iamC, a Simple and Accessible Alternative to mIRC
By Veli-Pekka Tätilä
Alasdair - broken links and unavailable files have been removed from this page and are lost forever.
While mIRC is quite a nice IRC-client having English TTS support and all, it isn't very accessible without using some kind of special "virtual cursor", "navigation mode" or some other Screen Reader's built-in navigation functionality. In addition, due to it's rather graphical user interface, mIRC tends to be a bit slow with older machines.
I found a simple, light and quite accessible IRC-client called iamC. It Is a text based client so configuring and usage requires some basic knowledge of IRC commands or an IRC command reference. However, it doesn't support DCC sends (file transfers) and even the author, who is not me, admits that he did it for his personal, simple IRC needs. Compared to mIRC iamC is more accessible even with basic screen readers like MS Narrator (I think), takes less than a half a meg of disk space and will not eat up too much CPU and memory. However, it may not be for everyone as it's harder to use and doesn't support DCC sends. Still it's worth trying for those of you who find mIRC inaccessible or sluggish or if you have a foreign speech engine but a basic screen reader that has no virtual cursor e.g. Narrator. And even if a screen readre has the virtual cursor, it is still a lot easier to use a program if you can manage without going to the navigation mode (that is, using a virtual cursor).
First, you should get iamC. Here's the link:
Get the single document interface
version of iamC (recommended)
You can also
get the multi
document interface version of the program if you wish.
These are not downloads on the original iamC site but rather locally available on my Web site. This is because the original iamC site is down and not in the Web archive. In addition, I've been unable to find any other iiamC sites that would have the application locally available and I think iamC is such a great mini IRC client in terms of accessibility that it should be kept alive until we have something better.
Secondly, you need a list of irc-servers to be able to configure
iamC to use a specific IRC-server. mIRC's servers list is a good
reference which you can use to find out the address of your local
IRC-server. You can
the latest version of mIRC's servers.ini here .
Finally, you might want to have an IRC command reference at
IRC command reference . The reference is in hTML but it'll look
all right in plain text, too. So just copy the text on the web site
and paste it to notepad, then save the file. If you happen to need
an IRC-reference, you can just fire up notepad (start/run type
notepad) and open the IRC reference. Notepad is light and
navigation is easy without a virtual cursor.
Installing and Setting up iamC
Installing iamC is easy. Just like in the good old DOS-days you just have to unzip the archive you downloaded to the directory where you want iamC to be (e.g. c:\tinyapps\iamC\). No additional steps are needed, even though you might want to create a shortcut to iamC in your Start Menu folder. You should also copy servers.ini and the IRC reference to a document folder e.g. c:\my documents\docs\.
However, setting up iamC can be a bit tricky and thus I'll provide you with some step by step instructions as there's virtually no documentation coming with iamC nor was there on the iamC Website before it went down. Note that this documentation is for the single document interface version because it's more accessible of the two versions available. This site doesn't yet offer any help for the multi document interface version. You got to experiment a little to navigate it but it should be relatively easy. Also, some steps are the same for both versions like locating a server in the mIRC server list.
Note that keyboard conventions in iamC are a bit out dated and some newer Windows shortcuts won't work. You have to use the old Win 3.1 shortcut keys. Here's a handy table:
|Close a window inside the main iamC window||ctrl+f4|
|Switch between the windows inside the program window||ctrl+tab|
|Selection and text editing should work normally.|
Once you have started iamC, you can use the tab key to switch
between different fields (shift+tab for reversed order). The layout
of iamC is very simple. There are only two fields whose contents
you can change, they are: nick and server. You type a nickname (the
name you want to use in IRC) in the nick box and a name of an
IRC-server to which you want to connect in the server field. Now
it's time to search mIRC's servers.ini for the address of the
server you are connecting to. Suppose you want an ircnet server in
Finland. You should search the servers.ini with the keyword ircnet
or maybe for eu, fi until you find the entry:
n222=IRCnet: EU, FI, HelsinkiSERVER:irc.cs.hut.fi:6667GROUP:IRCnet
The part between the two colons, after the text SERVER, is the address of an IRC server. In the above example: it is irc.cs.hut.fi. You should type the server's address to the field we located in the previous paragraph. Now you have setup the basic options for iamC and it's time to start chatting or should I say ircing.
You might want to gather a list of the IRC servers you use most often in iamC.
Once you have given the necessary info for iamC, it's time to connect. There is an ordinary Windows dialog button called connect which you should click (press space on the keyboard). Now IamC tries to connect to an IRC-server and the layout of the iamC window also changes.
There are two text boxes, I like to call them the input and the output field. The output field is a grayed-out text box in which you can move with a cursor (and also perform standard Windows operations like copying text). Your screen reader should read everything in this box, that is mostly messages by other people, server notices, warnings etc... The other field is located directly below the output field. It's the input field in which you write what you say and also the IRC-commands. On the right side of the input field is a button labeled send you could use to complete your commands or sentences. However, enter will do just as well so this button is hardly ever needed.
You should wait at the output field until more text appears once
iamC is connected to the server. These are mostly server notices,
the same stuff you will see in mIRC after connecting. Once you have
succesfully connected to an IRC-server, you can use the input field
to join a channel. To create a new channel (or join an existing
one) called iamC you would type the following in the input
After joining a channel (e.g. iamC), you get a list of the nick
names of people on the channel in the output field. Just type what
you want to say in the input field and use the output field to read
what the others are saying. Normally you would write something, hit
enter and tab to the output field to read what others are saying.
Note that you can also use the whois command to find out more about
a certain nick e.g.:
/whois Welbereth (my IRC-name)
To leave a channel use the /part command. Here's an example:
Personally, I never hang around in more than 2 IRC-channels. It's because I'm using speech (and heavy magnification), so I cannot read while writing (no full-duplex mode [grin]). If, however, you want to irc in multiple channels there are two solutions. If you need only few channels, just run multiple instances of the iamC program. For a more advanced (but less accessible) version of iamC, you could download the multi document interface version of the app.
iamC is a light IRC-client for simple IRC needs. It's far more accessible than mIRC and also should work well with most screen readers. What's more, you can have speech output support in any language even with simple screen readers like MS Narrator. The downsides of iamC are the lack of file transfer support and a user interface that is not as intuitive as in mIRC. Still I think these are only minor annoyances compared to the advantages iamC has over mIRC for visually impaired or blind people.