About me: My name is Solène Rapenne, pronouns she/her. I like learning and sharing knowledge. Hobbies: '(BSD OpenBSD Lisp cmdline gaming internet-stuff). I love percent and lambda characters. OpenBSD developer solene@.

Contact me: solene on libera.chat, solene+www at dataswamp dot org or @solene@bsd.network (mastodon). If for some reason you want to support my work, this is my paypal address: donate@perso.pw.

Port of the week: catgirl irc client

Written by Solène, on 22 February 2021.
Tags: #openbsd69 #openbsd #irc #catgirl #portoftheweek

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Introduction §

In this Port of the Week I will introduce you to the IRC client catgirl. While there are already many IRC clients available (and good ones), there was a niche that wasn't filled yet, between minimalism (ii, irCII) and full featured clients (irssi, weechat) in the terminal world. Here comes catgirl, a simple IRC client coming with enough features to be comfortable to use for heavy IRC users.

Catgirl has the following features: tab completion, split scrolling, URL detection, nick coloring, ignores filter. On the other hand, it doesn't support non-TLS networks, CCTP, multi networks or dynamic configuration. If you want to use catgirl with multiples networks, you have to run it once per network.

Catgirl will be available as a package in OpenBSD starting with version 6.9.

OpenBSD security bonus: catgirl features a very good use of unveil to reduce file system access to the minimum required (configuration+logs+certs), reducing the severity of an exploit. It also has a restricted mode when using the -R parameter that reduce features like notifications or url handling and tight the pledge list (allowing systems calls).

Catgirl official website

Catgirl screenshot

Configuration §

A simple configuration file to connect to the irc.tilde.chat server would look like the following file that must be stored under ~/.config/catgirl/tilde

nick = solene_nickname
real = Solene
host = irc.tilde.chat
join = #foobar-channel

You can then run catgirl and use the configuration file but passing the config file name as parameter.

$ catgirl tilde

Usage and tips §

I recommend reading catgirl man page, everything is well explained there. I will cover most basics needs here.

Catgirl man page

Catgirl only display one window at a time, it is not possible to split the display, but if you scroll up you will see the last displayed lines and the text stream while keeping the upper part displaying the history, it is a neat way to browse the history without cutting yourself from what's going on in the channel.

Channels can be browsed from keyboard using Ctrl+N or Ctrl+P like in Irssi or by typing /window NUMBER, with number being the buffer number. Alt+NUMBER could also be used to switch directly to buffer NUMBER.

Searches in buffer could be used by typing a word in your input and using Ctrl+R to search backward or Ctrl+S for searching forward (given you are in the history of course).

Finally, my most favorite feature which is missing in minimal clients is Alt+A, jumping to next buffers I have to read (also yes, catgirl keep a line with information about how many messages in channels since last time you didn't read them). Even better, when you press alt+A while there is nothing to read, you jump back to the channel you manually selected last, this allow to quickly read what you missed and return to the channel you spend all your time on.

Conclusion §

I really love this IRC client, it replaced Irssi that I used for years really easily because most of the key bindings are the same, but I am also very happy to use a client that is a lot safer (on OpenBSD). It can be used with tmux for persistence but also connect to multiple servers and make it manageable.