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September 2004

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Chatzilla - just a click and you are talking

By Mark Dodel © September 2004

VOICE needs to see more activity from its members and people interested in the future of the OS/2 and eComStation community. The best way to become active and give us your input is to attend meetings and communicate via IRC. IRC is the acronym for Internet Relay Chat. You can chat on IRC by connecting to an IRC network, joining a channel and typing text.

There are several IRC clients for OS/2 users; most are no longer being developed. Though my favorite remains GTIRC, I have on occasion checked out the progress being made by the developers of ChatZilla. ChatZilla is an IRC client that is written entirely in JavaScript and XUL. ChatZilla requires that you run a version of the Mozilla browser, so if you are not, you can get the latest version of Mozilla for OS/2 from the Warpzilla site You can also run ChatZilla under FireFox (the browser only version of Mozilla), but I'm told you have to install it separately.

To attend a VOICE meeting, assuming you are running a Mozilla based browser, just click on this link irc:// and ChatZilla should open up as a new window with a couple of tabs. One tab for the IRC Server (in this case, where 6660 is the port that is being used by the IRC server) and the other the actual chat channel - #voice. You should see several people already there in the list on the left side of the window.

You can create more elaborate URLs to connect to IRC. Learn more about the capabilities at Some other popular IRC URLs include:

You can connect to all of these servers, and any of the channels on them, using the same instance of ChatZilla. Each server and channel gets its own tab.

Using ChatZilla

An IRC network is composed of various IRC servers. Each server has a variety of existing channels where people meet to chat. All public channel names begin with the pound sign "#" for some reason unknown to me. Channels are also commonly called "chat rooms." You can create your own channel, or go to an existing one, by simply typing:

/join #mychannel

To see what channels already exist on the network you can type:


For example, #voice is a channel that exists on the WEBBnet IRC network. WEBBnet is a group of connected IRC servers, so connecting to any one of the WEBBnet servers connects you to all the channels and users, not only just that IRC server but all the servers connected to WEBBnet. For a list of all the current WEBBnet servers see

Nicks list, mode 1
List of nicks. One is a CHOP.

You may wonder why some folks (on IRC they are called nicks) have a bright green circle next to their names and others a darker one. This is to distinguish who has channel operator privileges. CHOPs can do things like make the channel moderated, or kick someone who is being abusive to others in the channel.

Nicks list, mode 2
List of nicks in Symbol mode

On most IRC clients (and Chatzilla does so by right mouse clicking on the Nick list window and selecting Show Mode as Symbols) Channel Operators are usually shown with an "@" in front of their nick.

While we are looking at the Nick menu, I point out some other useful items you can use. If you have a nick highlighted in the Nick list, the Whois menu command (or typing /whois somenick in the text entry box) gives you some information about that person. Like what channels they are in, what server they are connected to, if they are an IRCop (these are the people that run the servers on the network), and how long they have been connected. Here is the output of a /whois on myself:

MADodel <> "It be me"
MADodel: member of @#OS/2 and @#Voice
MADodel: attached to " PA WEBBnet Client Server"
MADodel is an IRC Operator
MADodel: idle for 4 minutes, 16 seconds (on since 07/28/04 16:15:56)
--- End of WHOIS information for madodel.

If you want to communicate directly with someone, use the Open a Private Chat with . . . nick menu item. This opens a new tab where you can type so that only the person you selected can see what you type, and only you can see what they type. You can also send text to a specific individual by typing /msg someNick at the beginning of the text.

Finally you can find out what IRC client other people are using by clicking on Get Version Information from . . . or typing /version someNick.

ChatZilla is very customizable

If you aren't happy with trying to type everything into a single line, ChatZilla gives you the option to make the text entry box multi-line. Just click on the Up Arrow up^ on the right of the text entry area and it expands the box:

Text Entry
Note that when you are done typing you have
to either type Ctrl-Enter, or click on the crooked arrow.

To change the overall look of ChatZilla, just drag a motif file (actually a Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) file) you can find at a site like ~ginda/ChatZilla/motifs/. I prefer the mollusko motif at the moment.

Here is the default ChatZilla window:

Default Chatzilla motif
Default Chatzilla motif
(Click here for a larger image)

Kind of bland but certainly usable. Here is the same window using the Mollusko motif:

Mollusko motif
Same chat using the Mollusko motif
(Click here for a larger image)

Notice how this new motif adds color to highlight different message types, and puts a border around each nick. Other motifs add image backgrounds and even more extensive use of color. So feel free to try as many as it takes to find what you enjoy using.

Preference Notebook
ChatZilla Preferences Notebook
(Click here for a larger image)

You can do more customization using the ChatZilla Preferences notebook (shown above). The first thing you probably want to change is the IRC Nickname (which defaults to IRCMonkey for everyone, and marks you as a newbie until you change it), which is the alphanumeric ID string that everyone sees on IRC to identify you. Other things like Description, Username are optional to change. Don't mess with User Mode unless you know what you are doing.

On subsequent tabs of the preferences notebook you can change things like logging, sounds, scrollback size (how far you may want to scroll back to see what, if anything, you may have missed while be away from the IRC window), and creating your own shortcut commands.

By default ChatZilla has a single line for text entry. You enter the text and then hit the Enter key when you want it to display to everyone in the channel.

Things I really like about ChatZilla

The look of ChatZilla can be easily changed using Motifs which is a really nice feature. Some people like light colored text on a dark background. I prefer dark text on a white background. Its your choice, just find a motif that gives you the look you like.

Tabs allow you to connect to multiple IRC networks and channels in the same window. And even nicer is that the tab text changes color (see in above image). For the Mollusko motif I'm using, if there is activity in the channel the tab turns black or dark blue (I think this varies based on the motif used), or if there is a message containing a word or phrase you have entered into your Stalk Words list the tab turns red. So you can just leave the window there and only look at a particular channel if there is any activity.

Things I don't like about ChatZilla

So far that is really only one thing: I can't suppress or reroute different messages. Notice in the above screen captures where things like "WarpedOS2 <~Canuck@> has joined #os/2" as well as messages about who has left the channel and other rather innocuous chatter. These and other message types can be suppressed or rerouted to a different window in GTIRC. The ability to do this makes chatting cleaner and conversations easier to follow. I added a request for an enhancement on the Mozilla Bugzilla site ?product=Browser&component=ChatZilla, to rectify this issue. Since this is an open source project, that enhancement will only be done if one of the developers takes an interest in it, a large number of people show an interest in it, or I do it myself.


So I hope you find this article of enough interest to give ChatZilla a try. It's easy, and if you don't have anything to say, you don't really have to. Just pop into the channel and lurk for a bit. Maybe just say "Hi." I hope to meet some of you in #voice or #os2 on WEBBnet. Or perhaps in person in Denver at Warpstock this October.


GTRIC (Gammatech IRC client):
VOICE IRC channel: irc://
Using IRC URLs within Chatzilla:
Chatzilla IRC help channel: irc://irc//moznet/#chatzilla
WarpDoctor IRC channel: irc://
SCOUG Help Desk IRC channel: irc:///
eCS support IRC channel: irc://
WEBBnet server information:
Chatzilla motifs:
Reporting Chatzilla bugs:
OS/2 IRC channel: irc://

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