Mac IRC Clients

Mac IRC clients are all grown up and have entered the new era of free cloud computing and the Mac App Store. Most apps in this list are free or just a few dollars. This is a radical change from just a few years ago, when the best apps were shareware worth $30 or more. All of these apps are stable and usable, and that reflects not only the multi-year track record of these particular programs, but the overall maturity of IRC itself.

Colloquy 2.4

Open source freeware, available for Mac OS X and iOS. Good for novices and advanced users alike. They’ve been around since 2004 or so, and have grown from a lightweight client into a stable, full-featured one that supports not just IRC but also SILC and ICB. This is more than most users will need, as you can transfer files, chat on multiple networks, plaster your screen with mIRC colors, and handle scripting via Applescript.

XChat Azure 1.13.4

XChat Aqua/Azure is OS X native front-end of xchat2 written on Cocoa rather than GTK2. It is based on the Xchat 2 code base and therefore Open Source and Free Software.

Textual 2.1.1

Available from Mac App Store for $4 (trial version disconnects you every 2 hours). Textual is one of a few truly modern Mac IRC clients, as it uses the App Store, supports Notification Center, Retina displays, and is still being updated regularly (latest release as of this review was November 2012). Textual looks easy and simple, but implements a full array of chat features that are neatly tucked away just below the surface. As a result, the user interface feels “right” and everything makes sense. A new user would feel comfortable thanks to conversation tracking, address books, . On the other hand, an experienced user would be empowered with advanced features like op and oper actions, flood control, tracking of friends, ignoring of foes, logging, channel-specific input history, and scripting via not just Applescript but all the usual languages.

LimeChat 2.33

Free but donations are accepted. Unusually ambitious in being available for Mac OS X, iOS, and even Windows. Many people like the retro, minimalist look that harkens back to the old days (I’m talking 1990s) where multiple channels are streamed together into a single window, and people relied on typed or shortcut commands to do most things. Either you like that look or you don’t, be sure to look closely at some screen caps before you download. A true beginner would appreciate the built-in server list, which lets you get started quickly. However, once you get connected, the minimalist design means that it’s not as obvious to figure out what is going on. This is another of the fully modern Mac IRC clients, with App Store downloads and support for modern features like full screen mode, Notification Center, and Retina Display. Other 3rd party themes are available to change the look.

Snak 5.3.4

$29 shareware every 2 years that supports the charity kiva.org, or else quits after 15 minutes. The price seems out of place in the new App Store world, but remember that Snak dates way back to the 1990s. It used to set the standard for Mac IRC clients because it was streamlined, easy, and yet also supported all the usual features. Well, that was then and this is now. It is hard to recommend Snak now considering that active development ended years ago, and so many free/cheap modern alternatives are now available. For now, Snak still works with Mountain Lion, so we’ll continue to list it here, if nothing else than to serve as a foundation for comparing the newer programs. Snak is very easy to set up and configure. Everything for each channel is contained in one window, and docking windows will allow multiple channels to share a window to maximize limited screen space. Supports both the scripting language from classic ircII for *nix (UNIX, Linux, etc.), so you can tap into the wealth of existing ircII scripts, as well as Applescript scripts. There are also automated responses to events so that you can set up script-like actions without being a scripting expert. Supports multiple connections, and for each connection, uses ircII-style server lists which will automatically try the next server in a list until it succeeds. Guardian feature permits adult control.