X-Chat Aqua, Robust IRC Client

very good
key review info
application features
  • Full featured IRC client
  • (3 more, see all...)

I remember Internet Relay Chat (IRL) from back when it was hot, ten years ago, and the countless hours wasted on it. IRL is a living fossil of the old days that still continues to hang round for a little while longer, despite being almost entirely obsolete in terms of technology. Because everyone has moved on to Yahoo and MSN messenger networks, I have not used IRC for quite a few years now, and have not really been looking up on the latest IRC clients. When I decided to take a look at X-Chat Aqua, for the purpose of reviewing it I was expecting it to be very different from the IRCle I used to use back in the day, after all, it has been years, and in computer terms that is a very long time.

What it does

X-Chat Aqua is an IRC client. It allows you to join Internet Relay Chat servers and channels and talk to other people.

While the scope and main functionality of the program is not very complex, it is full of all kinds of additional functionality that people have come to expect from such programs over the years.

Is IRC dead?

With the next generation of computer users in place, I was expecting IRC to be pretty much dead. Everyone uses the instant messaging service these days, from students to people who run businesses and of the new generation of computer users, many of them are too young to have been around in the day of IRC.

Much to my surprise, the IRC servers and channels that I remembered from a long time ago were just as packed as always, with channels of nearly a thousand people. And the usual flood of join/quit messages¬Ö dotted here and there with actual chat text.

Today's IRC client

In most core respects, X-Chat Aqua is very much like the client I used to make use of. Of course, this does make sense as the IRC standard has not been greatly improved and all the options and features have been de facto for quite some time now.

The main thing I noticed was the tabbed interface. Tabbed IRC clients were non-existent when I was still using this network, but with today's trends, it would probably be hard to find a client that did not have tabs.

Another nice thing I noticed was that many elements were 'active' URLs that came up could be clicked to have them open up in a browser and nicknames that showed up in the text area, whether from join/part messages or from actual chat could be right clicked on to have the appropriate contextual menu open.

On the down side, the preferences for the application are still many pages long and very flexible. Pretty much everything from contextual menus to auto replacement definitions can be customized to suit you liking. The list of options available to you is huge and the program seems to have support for all kind of scripting such as perl and python, however I am not at all familiar with scripting and as such could not really poke into these possibilities too much.

Dedicated IRC client

Unlike instant messaging applications that look and behave as their developers thought they should, IRC clients are the exact opposite. Nearly every aspect of them can be customized, both in looks and behavior. X-Chat Aqua lets the user customize everything and even lets you handle complex things through scripts which once set up can do just about anything.

The program is good, and solid. It takes up little resources and is quite responsive¬Ö the only thing it really lacks is the eye candy factor.

The only aspect that leaves a lot to be desired is the documentation. The program comes with next to no documentation and the complexity of it can be overwhelming to those who have never used anything like it before. Several years of using the IRC network did not really help me that much either, as all the options are in different places and labeled differently.

The Good

Flexible and robust, with a small footprint.

The Bad

The lack of included documentation can be a real pain for anyone who is not accustomed to such programs.

The Truth

Although IRC may no longer be the 'in' thing, it seems that it still sees a fair amount of use. If you need an IRC client that you can grow into, X-Chat Aqua fits the bill.

Here are some screenshots, click to enlarge:

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user interface 4
features 5
ease of use 3
pricing / value 5

final rating 4
Editor's review
very good
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