BitchX is unfortunately the best IRC client for the Linux console.
It's unfortunate, because sadly, BitchX sucks. It comes with a large selection of lame quit/kick/ban/etc messages, such as:
  • BitchX BaBy!
  • BitchX: better than a penis enlargement!
  • BitchX:it ads that extra uNF to your sex life!
And many many more.. Ignoring the content of the messages, there's still the fact they are full of bold codes, which is not a very nice thing.
Then you have BitchX's flood protection, which appears to enjoy mass kicking channels where anything happens quickly, or ignoring anyone who pastes something. It gets annoying very quickly, as does the autoaway message which is full of bold codes too.

BitchX, despite the fact that it has a script-kiddie following, is fairly easy to use and colorful. It's based on ircii-EPIC, which is still actively maintained. If you like BitchX's windowing system but dislike other parts of it (such as the frequent security problems and bloat), you can use EPIC, although it will be quite monochrome without a script of some sort. EPIC's powerful scripting language makes it an ideal IRC client for the advanced user, as it's very easy to customize to the user's tastes.

BitchX (aka BotchX) more or less sucks, depending on what you're running it on and what your needs are. (This is a fact - of course, that's true for just about everything else. =)

It was, as said, originally a kewliness-adding script for ircII that has grown into a client of its own. It was written by people called Trench and HappyCrappy, and patched to the client itself by Colten Edwards (aka Panasync). The home page is at http://www.bitchx.org/

Personally, I never liked it much - mostly because for long time, åäöÅÄÖ and other latin-1 characters never worked (apparently sacrificed on altar of ANSI). Apparently later versions helped with this.

Also, if you're trying to run it on real vtXXX terminal, the ANSI spam is reported to be too high to be handled by them at times. (So I've been told. I have not tried it. The oddest part was that some newbie told the guy who told this factoid in Usenet to upgrade the thing...)

If you want a truely l33t client or just want a BBS retro feeling, BitchX is the way. Others should use something like ircII or EPIC or, better yet, irssi (which, BTW, has a BitchX-look-alike-theme and also supports a real scripting language =)

In defense of my IRC client of choice...

First of all, the stuff dtaylor mentions could be outside some people's range of tolerance. You can turn it off, though. To get rid of the kick/quit messages, just do the following at your Unix prompt:

locate BitchX.quit
locate BitchX.reasons

...and delete the files! If you don't have access to them, ask your sysadmin to do it. Failing that, just take the time to type your own kick or quit message. Note that if you delete or otherwise compromise the files, the default quit message will be "BitchX-%v -- just do it." (where %v is your BitchX version). You can set the default kick message (in the absence of the BitchX.reasons file) by doing "/set default_reason blah blah"

As for the auto-away and kick protection, these are not locked-on features either. In BX 1.0 or higher, type "/tog" to display a list of all toggles, which includes auto_away, kick_protection, and other things you might want to turn off. To turn these on or off, type "/tog" again, this time followed by the symbol whose value you want to toggle. Easy, huh?

If you want to get rid of the high ASCII characters prefixing server messages, you can do "/set show_numerics_str ***", and replace the *** with whatever you'd prefer. If you'd like to turn off ALL high ASCII, you'll need to recompile your BX with #define ONLY_STD_CHARS in config.h.

And lastly, one random hint that I've discovered. To add a topic ticker at the top of the window, do "/wset status_format3 %- " (include the trailing space at the end, or else you'll encounter a bug that will repeat the last character in the topic ad infinitum), and then do "/window split on".

BitchX is a very good client, if you're running it locally without lag, and you know how to turn off the annoying features. It also happens to have the fastest DCC rates of any IRC client I've ever used. Before you bash it, go through the /tog and /set lists and see if you can't maybe off that which would cause you to complain.

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