Making the Switch: Moving on from Irssi and GNU Screen to WeeChat and tmux

I have used Irssi and GNU Screen together for what seems to have been well over a decade now. Both applications do the job required of them quite well and as such they have always been one of the first things I installed an a fresh system.

Unfortunately, neither of the projects has had an official release in the past few years. This obviously isn't that big a deal of course since the Git versions of both are readily available to anyone who chooses to use them. I personally have used the Git version of GNU Screen for some time now.

A week ago I decided that I wanted to expand my horizons a bit and branch out to other software to see how they compared against both applications. Since WeeChat and tmux have been rapidly growing in popularity they were the obvious choice for this impromptu test.

My goal was to run them both for an entire week after configuring them to my liking and see how things went. I will admit that I honestly fully expected to switch back to Irssi and GNU Screen after things were all said and done.

As the title of this post has already alluded to, that didn't exactly happen as I quickly discovered that I really liked both WeeChat and tmux.

While both applications do exactly the same thing as their respective counterparts, they each had a lot little things that won me over. For instance, tux's status line is much easier to configure and I like the split pane implementation better than the one the Git version of GNU Screen provides. The mouse support for it is a nice bonus as well.

WeeChat has various features like SASL, Colorized Nick Names, and a Nick list built-in that could only be incorporated into Irssi through the usage of a third-party script.

Although the respective scripts for Irssi work quite well on their own and are admittedly mostly cosmetic in nature, I was nevertheless pleased to see them built into WeeChat's core.

Having SASL built into the client was somewhat important in my decision to stay with WeeChat. I use it for every server that I connect to and I've long felt that Irssi should have it built into its core as well.

I also liked WeeChat's smart filtering, gestures implementation, and the aspell plugin it comes with.

In conclusion, all the applications are absolutely fantastic in their own right and all of them have their own pros and cons to using them.

It all boils down to personal preference in the end. In my case, both WeeChat and tmux offered me things that their counterpart either lacked or did not implement as well.

That's not to say that they not lacking in areas as well. One example would be that WeeChat does not have proper theme support. I must admit that I wouldn't use it much, but it would be nice to have just the same.

Even if you have no interest in ever switching from your preferred terminal multiplexer or IRC client of choice, I hope this article makes you consider giving their alternatives a try at least once.


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