December 07, 2015

Making a better IRC client

If you want something done right, don’t ever let anyone else touch it

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is one of my primary means of online communication, and it’s easily the most useful and enjoyable.1

The problem is, most IRC client applications are terrible. Yes, I’m picky to the point of cantankerousness, but that’s beside the point, which is this: who makes a chat client with a nonresizable one-line-height input field? People are crazy and the world is mad.2

There’s one great IRC client for the Mac3: Snak. It’s head and shoulders above the competition in usability, useful (to me) features, and overall quality of user experience. But Snak is ancient, and hasn’t been updated in years; it’s not Cocoa (which means no text Services), and it doesn’t support Unicode. It also doesn’t have some key features that I really want from an IRC client. (This is no slight against Snak; my desiderata are obscure and I don’t expect other application developers to even conceive of them, much less take the time to implement them. Needless to say, no other IRC clients satisfy these requirements either. I’ll go into more detail about this in a later post.) Snak is an outstanding piece of software, well worth the $29 shareware registration fee4. (Update 2018-11-08: Snak has been officially discontinued, and is now available for free!) I consider feature and usability parity with Snak to be the minimum bar for any new IRC client app to clear.

So: I am building a new IRC client application for the Mac. Its name is Meil5, and it will be the IRC app that I want.

The posts to come will be a diary of the design and development process. Mostly this is a way for me to organize my own thoughts. Maybe’ll it’ll be useful to other people.



1 I could fill a post with praise for IRC, but this is not that post.

2 I could fill a post with criticism of the popular IRC client apps, but this is not that post either.

3 In this post series, I will be totally ignoring the existence of Windows, Linux, and any and all mobile platforms. The Mac OS is where I do my work and my chatting, so the Mac is what I’m designing for.

4 Which the author loans out to people in developing countries, via the microlending nonprofit Kiva. What a class act!

5 Get it? Snak? Meil? Eh???

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