rcirc Manual

rcirc is an Emacs IRC client.

IRC (Internet Relay Chat) is a multi-user chat protocol. Users communicate with each other in real-time. Communication occurs both in topic channels which are collections of many users, or privately, with just one other user.

Copyright © 2006–2022 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.”

Table of Contents

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1 Basics

This chapter contains a brief introduction to IRC (Internet Relay Chat), and a quick tutorial on rcirc.

1.1 Internet Relay Chat

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a form of instant communication over the Internet. It is mainly designed for group (many-to-many) communication in discussion forums called channels, but also allows one-to-one communication.

Contrary to most Instant Messenger (IM) systems, users usually don’t connect to a central server. Instead, users connect to a random server in a network, and servers relay messages from one to the next.

Here’s a typical example:

When you connect to the Libera.Chat network (https://libera.chat), you point your IRC client at the server irc.libera.chat. That server will redirect your client to a random server on the network, such as zirconium.libera.chat.

Once you’re connected, you can send messages to all other users connected to the same network, and you can join all channels on the same network. You might join the #emacs and the #rcirc channels, for example. (Typically, channel names begin with a hash character.)

Once you have joined a channel, anything you type will be broadcast to all the other users on the same channel.

If you want to address someone specifically, for example as an answer to a question, it is customary to prefix the message with the nick followed by a colon, like this:

deego: fsbot rules!

Since this is so common, you can use TAB to do nick completion.

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1.2 Getting started with rcirc

Use the command M-x irc to connect using the defaults. See Configuration, if you want to change the defaults.

Use C-u M-x irc if you don’t want to use the defaults, e.g., if you want to connect to a different network, or connect to the same network using a different nick. This will prompt you for four things:

IRC Server

What server do you want to connect to? All the servers in a particular network are equivalent. Some networks use a round-robin system where a single server redirects new connections to a random server in the network. irc.libera.chat is such a server for the Libera.Chat network. Libera.Chat’s purpose is “to provide services such as a community platform for free open-source software and peer directed projects on a volunteer basis,” and was chosen as the official home of the GNU Project and the Free Software Foundation’s IRC channels in June 2021 in the aftermath of the changes in governance and policies of the Freenode IRC network. GNU and FSF’s announcements about this are at https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/info-gnu/2021-06/msg00005.html, https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/info-gnu/2021-06/msg00007.html, and https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/info-gnu-emacs/2021-06/msg00000.html.

IRC Port

All network connections require a port. Just as web servers and clients use port 80 per default, IRC uses port 6667 per default. You rarely have to use a different port.

IRC Nick

Every users needs a handle on-line. You will automatically be assigned a slightly different nick if your chosen nick is already in use. If your user-login-name is alex, and this nick is already in use, you might for example get assigned the nick alex`.

IRC Channels

A space separated list of channels you want to join when connecting. You don’t need to join any channels, if you just want to have one-to-one conversations with friends on the same network. If you’re new to the Libera.Chat network, join #emacs, the channel about all things Emacs, or join #rcirc, the channel about rcirc.

When you have answered these questions, rcirc will create a server buffer, which will be named something like *irc.libera.chat*, and a channel buffer for each of the channels you wanted to join.

To talk in a channel, just type what you want to say in a channel buffer, and press RET.

If you want to paste multiple lines, such as source code, you can use C-c C-c to edit your message in a separate buffer. Use C-c C-c to finish editing. You still need to press RET to send it, though. Generally, IRC users don’t like people pasting more than around four lines of code, so use with care.

Once you are connected to multiple channels, or once you’ve turned you attention to other buffers in Emacs, you probably want to be notified of any activity in channels not currently visible. All you need to do is switch channel tracking on using M-x rcirc-track-minor-mode. To make this permanent, add the following to your init file:

(rcirc-track-minor-mode 1)

Use C-c C-SPC to switch to these buffers.

If the user wishes to ignore events in the server buffer, set rcirc-track-ignore-server-buffer-flag to a non-nil value.

2 Reference

This is the reference section of the manual. It is not complete. For complete listings of rcirc features, use Emacs built-in documentation.

2.1 rcirc commands

This is a list of commands that you may use in rcirc. It is not complete. For a complete listing, press C-h m in an rcirc buffer.

In addition to using regular Emacs key bindings, you can call them by typing them into an rcirc buffer.

For instance, instead of using the command C-c C-j to join a new channel, you may type this in an rcirc buffer, and press RET:

/join #emacs

This is why you cannot start a message with a slash. You will have to precede the command with a space, or rewrite your message in order to send it to a channel.

Many commands take parameters. IRC commands usually ignore string delimiters. Neither apostrophe nor double-quote have special meanings in IRC.

/nick "alex schroeder"

This will try to change your nick to "alex. Usually this will fail because the double quote character is not a valid character for nicks.

These commands are case insensitive.

If a command isn’t known by rcirc, it will simply be sent along to the server. There is a list of some useful commands like that in the next section.

C-c C-j

This joins a channel such as #rcirc or #emacs. On most networks, anybody can create new channels. If you want to talk with some friends, for example, all you have to do is agree on a valid channel name and join that channel. (Also /join #emacs.)

C-c C-p

This leaves the current channel. You can optionally provide a different channel name and reason for parting. When you kill a channel buffer, you automatically part the corresponding channel. (Also /part #emacs you are too weird!.)

C-c C-r

This changes your nick to some other name. Your nick must be unique across the network. Most networks don’t allow too many nick changes in quick succession, and have restrictions on the valid characters in nick names. (Also /nick alex-test)

C-c C-w

Gives you some basic information about a nick. This often includes what other channels people are on. (Also /whois fsbot.)

C-c C-q

Starts a one-to-one conversation with another person on the same network. A new buffer will be created for this conversation. It works like a channel with only two members. (Also /query fsbot.)


This sends a single message to a nick. Like with C-c C-q, a new buffer is created, where the response from the other party will show up. (Also /msg nickserv identify secret.)

C-c C-x

This disconnects from the server and parts all channels. You can optionally provide a reason for quitting. When you kill the server buffer, you automatically quit the server and part all channels. (Also /quit ZZZzzz....)


This reconnects after you have lost the connection.

If you’re chatting from a laptop, then you might be familiar with this problem: When your laptop falls asleep and wakes up later, your IRC client doesn’t realize that it has been disconnected. It takes several minutes until the client decides that the connection has in fact been lost. The simple solution is to use M-x rcirc. The problem is that this opens an additional connection, so you’ll have two copies of every channel buffer, one dead and one live.

One option therefore, is the /reconnect command.

An other approach is to set rcirc-reconnect-delay to a value greater than 0, and allow rcirc to reconnect when it detects that the connection has been closed. By default it will try to do this three times (as specified by rcirc-reconnect-attempts), before giving up.

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2.2 Useful IRC commands

As mentioned, if a command isn’t known by rcirc, it will simply be sent along to the server. Some such commands are available on nearly all IRC servers, such as:


This sets your status as “being away” if you provide a reason, or sets your status as “being back” if you do not. People can use the C-c C-w command to check your status. Example: /away food.

Typical IRC servers implement many more commands. You can read more about the fantastic world of IRC online at the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) help archive.

2.3 Configuration

These are some variables you can change to configure rcirc to your liking.


This variable contains an alist of servers to connect to by default and the keywords parameters to use. The keyword parameters are optional. If you don’t provide any, the defaults as documented below will be used.

The most important parameter is the :channels parameter. It controls which channels you will join by default as soon as you are connected to the server.

Here’s an example of how to set it:

(add-to-list 'rcirc-server-alist
               :channels ("#FUDGE" "#game-design")))

By default you will be connected to the rcirc support channel: #rcirc on irc.libera.chat.


This overrides rcirc-default-nick.


This overrides rcirc-default-port.


This overrides rcirc-default-user-name.


This overrides rcirc-default-full-name.


This describes which channels to join when connecting to the server. If absent, no channels will be connected to automatically.


This variable is used for the default nick. It defaults to the login name returned by user-login-name.

(setq rcirc-default-nick "kensanata")

This variable contains the default port to connect to. It is 6667 by default and rarely needs changing.


This variable contains the default user name to report to the server. It defaults to the login name returned by user-login-name, just like rcirc-default-nick.


This variable is used to set your “real name” on IRC. It defaults to the name returned by user-full-name. If you want to hide your full name, you might want to set it to some pseudonym.

(setq rcirc-default-full-name "Curious Minds Want To Know")

This variable is an alist used to automatically identify yourself on networks. Each sublist starts with a regular expression that is compared to the server address you’re connecting to. The second element in the list is a symbol representing the method to use, followed by the arguments this method requires.

Here is an example to illustrate how you would set it:

(setq rcirc-authinfo
      '(("Libera.Chat" nickserv "bob" "p455w0rd")
        ("Libera.Chat" chanserv "bob" "#bobland" "passwd99")
        ("bitlbee" bitlbee "robert" "sekrit")))

And here are the valid method symbols and the arguments they require:


Use this symbol if you need to identify yourself as follows when connecting to a network: /msg nickserv identify secret. The necessary arguments are the nickname you want to use this for, and the password to use.

Before you can use this method, you will have to register your nick and pick a password for it. Contact nickserv and check out the details. (Using /msg nickserv help, for example.)


Use this symbol if you need to identify yourself as follows if you want to join a particular channel: /msg chanserv identify #underground secret. The necessary arguments are the nickname and channel you want to use this for, and the password to use.

Before you can use this method, a channel contact must tell you about the password to use. Contact chanserv and check out the details. (Using /msg chanserv help, for example.)


Use this symbol if you need to identify yourself in the Bitlbee channel as follows: identify secret. The necessary arguments are the nickname you want to use this for, and the password to use.


Use this symbol if you want to use SASL authentication. The necessary arguments are the nickname you want to use this for, and the password to use.

Bitlbee acts like an IRC server, but in fact it is a gateway to a lot of other instant messaging services. You can either install Bitlbee locally or use a public Bitlbee server. There, you need to create an account with a password. This is the nick and password you need to provide for the bitlbee authentication method.

Later, you will tell Bitlbee about your accounts and passwords on all the other instant messaging services, and Bitlbee will log you in. All rcirc needs to know, is the login to your Bitlbee account. Don’t confuse the Bitlbee account with all the other accounts.

3 Fighting Information Overload

This is the section of the manual that caters to the busy person online. There are support channels with several hundred people in them. Trying to follow a conversation in these channels can be a daunting task. This chapters tells you how rcirc can help.

3.1 Channels

Most people want a notification when something is said on a channel they have joined, particularly if they have been addressed directly. There is a global minor mode that will do this kind of tracking for you. All you need to do is switch it on using M-x rcirc-track-minor-mode. To make this permanent, add the following to your init file:

(rcirc-track-minor-mode 1)

When other people say things in buffers that are currently buried (no window is showing them), the mode line will now show you the abbreviated channel or nick name. Use C-c C-SPC to switch to these buffers.

By default the channel names are abbreviated, set rcirc-track-abbrevate-flag to a non-nil value. This might be interesting if the IRC activities are not tracked in the mode line, but somewhere else.

If you prefer not to load rcirc immediately, you can delay the activation of this mode:

(add-hook 'rcirc-mode-hook
          (lambda ()
            (rcirc-track-minor-mode 1)))

If you’ve joined a very active support channel, tracking activity is no longer useful. The channel will be always active. Switching to active channels using C-c C-SPC no longer works as expected.

The solution is to mark this channel as a low priority channel. Use C-c C-l to make the current channel a low-priority channel. Low priority channels have the modeline indicator “LowPri”. C-c C-SPC will not switch to low priority channels unless you use the C-u prefix.

If you prefer a channel to never show up in the modeline, then you have to ignore it. Use C-c TAB to ignore the current channel.

3.2 People

The most important command available to the discerning IRC user is /ignore. It’s the big equalizer online: If people aggravate you, just ignore them.

This is of course a crude all-or-nothing solution. Fear not, rcirc offers alternatives: You can “brighten” your buddies and “dim” certain other nicks that you don’t want to ignore altogether.


This command toggles the ignore status of a nick, if you provide one. If you don’t provide a nick, the command lists all the nicks you are ignoring. All messages by ignored nicks are—you guessed it—ignored. Since only “operators” can kick people from channels, the ignore command is often the only way to deal with some of the more obnoxious fellows online. Example: /ignore rudybot.


This command toggles the bright status of a nick, if you provide one. If you don’t provide a nick, the command lists all the “brightened” nicks. All messages by brightened nicks are—you guessed it—brightened. Use this for your friends. Example: /bright rcy.


This command toggles the dim status of a nick, if you provide one. If you don’t provide a nick, the command lists all the “dimmed” nicks. All messages by dimmed nicks are—you guessed it—dimmed. Use this for boring people and bots. If you are tracking channel activity, messages by dimmed nicks will not register as activity. Example: /dim fsbot.

3.3 Keywords

On a busy channel, you might want to ignore all activity (using C-c TAB) and just watch for certain keywords. The following command allows you to highlight certain keywords:


This command toggles the highlighting of a keyword, if you provide one. If you don’t provide a keyword, the current keywords are listed. Example: /keyword manual.

3.4 Notices

In busy channels you might not be interested in all the joining, parting, quitting, and renaming that goes on. You can omit those notices using C-c C-o.

You can control which notices get omitted via the rcirc-omit-responses variable. Here’s an example of how to omit away messages:

(setq rcirc-omit-responses '("JOIN" "PART" "QUIT" "NICK" "AWAY"))

Notice that these messages will not be omitted if the nick in question has recently been active. After all, you don’t want to continue a conversation with somebody who just left. That’s why rcirc checks recent lines in the buffer to figure out if a nick has been active and only omits a message if the nick has not been active. The window rcirc considers is controlled by the rcirc-omit-threshold variable.

Certain messages can be omitted by default, unless the user manual requests them. For example, if you don’t want to display TOPIC and NAMES messages, after reconnecting, you can configure rcirc-omit-unless-requested to hide:

(setq rcirc-omit-unless-requested '("TOPIC" "NAMES"))

Now NAMES will only be displayed, after it has been requested via the rcirc-cmd-name command.

4 Hacking and Tweaking

Here are some examples of stuff you can do to configure rcirc.

4.1 Skipping /away messages using handlers

The IRC protocol specifies how certain events are signaled from server to client. These events have numbers and are dealt with using so-called handlers. You can override existing handlers by exploiting the naming convention adopted for rcirc.

Here’s how to stop rcirc from printing /away messages. Since rcirc doesn’t define a 301 handler, you don’t need to require rcirc before defining the handler:

(defun rcirc-handler-301 (process cmd sender args)
  "/away message handler.")

4.2 Using fly spell mode

The following code activates Fly Spell Mode for rcirc buffers:

(add-hook 'rcirc-mode-hook (lambda ()
                             (flyspell-mode 1)))

See Flyspell mode in The GNU Emacs Manual, for details.

4.3 Scrolling conservatively

IRC buffers are constantly growing. If you want to see as much as possible at all times, you would want the prompt at the bottom of the window when possible. The following snippet uses a local value for scroll-conservatively to achieve this:

(add-hook 'rcirc-mode-hook
          (lambda ()
            (set (make-local-variable 'scroll-conservatively)

See Scrolling conservatively in The GNU Emacs Manual, for details.

4.4 Changing the time stamp format

rcirc-time-format is the format used for the time stamp. Here’s how to include the date in the time stamp:

(setq rcirc-time-format "%Y-%m-%d %H:%M ")

4.5 Defining a new command

Here’s a simple new command, /sv. With it, you can boast about your IRC client. It shows how you can use rcirc-define-command to define new commands.

We’re waiting for the definition of this command until rcirc is loaded because rcirc-define-command is not yet available, and without rcirc loaded, the command wouldn’t do us much good anyway.

(with-eval-after-load 'rcirc
  (rcirc-define-command sv ()
    "Boast about rcirc."
    (interactive "i")
    (rcirc-send-message process target "I use " rcirc-id-string)))

4.6 Using rcirc with bouncers

Some bouncers multiplex connections to various servers, but have to modify nicks and channel names to make this work. The channel #emacs on irc.libera.chat becomes #emacs/irc.libera.chat.

The options rcirc-nick-filter and rcirc-channel-filter can be used to make this feel more natural. When set to functions, these will be used to change how nicks and channel names are displayed. A simple configuration to fix the above example might be:

(defun my/rcirc-remove-suffix (STR)
  "Remove suffixes from STR."
    (if (string-match "/[[:alpha:]]+?\\'" str)
        (substring str 0 (match-beginning 0))

(setq rcirc-nick-filter #'my/rcirc-remove-suffix
      rcirc-channel-filter #'local/rcirc-soju-suffix)

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

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Key Index

Jump to:   C   R   T  
Index Entry  Section

C-c C-c: Getting started with rcirc
C-c C-j: rcirc commands
C-c C-l: Channels
C-c C-o: Notices
C-c C-p: rcirc commands
C-c C-q: rcirc commands
C-c C-r: rcirc commands
C-c C-SPC: Channels
C-c C-w: rcirc commands
C-c C-x: rcirc commands
C-c RET: rcirc commands
C-c TAB: Channels
C-h m: rcirc commands

RET: Getting started with rcirc

TAB: Internet Relay Chat

Jump to:   C   R   T  

Next: , Previous: , Up: rcirc Manual   [Contents][Index]

Variable Index

Jump to:   R   S   U  
Index Entry  Section

rcirc-authinfo: Configuration
rcirc-channel-filter: Using rcirc with bouncers
rcirc-default-full-name: Configuration
rcirc-default-nick: Configuration
rcirc-default-port: Configuration
rcirc-default-user-name: Configuration
rcirc-mode-hook: Channels
rcirc-mode-hook: Using fly spell mode
rcirc-mode-hook: Scrolling conservatively
rcirc-nick-filter: Using rcirc with bouncers
rcirc-omit-responses: Notices
rcirc-omit-threshold: Notices
rcirc-omit-unless-requested: Notices
rcirc-server-alist: Configuration
rcirc-time-format: Changing the time stamp format
rcirc-track-ignore-server-buffer-flag: Getting started with rcirc
rcirc-track-minor-mode: Channels

scroll-conservatively: Scrolling conservatively

user-login-name: Getting started with rcirc

Jump to:   R   S   U  

Previous: , Up: rcirc Manual   [Contents][Index]


Jump to:   #   /   6  
A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   W   Y  
Index Entry  Section

# starts a channel name: Internet Relay Chat

/ starts a command: rcirc commands
/away: Useful IRC commands
/away messages: Skipping /away messages using handlers
/bright: People
/dim: People
/ignore: People
/join: rcirc commands
/keyword: Keywords
/msg: rcirc commands
/nick: rcirc commands
/part: rcirc commands
/query: rcirc commands
/quit: rcirc commands
/reconnect: rcirc commands
/whois: rcirc commands

6667, default IRC port: Getting started with rcirc

abbreviated channel names: Channels
active channel: Channels
addressing other people: Internet Relay Chat
AIM: Configuration
authentication: Configuration
automatic spelling: Using fly spell mode
away notices, how to omit: Notices
away status: Useful IRC commands

bitlbee authentication: Configuration
bouncer: Using rcirc with bouncers
brighten nicks: People
buddies: People
buddies, highlight: People
busy channels: Channels

call commands: rcirc commands
case insensitive commands: rcirc commands
change name: rcirc commands
changing nick: Getting started with rcirc
channel: Internet Relay Chat
channel name: Internet Relay Chat
channels: Channels
channels other people are on: rcirc commands
channels, configuration: Configuration
channels, connecting: Getting started with rcirc
chanserv authentication: Configuration
command unknown: rcirc commands
commands: rcirc commands
commands: rcirc commands
commands: Useful IRC commands
commands, defining: Defining a new command
communicating: Getting started with rcirc
completion of nicks: Internet Relay Chat
configuring rcirc: Configuration
connecting to a server: Getting started with rcirc
connection end: rcirc commands
contact one person only: rcirc commands

date time: Changing the time stamp format
defining commands: Defining a new command
disappearing messages if starting with a slash: rcirc commands
disconnect: rcirc commands
disconnect from a channel: rcirc commands
disconnecting servers, reconnecting: rcirc commands
discussion, joining: rcirc commands
double-quotes: rcirc commands

edit message before sending: Getting started with rcirc
end connection: rcirc commands

fly spell: Using fly spell mode
format time stamp: Changing the time stamp format
friends: People
friends, highlight: People
full name: Configuration

gateway to other IM services: Configuration
getting started: Getting started with rcirc

hacking and tweaking: Hacking and Tweaking
handlers: Skipping /away messages using handlers
help about irc: Useful IRC commands
hide some posts: People
highlight other people: People

ICQ: Configuration
identification: Configuration
identifying people: rcirc commands
idiots online: People
ignored channels: Channels
ignoring other people: People
information overload: Fighting Information Overload
initial channels: Getting started with rcirc
initial channels, configuration: Configuration
initial servers, configuration: Configuration
input line: Scrolling conservatively
instant messaging, comparison: Internet Relay Chat
instant messaging, other services: Configuration
internet relay chat: Internet Relay Chat
irc: Internet Relay Chat
irc command: Getting started with rcirc
irc commands: Useful IRC commands
irc resources: Useful IRC commands

Jabber: Configuration
join channels: rcirc commands
join notices, how to omit: Notices

keywords: Keywords
kill channel buffer: rcirc commands
kill connection: rcirc commands

leave a channel: rcirc commands
Libera.Chat network: Getting started with rcirc
login: Configuration
lost connection: rcirc commands
low priority channels: Channels
low priority channels: Notices

message sending: rcirc commands
messages starting with a slash disappear: rcirc commands
messages, multiple lines: Getting started with rcirc
modeline: Channels
modeline tracks activity: Channels
MSN: Configuration
multiline messages: Getting started with rcirc
multiple words as parameters: rcirc commands

name changes: Getting started with rcirc
network: Internet Relay Chat
new command: rcirc commands
new commands, defining: Defining a new command
nick changing: rcirc commands
nick completion: Internet Relay Chat
nick notices, how to omit: Notices
nick, connecting: Getting started with rcirc
nicks, highlight: People
nicks, how to ignore: People
nickserv: Configuration
nickserv authentication: Configuration

obnoxious people online: People
one-to-one conversation: rcirc commands
other channels: rcirc commands
other name: rcirc commands
other people, addressing them: Internet Relay Chat

part a channel: rcirc commands
part all channels: rcirc commands
part notices, how to omit: Notices
pasting multiple lines: Getting started with rcirc
pause status: Useful IRC commands
people, how to ignore: People
port: Configuration
port, connecting: Getting started with rcirc
private conversation: rcirc commands

query a person: rcirc commands
quit: rcirc commands
quit notices, how to omit: Notices
quotes: rcirc commands

rabble online: People
rcirc commands: rcirc commands
rcirc-track-abbrevate-flag: Channels
real name: Configuration
reason for quitting: rcirc commands
reconnect: rcirc commands
redirection to random servers: Internet Relay Chat
reference: Reference
rename yourself: rcirc commands
rooms, joining: rcirc commands

sasl authentication: Configuration
scrolling: Scrolling conservatively
server: Internet Relay Chat
server buffer: Getting started with rcirc
server buffer killing: rcirc commands
server, connecting: Getting started with rcirc
servers, configuration: Configuration
set away status: Useful IRC commands
single message: rcirc commands
slash hides message: rcirc commands
soft-ignore other people: People
spell-checking as you type: Using fly spell mode
spelling: Using fly spell mode
starting a private conversation: rcirc commands
startup channels: Getting started with rcirc
startup channels, configuration: Configuration
startup servers, configuration: Configuration
status codes: Skipping /away messages using handlers
stop talking on a channel: rcirc commands
string delimiters: rcirc commands
surname: Configuration
switching channels: Channels

talk privately: rcirc commands
talk to other people: Internet Relay Chat
talking: Getting started with rcirc
time stamp: Changing the time stamp format
tracking activity: Channels
trolls: People
trolls, ignoring: People
typing commands: rcirc commands

unavailable status: Useful IRC commands
unknown command: rcirc commands
user name: Configuration

what channels people are on: rcirc commands
who are these people: rcirc commands

Yahoo!: Configuration

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