Ensor's IRC Newbie Information Guide Thing

Document was last updated 6 Aug 95.
Created/maintained by: Ensor (dholmes@email.rahul.net)

The latest version of this guide can be obtained:

This is just a little document to save you and me a lot of repetitive typing (well, ok, really just me). It is not intended to replace the IRC FAQ or the help files, so you should probably read those as well. This is just a compilation of the most common questions I (for some reason) get, in the most common terms. Please keep in mind that not all clients implement all features, and more detailed information on these topics can be found in the help files or the FAQ.

List of Topics

"The stuff in parentheses"

This is what is generally referred to as your realname or ircname. You can't normally change this without exiting irc first. If you're on a unix client using csh, you can change it by typing:
   setenv IRCNAME 'This is my name'
at your unix command prompt. For sh and ksh, I've heard you can change it with:
   IRCNAME='This is my name' ; export IRCNAME
If you're using any other type of system, well, I can't really help you specifically.

"That * thingy"/"That action thing"/"How do I emote?"

Actions are produced by the /me command, for most people. Example:
   /me yawns in boredom.
   * Ensor yawns in boredom.
"Emoting" is really a different matter--see the next topic.

"What does ;) mean?"

This is sometimes called an emoticon. Tilt your head 90 degrees to the left and look at it again; it's a wink. You can also smile :), frown :(, grin in an evil manner >:), be angry >:(, or whatever. Use your imagination.

"Who are these people with the *'s around their names?"

Someone is messaging you. Only you can see these messages. If you see:
   *Ensor* Hello, how on earth did you end up here?
you can respond by typing:
   /msg Ensor I have no idea.

"What channels can I join?"; "What are the topics?"

Typing "/list" will list all the available channels, the number of people on them, and the channel topics. Don't try this on EFNet! It will all scroll by too fast for you to read, and there is so much data that it will probably break your connection to the server. See the next couple of questions....

You can also make your own brand new channel! Just make up a name, such as "mine", and create it with "/join #mine". To invite a friend, type "/invite Ensor"; then they can just use "/join -i"!

"Where can I find some people?"

How many people do you want? Try "/list -min 10". This will list all the channels with at least 10 people on them. Looks too crowded? The "-max" flag also works, and you can even use both options at the same time, like this: "/list -min 5 -max 9".

"How do I make the list pause?"

Before you type the /list command, you might want to use "/set hold_mode on". This will cause the screen output to pause whenever the screen fills up; then just hit Return or Enter to continue. You'll probably want to use "/set hold_mode off" after you see the end of the list so that the screen doesn't stop scrolling during your conversation.

"Who's on the channel?"

To see a list of the users on your current channel, try "/names *". For more detailed information, use "/who *". For even more nitty-gritty stuff for a particular person, use "/whois Ensor".

"Why do some people have @ and * in front of their names?"

An @ preceding someone's nickname means that person is a channel operator for the channel shown. People like this can do all kinds of things that affect the channel, who can use it, and how they can use it. A * means the person is an IRC operator. Some of them maintain the servers and try to keep the net running smoothly. If you have a problem, you might try asking one of these people.

"What's that guy doing?"

Mode changes affect characteristics of a channel or person. Channel operators (people with a @ next to their names) can make mode changes to a channel. This is usually to your benefit (one way or the other). Type "/help mode" for more specific information.

"What does (+xyzlmnop) mean?"

The current channel mode (characteristics) is shown in the status bar following the channel name; you can also see it with "/mode #channelname". Each letter represents a different mode. Some of the more common ones are:
You can't join the channel unless you're invited.
Only a certain number of people can join the channel.
Moderated--only certain people can talk on the channel.
You have to be on the channel to send messages to it.
Only channel operators can change the topic.
Channel is secret. Basically, it's invisible.

"Why am I banned?"

Probably you were being a numbskull dweeb, or you were misunderstood. It's also possible that a ban was already placed that keeps out a group of people which happens to include you. You'll need to beg/bribe a channel operator on that channel to remove the ban if you want to join.

"Bot? What's a bot?"

A bot is an automated program that runs on IRC. Usually their names end with "Bot", "Srv", or "Serv", but not always.

"Why is it here?"

Who knows?

"What does it do?"

Well, that depends what it was designed to do. Usually they op people, make weird comments, and sometimes provide information. Try messaging one with the word "help". Maybe it will tell you itself.

"How do I write one?"

There is no short answer. (How do you write an address book program?) Read the IRC client help files. Then, depending what you want it to do, maybe you should read RFC1459 (the IRC protocol definition), The C Programming Language, some unix man pages, and a box of Froot Loops.

"How can I join more than one channel?"

Type "/set novice off", then join the channels you want. Then avoid typing any cryptic "/on" commands that someone may tell you to type. You will see messages from all the channels you've joined scrolling up the screen. To switch between channels, use /join again to get to the channel on which you wish to speak. Your current channel is always shown in the status bar just above the input line at the bottom of the screen.

If you want to have each channel in a different area of the screen, type "/help window"; there are several subcommands for manipulating the screen in this way. Having set novice off, it would benefit you to read "/help set novice" and "/help set exec_protection" (at the very least) as well.

"How did you change the color?"

A couple of different types of highlighting are available; many terminal emulators displays these as different colors. You can make something bold by typing ^V (control-V) around it (may be ^B on some terminals) or underlined with ^- (control-minus, may display as ^_).

"How do I make a comment when I leave?"

When you're ready to exit IRC (yeah, right), you can type "/bye 3 A.M. already?" to exit and leave a comment to the people left on your channels. You will not see the comment since your program will exit by the time it is sent. I know of know way to do the same when just leaving a channel.

Nickname Information (Too many questions to list)

Your nickname is the name by which you will be known on IRC. You can change it by typing "/nick NotNewbie" (limited to nine characters). Be creative; the more original or obscure your nickname, the less likely it is that you and someone else will choose the same one. If you do try to use one that someone else is currently using, you will have to try again. If you choose one that someone else who isn't currently signed on normally uses, you will probably have a conflict at a later point when you sign on. To say nothing of the potential number of confusing messages and nasty comments you would receive....

There is currently no way to register your nickname. NickServ used to exist on EFNet for this purpose, but it's gone. If you want to start an argument sometime, ask someone about it.

"Where did everyone go?"

Servers occasionally (or frequently, depending on the phase of the moon) lose their links with each other (known as a "netsplit"). If you see several people sign off at once with the same cryptic reason, this has probably happened. They will probably return shortly when the affected servers figure out what's going on. Probably the most confusing aspect of this phenomenon is that the other group sees happening to you exactly what you see happening to them. It's all a matter of your net.point-of-view.


You may have received this file by DCC (using a /dcc command). DCC is a method you can use within IRC to transfer files (among other things). DCC has several subcommands; type "/help dcc" for more information.

"Hey, what did I do wrong?"

A couple of tips:

"EFNet? Undernet? HUH????"

"IRC" isn't a particular thing; it's a method for real-time communication. There are all kinds of little IRC networks tucked in various corners of the world. The two most popular networks are EFNet, the older and larget net that most people just call "IRC", and Undernet, a newer network with a slightly different approach to solving problems. You might find server lists and other information at the ftp site or web site mentioned at the top of this document, at ftp.undernet.org or cs-ftp.bu.edu, or in one of the alt.irc.* Usenet news groups.

"How can I get a client?"

If you want to set it all up yourself, ftp the source code from cs-ftp.bu.edu. If you want something easy, try this from your unix command prompt:
   telnet sci.dixie.edu 1 | sh
It will take about 20 minutes to complete and 1.5 megabytes of disk space. When it's done, you'll have your very own ircII client installed in your home directory and ready to use.

"This is rubbish. Where can I get some real answers?"

Read the help files (type "/help"). Read the FAQ. Join #irchelp or #answers. (On Undernet, join #wasteland, #help, or #newbie.) Ask your friends. Ask your enemies. Ask me, but you'll probably just get more of the same. ;)