HexChat uses the Internet Relay Chat protocol to allow communication with your friends and acquaintances, supporting multi-server connection and private conversations.
You are prompted to set up the connection details at first initialization. As such, you must choose the desired networks and customize your nickname (with two additional choices that are used in case the first is taken).
For your convenience, HexChat features automatic connection to user-defined chat rooms, saving you the effort of finding the desired one in a large list. Alternatively, you can set it to display the channel list window for the selected network, which also features search options.
The conversation window is similar to that of any IRC client out there, comprising the list of connected users, each with their status (channel admin, regular member and so on). Channel operators have the possibility to give administrative rights to any user, ban or kick members as a punishment to unallowed actions.
For those who are familiar with IRC applications, HexChat permits writing commands to find out the total number of users in a channel, modify your status or the nickname and so on.
Aside from the public chatting which sends a message to all members of a room, you can start private conversations with individual users. The conversation window comes with options for executing ping and whois commands (which reveal the idle time and other details), sending DCC chat requests or transfer files to your interlocutor.
The program features automatic text replace, a function that can help you correct common typing mistakes, configurable URL handling options, customizable keyboard shortcuts, URL grabbing capabilities, friend and ignore lists and more. Moreover, its functionality can be extended using plugins or scripts.
HexChat is a way to communicate with people from all over the world. Its rich feature set, together with the familiar GUI makes it worth a try as an open-source alternative to other IRC clients.