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Hack 4 IRC with ChatZilla

figs/beginner.gif figs/hack4.gif

Jump around platforms with the ChatZilla IRC client for Mozilla-based web browsers.

ChatZilla is a cross-platform IRC client written for Mozilla-based browsers. If you're like me and work under various operating systems, you'll have a consistent IRC interface across the board.

If you are using Netscape or a Mozilla build, ChatZilla is quick and easy to start using. If you are using Internet Explorer, Safari, or another non-Mozilla browser, you will need to download the latest version of either Netscape from or Mozilla from

1.5.1 Installing ChatZilla

ChatZilla can be installed directly through the web browser at This page contains news and installers. Toward the bottom of the page, you will find the Download section. Several revisions will be listed in the table. If the version has a yellow star next to it, this means the release is probably stable but may contain some bugs. Releases that are expected to be stable will be marked with a green tick. Every version will contain a list of any reported bugs, so you can decide which one you want to install.

The last column of the table has install links, each pointing to an XPI file. These types of files are installers for Mozilla chrome packages. When you click an install link, you will be prompted to accept the install. When you click OK, the software will automatically download and install itself (see Figure 1-10).

Figure 1-10. Installing ChatZilla

Once the installation is complete, you should close your browser. Some versions of Windows may also require you to restart the operating system. Once all the restarts are complete, ChatZilla is ready to use.

1.5.2 Using ChatZilla

ChatZilla can be launched in three ways. The IRC Chat option will appear in the Window menu in your browser. Selecting this will launch the client. You can also use the irc command in the URL bar. Typing just irc: will launch ChatZilla. You can also type a full URL, like irc://, and that will take the additional step of connecting to the specified server. These URL methods are currently the only way to launch ChatZilla if you are using the Mozilla Firebird web browser. Finally, if you launch Netscape or Mozilla from the command line, you can use the -chat option to start up ChatZilla instead of the normal browser window.

Once ChatZilla has launched (Figure 1-11), you can use all of the basic IRC commands. Nickname and command completion are both supported. After typing a few characters of the nickname or command, pressing the Tab key will fill in the rest. If there is more than one option for the characters you typed, ChatZilla will complete up until there is a choice to be made.

Figure 1-11. ChatZilla in use

For example, typing /q followed by the Tab key will fill in the command up to /qu. It stops there because there are several options for what comes next. A quick double-Tab will display all of the options that can complete the text. In this case, ChatZilla shows the following line:

4 matches for "/qu": [/query, /quit, /quit-mozilla, /quote]

Mousing over a message will show the timestamp in the status bar at the bottom of the window. It also gives the nickname and IP address/hostname of the sender. Each sender's nickname appears as a link next to the message. Clicking that link will open a private chat session with the person. Private messages and chats can also be started with commands. Typing /msg nickname message will send a private message to the nickname you provide. If someone sends a private message to you using the /msg command, it will automatically open a new tab to show your conversation. Using the /query nickname command will open this private tab as well, but without sending a message. The tab will be labeled with your chat partner's nickname. Messages typed in these new tabbed windows are, obviously, private.

When sending messages, the default input field lets you type one line of text. For pasting multiline text, such as snippets of programming code where lines really matter, it can be tedious to cut and paste each individual line. In ChatZilla, there is an up arrow next to the input field (see Figure 1-12). Clicking that arrow expands the text box into a text field.

Figure 1-12. Default input field

Multiple lines can be typed or pasted into the larger box (see Figure 1-13) and will appear in much the same way in the actual chat. Clicking the new, bent arrow next to the text area will send the message. To return to single-line input, click the down arrow.

Figure 1-13. Sending text with multiple lines

If you are using multiline text entry, as shown in Figure 1-13, you will see this appear identically in your client, as shown in Figure 1-14.

Figure 1-14. The result of sending a multiline message

ChatZilla has great support for changing the appearance of the chat windows with motifs. A few default options come installed. Several more motifs are available at However, motifs are just CSS files. That means that you can easily use a CSS from another web site or create your own motif especially for chat. To set a motif, choose a default one from the ViewColor Scheme menu or set your own. To use your own CSS file, either drag a link to the .css file into the message window, or use the /motif command.


Any CSS file accessible over the Web can be used in this way.

1.5.3 See Also

Jennifer Golbeck

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