I found myself in need of a Mac IRC client recently, so I spent a couple of days trying out different ones. I’ll share the apps I found as well as my thoughts.
Internet Relay Chat
First, a little background. Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is an application layer protocol that lets people communicate over the web with text. An IRC client is a program you install that lets you join IRC channels. You can think of it like a chat room. Channels can be public or private, and multiple people can join.
LimeChat is an open-source IRC client. It’s fast and lightweight, and it has a console-like interface. This might make it a little confusing to use, so I don’t recommend this for people who have never used IRC before. It’s a small, lightweight program and has features like sending files, auto-join channels on startup, and SSL authorization. LimeChat is free on macOS, but the iOS app costs US$4.99.
Textual is a native Mac IRC client, so it takes full advantage of macOS features like the Notification Center. It has a clean, simple interface, and that makes it great for both beginners and pros. Plus, it was built with privacy in mind, and has features like Off-the-Record messaging. Textual costs US$7.99, and there is no iOS app.
Colloquy is a Mac IRC client that has been around forever. Like LimeChat, Colloquy is open-source. Although it’s a lightweight program, you can extend it with plug-ins, and it also works with AppleScript. Not only IRC, it also supports SILC and ICB. The Mac app hasn’t been updated since 2014, but I had no problems using it on macOS High Sierra. There is also an iOS app, which was more recently updated as of three months ago, so it’s not abandonware. Colloquy is free on macOS, and US$1.99 on iOS.
For some reason, I had trouble using LimeChat. I’ve never used IRC before, so that’s more of a ding on me, and not necessarily reflective of LimeChat. However, I had no problem using Textual and Colloquy. Textual is great to use, but it lacks an iOS app.
If you need a Mac IRC client but don’t really need it on iOS, then I recommend Textual. But if you need an app on macOS and iOS, then I recommend Colloquy. But that’s entirely a personal choice, and maybe you’ll like LimeChat better than I did.
[Update] Honorable Mention: XChat Azure
John F. Braun recommended another Mac IRC client called XChat Azure. It’s a native Mac app and open-source. It’s compatible with plugins and has standard IRC features like file sharing, multiple server connection, and nick completion. You can find it on the Mac App Store for free.