This article will outline some of the basic, commonly used IRC commands that everyone using IRC really ought to know. It will also explain how to connect to an IRC server and how to use services such as Nickserv and Chanserv which are available on many IRC servers such as the one Valahlla uses. This article outlines only standard IRC commands, not GUI usage.

Basic IRC Commands

Connecting To The Server
Depending on the client you use, the method you use to connect will differ, but it should essentially boil down to two possible commands, /connect and /server.

The /server command specifies to connect your client to a specific server. Example usage:

/server -ssl irc.psych0tik.net 6697

The "-ssl" flag indicates that the client should use SSL for the server "irc.psych0tik.net" on port "6697" (this is the typical port for SSL servers).

One thing to keep in mind is that you can only be connect to one server at a time using the /server command. Using this command again while connected will replace the existing connection with a new one. To solve this problem, use the /connect command instead. Note that not all clients have this command available (xchat2 for instance).

Example usage:

/connect -ssl irc.psych0tik.net 6697

Note that in many clients (e.g. irssi) you can omit the port argument for these commands and it will default to the standard port (6667, or 6697 if using the -ssl flag).

Identifying, Joining, and Leaving Channels
Once connected to a server, you'll see the server's status information and banner displayed. Once it has finished loading, you can find out what channels there are with the /list command. Note that many clients will inform you that this is not recommended because some servers have many channels and it can take a long time to list them all. Psych0tik (the server Valhalla uses) is a relatively small server, so this is not a problem.

After you have identified channels of interest you can join them. But before doing that, you should make sure you have set your nick (short for nickname) to something suitable. You can do this with the /nick command. Example:

/nick ValhallaUser

Nicks may not contain spaces or special characters such as slashes or quotes.

Now you can join a channel with the /join command. Example:

/join #valhalla

Note, some clients such as irssi allow you to omit the # symbol with the join command.

After joining, you'll see the list of users and the channel topic (usually along the top of the screen).

Also note that you do not need to join an existing channel. You can create a channel of your own just by joining it. For instance, if there is no channel called "#IceCream", you can create it with:

/join #IceCream

If you create a channel you are given founder status for that channel which allows you to register the channel. You will also have operator status. More information will be given about these later on.

To leave a channel, use the /part command. To leave the server, use the /disconnect command. And to close all connections, use the /quit command.

Basic Operations
While connected to a channel, you may see something that looks like this:

* ynori7 kisses CPUkiller passionately.

This is called an action message and can be made with the /me command. Example:

/me likes cheese.
If your nick is "bob", the above will display:
* bob likes cheese.

To send a PM (private message) to a user you can use one of two commands. The first is /msg. To use this command, you must specify the target and your message. Example:

/msg Bob Hey bob, what's up?

This usually opens a new tab in your client, but some clients such as xchat2 will display these messages in another color in whatever tab you are looking at. To open a new PM tab with a user, you can use the /query command. Example:

/query Bob

Optionally you can add your message as an argument to the /query command in the same way as it's used for /msg.

To close a private message tab, you can use the /window close (aliased as /wc in some clients such as irssi). This command works with any window including channels. Alternatively, the /query command with no arguments will close the current PM tab.

Modes and Services

User Modes And NickServ
Both users and channels have what is called "modes" which indicate what privileges and methods of operation are assigned to them. User modes can only be set by the server or an oper (short for IRC operator).

One common user mode is +r which indicates the nick is registered and identified. This can be done through NickServ which is a service for nick-related things. To register your nick, use the following command:

/msg nickserv register <yourDesiredPassword> <YourEmail>

Note that the exact syntax may vary from server to server. It is recommended that you view the list of NickServ's commands by doing:

/msg nickserv help
This lists the available commands.
/msg nickserv help <command>
This describes the specified command. So for example,
/msg nickserv help register
Will tell you how to use the register command.

Once you have registered, you can identify yourself (i.e. inform the server that you are the owner of the nick) with NickServ's identify command.

/msg nickserv identify <yourPassword>

And if someone steals your nick and you want to recover it, you can use the ghost command.

/msg nickserv ghost <yourNick> <yourPassword>

This command will disconnect the user who was using your nick from the server, allowing you to reclaim it.

Another useful feature of NickServ is the ability to group the nicks that you own. Groups allow your nicks to share the same configuration and privileges on channels. To put two of your nicks into a group, use the group command.

/msg nickserv group <yourOtherNick> <yourOtherNicksPassword>

To force anyone using your nick to identify within a certain amount of time, set the kill option.

/msg nickserv set kill on
For more info about the kill option, use:
/msg nickserv help set kill

Channel Modes and Chanserv
You'll notice that some users have a symbol next to their nick such as @ or +. This indicates their channel mode. Here are the meanings of some of the symbols commonly encountered:

@ - Channel Operator (abbr: op)
+ - Voice
% - Channel Half-Operator (abbr: hop)

Operators are users with the ability to moderate IRC channels. These users can kick users or ban them from a channel as well as alter their other channel modes.

Channel modes can be delegated by ChanServ, another IRC service. If you have founder status with a channel, you can register it with ChanServ so that you can retain your control of the channel even if you leave it and come back later. To register your channel use the register command.

/msg chanserv register #channelName <yourPassword> <channelDescription>

Chanserv allows you to give operator status to other users, kick users, ban user, adjust channel modes, and more. To learn more about these options, use the help command with ChanServ.

/msg chanserv help
and
/msg chanserv help <command>

For a more extensive list of user and channel modes, this is a useful site.

Hostmasks
A hostmask is a unique identifier of a client connected to the server. This will appear in the form of: nick!username@hostname. In #valhalla for instance, when a user joins, this mask is interpreted in displayed like this:

-!- MyNick [user@9C4345.F9595C.CBA5F2.B45D9F] has joined #valhalla

In this example, 9C4345.F9595C.CBA5F2.B45D9F is a masked version of the user's hostname due to the fact that the server Valhalla uses masks hosts for privacy reasons.

The internet has many resources for learning more about IRC usage, and the /help command can be very useful as well.