end kvetch

Macs, productivity, &c.

Software Sumo: X-Chat Aqua vs. Linkinus vs. Colloquy


Yes indeedy, our first three-way match. Today, we’ll be looking at IRC apps (which for some reason have hard-to-spell named). IRC, in case you don’t know, is Internet Relay Chat and is basically a somewhat outdated (but still reasonably popular) group chat protocol. Wikipedia probably describes it best. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I would like to say that I myself use Colloquy but if I wasn’t a penny-pincher I would use Linkinus. However, the owner of one of my most frequented channels is an avid X-Chat user (but, for the record, he is running Panther and isn’t big on the direction Apple is headed). Anyway, [insert wrestling announcer type phrase here].


Personally, the X-Chat interface makes me want to gauge my eyes out. It does not look like it belongs on a Mac, it’s nonstandard and non-graphical. My X-Chat loving friend claims you can “make it look like anything you want” but what he is really saying is “it can be any shade of ugly that you desire.” Unlike the other two, it does not allow for different styles (think message styles in Adium) but it does allow you to change the colors. Sadly, all the lipstick in the world won’t help this pig. X-Chat also has a horrible, text-based preference system that I find really hard to navigate.


Linkinus is another story, it is attractive out of the metaphorical box and provides a number of message styles (the bulky but fancy Apt is shown) and a SDK to build your own (although I have not been able to find any more ready-made styles, which is a shame). One of my favorite interface elements is topic bar that scrolls if the topic is too long to be seen in one go. Otherwise the interface is nice and polished. (Also, the Linkinus icon makes me droll, I’ve even cannibalized it and am now using it as my Colloquy icon. Linkinus has a preference system very similar to System Preferences which I found somewhat out of place in an application but others may like. Finally, Linkinus is the only one of these apps with a menu item. I also believe that it may badge the dock icon with the messages remaining. These are both things I wish Colloquy did.


Like Adium, Colloquy has a customizable, polished (but still kinda rough-around-the-edges) interface. It has a variety of message styles (and an additional small selection online) and a handy tool for making minor changes to a style right in the app. The navigation sidebar is similar to Linkinus’s except room members are displayed below the room rather than on a separate pane on the other side of the window. The style in the screenshot is custom (but based off of Smooth Operator).


X-Chat: 3/10 – Ugly and cryptic with limited customizability.
Linkinus: 8/10 – Attractive and customizable.
Colloquy: 8/10 – See above.


My X-Chat loving friend uses it because of the features. And I must admit, it does have the most features of all three. It displays IP addresses when people join (something that apparently is hand) and does all sorts of IRC power user-y stuff that I, being something of an IRC n00b, have no need for. X-Chat does support logging but the logs are horribly formatted and hard to read.

Linkinus is a midway. It also displays IPs on join and overall seems a little bit more powerful than Colloquy. However, since I squandered my 15 day trial, I wasn’t able to do much with an eye for reviewing. Linkinus also has logging and the logs are presented like regular messages, your chosen style and all (i.e., it does the same thing iChat does).

Colloquy lacks a lot of hardcore IRC features in favor of Mac-like simplicity. For instance, X-Chat friend has made fun of the /whois which instead of sending you an IRC message with the information, gives you a little inspector window (I personally like it). The IP is not shown upon join (and this has made me the butt of several practical jokes). Colloquy logging works the same way as Linkinus logging.

X-Chat: 7/10 – Most features, too many for me.
Linkinus: 8/10 – The features I need without a bunch of extra junk.
Colloquy: 5/10 – Needs a little more power!


All exactly three points apart, Linkinus took the cake and X-Chat came in last. Do you agree with this assessment? Do you use a different IRC client like Conversation? Weigh in.

X-Chat (Free): 10/20 – Being the aesthete that I am, X-Chat’s slew of features did not allow it to triumph over the very poor interface.

Linkinus ($20, $15 for students): 16/20 – Linkinus got top marks all around, now if only it were free.

Colloquy (Free): 13/20 – Colloquy is the best choice for the price, it has a good interface but lacks power.

Filed under: Apple, Software Sumo, , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses

  1. ant says:

    you just hate x-chat because it assumes you’re not a complete dumbass, like the others do, and works like a REAL irc client should… you just care about how things look

  2. Rifton says:

    1st comment at last.
    Xchat has the most features, why a 7, I’d give it an 8 or even 9. You say most features, but give Linkinus more? what the smeg? Linkinus can’t DCC(direct chat) for example. That means that if someone wants to talk with my Bot(scripting), it’s not possible. Had that problem 2 days ago.
    Features Colloquy 5, i agree.
    Linkinus I’d give a 6, maybe 7

    Okay, XChat is really ugly, Linkinus is eyecandy and colloquy is handy, but at what price.

    This is not a good review, because you’re not objective.

    Xchat 15/20 because of the lack of aesthetics
    Colloquy 14/20 because of the huge lack of features(No Notices? Most important thing in IRC, you use it too, even without knowing)
    Linkinus 15/20 because lack of features(but less than Collo) and you have to pay!
    If Linkinus was free and opensource as it should be, I would give it a 16/20 because ppl could make new features and make it the best IRC on earth.

    But there are still more IRC Programs! Babbel, Irssi, Snak, Ircle, ircII, and many more. You should try them all first 😉


  3. Kevin says:

    Why just these three? None of them (And I have used all three for at at least a few days has made me as happy as Snak has. None have the full features of Snak, none have the complete GUI changeability as Snak. Iit’s scripting support (Which supports both Applescript, AND ircii scripts) plus your own simple aliases or actions.

    It may not be as CUTE or have as many un-needed bells as GUI whistles (That to me is a distraction.. a GUI should a be a WRAPPER for the content. NOT distract from it.)

    Snak has been around since 1996, is 10x more mature than any of the apps above. It reminds me of XChat Aqua, but polished and not dodgy.

    I REALLY wanted to like Colloquy, but it’s lack of support and customization and NO action or alias support turned me completely off. Not to mention some of it’s own preferences don’t work right. It’s almost as if they just tested the application on freenode’s servers.

    Linkinus is a GUI mess, and it wont let you change it in any major way to fix it. (I care less about text themes… ) and it’s buggy and hurts my eyes. Again a GUI shouldn’t DISTRACT the user from the content. It should just be a wrapper.

    You may not need these extras that you refer to, but many many many other IRC users do. And none of the ones you listed or tested really fits the bill. All three are immature IRC clients that are bug ridden. At least two of them are free…

    Of them all *I* would choose Xchat Aqua.

    Why the two most used IRC clients for the Mac (Snak, Ircle) wasn’t in this test has me flabbergasted.

  4. Abomination says:

    Rifton mentioned irssi. I think it’s *THE* most powerful client, not only on OS X, but also Linux distros and even Windows. If you’re willing to learn it, and not give much of a crap as to what it looks like (irssi runs in the terminal), I think you’d be impressed. It’s lightweight, can be run in the background (screen) and is just powerful as all hell… I think irssi could take on any of the clients you reviewed.

    But then again, to each his own, right? 🙂

    – A

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