made by others.

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    We have designed this License in order to use it for manuals for free software, because free software needs free documentation: a free program should come with manuals providing the same freedoms that the software does. But this License is not limited to software manuals; it can be used for any textual work, regardless of subject matter or whether it is published as a printed book. We recommend this License principally for works whose purpose is instruction or reference.


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    The Free Software Foundation may publish new, revised versions of the GNU Free Documentation License from time to time. Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns. See

    Each version of the License is given a distinguishing version number. If the Document specifies that a particular numbered version of this License “or any later version” applies to it, you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that specified version or of any later version that has been published (not as a draft) by the Free Software Foundation. If the Document does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published (not as a draft) by the Free Software Foundation. If the Document specifies that a proxy can decide which future versions of this License can be used, that proxy’s public statement of acceptance of a version permanently authorizes you to choose that version for the Document.


    “Massive Multiauthor Collaboration Site” (or “MMC Site”) means any World Wide Web server that publishes copyrightable works and also provides prominent facilities for anybody to edit those works. A public wiki that anybody can edit is an example of such a server. A “Massive Multiauthor Collaboration” (or “MMC”) contained in the site means any set of copyrightable works thus published on the MMC site.

    “CC-BY-SA” means the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license published by Creative Commons Corporation, a not-for-profit corporation with a principal place of business in San Francisco, California, as well as future copyleft versions of that license published by that same organization.

    “Incorporate” means to publish or republish a Document, in whole or in part, as part of another Document.

    An MMC is “eligible for relicensing” if it is licensed under this License, and if all works that were first published under this License somewhere other than this MMC, and subsequently incorporated in whole or in part into the MMC, (1) had no cover texts or invariant sections, and (2) were thus incorporated prior to November 1, 2008.

    The operator of an MMC Site may republish an MMC contained in the site under CC-BY-SA on the same site at any time before August 1, 2009, provided the MMC is eligible for relicensing.

ADDENDUM: How to use this License for your documents

To use this License in a document you have written, include a copy of the License in the document and put the following copyright and license notices just after the title page:

  Copyright (C)  year  your name.
  Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
  under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3
  or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
  with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover
  Texts.  A copy of the license is included in the section entitled ``GNU
  Free Documentation License''.

If you have Invariant Sections, Front-Cover Texts and Back-Cover Texts, replace the “with…Texts.” line with this:

    with the Invariant Sections being list their titles, with
    the Front-Cover Texts being list, and with the Back-Cover Texts
    being list.

If you have Invariant Sections without Cover Texts, or some other combination of the three, merge those two alternatives to suit the situation.

If your document contains nontrivial examples of program code, we recommend releasing these examples in parallel under your choice of free software license, such as the GNU General Public License, to permit their use in free software.

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Index Entry  Section

advanced topics: Advanced Usage

bugs, reporting: Getting Help and Reporting Bugs

configuration, sample: Sample Configuration
connecting: Connecting

erc: Connecting
erc-compute-full-name: Connecting
erc-compute-nick: Connecting
erc-compute-port: Connecting
erc-compute-server: Connecting

help, getting: Getting Help and Reporting Bugs
history ring: Special Features
history, of ERC: History

keystrokes: Keystroke Summary

modules: Modules
modules, autoaway: Modules
modules, autojoin: Modules
modules, bbdb: Modules
modules, button: Modules
modules, capab-identify: Modules
modules, completion: Modules
modules, fill: Modules
modules, identd: Modules
modules, irccontrols: Modules
modules, log: Modules
modules, match: Modules
modules, menu: Modules
modules, netsplit: Modules
modules, noncommands: Modules
modules, notifications: Modules
modules, notify: Modules
modules, page: Modules
modules, pcomplete: Modules
modules, readonly: Modules
modules, replace: Modules
modules, ring: Modules
modules, scrolltobottom: Modules
modules, services: Modules
modules, smiley: Modules
modules, sound: Modules
modules, spelling: Modules
modules, stamp: Modules
modules, track: Modules
modules, truncate: Modules
modules, unmorse: Modules

options: Options

password: Connecting

query buffers: Special Features

settings: Getting Started

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