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Lua IRC Engine

A Lua IRC module that tries to be minimal and extensible.

Lua IRC Engine is a basic IRC "translator". It provides basic message parsing and a way to add simple sending convenience functions and command interpreters/handlers, but leaves most of the actual processing of command content to the host application. For example, it does not keep a list of joined channels or even know what its nick is.

Lua IRC Engine is released into the public domain via CC0 (

An example demonstrating basic use of the module can be found in example.lua.

I wrote a blog post about this module; you can find that in this repo.


Creating an object

To create an IRC object, use

local IRCe = require("irce")

local irc =

From now on, this README assumes that irc is an IRC Engine object created as above.

Note: Much of the functionality of this module (eg. replying to server PINGs, sending PRIVMSGs with irc.send) is in submodules, none of which are loaded when the object is created. To load the standard modules, use:

local mod_base = require("irce.modules.base")
local mod_message = require("irce.modules.message")
local mod_channel = require("")


Modules are covered in more detail later in this README.


At the most basic level, sending raw messages is done by irc:send_raw(message):

irc:send_raw("PRIVMSG #potato :I like potatoes.")

To allow greater flexibility, this module doesn't make use of a specific socket system. Instead, you set a function for irc.send_raw to use with irc:set_send_func(func):

-- Using LuaSocket:
local socket = require("socket.core")
local client = socket.tcp()
client:connect("irc.server.domain", 6667)

irc:set_send_func(function(self, message)
	return client:send(message)

On success, this function should return true (or any value other than nil or false); to signal an error, it should return nil (or false) and an error message (these return values are actually returned untouched to the caller of send_raw).

In this example, the LuaSocket TCP socket's send function returns the number of bytes it sent on success (which evaluates as true), and nil and an error message on failure; as such, the send_func can just return what it got from this.

irc.send_raw will properly terminate the message with \r\n, and so it is not necessary to do this in the function you provide.

To send things more easily, use irc:send(command, ...), like this:

-- PRIVMSG takes the arguments (target, message), so this call is
-- irc:send("PRIVMSG", target, message)
irc:send("PRIVMSG", "#potato", "I like potatoes.")

The IRC object's metatable is set up so that you can use this syntax:

irc:PRIVMSG("#potato", "I like potatoes.")

For consistency, you can use the special message type IRCe.RAW to send raw messages using irc.send:

irc:send(IRCe.RAW, "PRIVMSG #potatoes :I like potatoes.")
-- is equivalent to
irc:send_raw("PRIVMSG #potatoes :I like potatoes.")

These functions just return what the provided send_func returns; so, to catch an error, you can raise an error by wrapping them in assert:

assert(irc:PRIVMSG("#potato", "I like potatoes."))

A better way is to check the return values and deal with the error in a way appropriate for your program:

local ok, err = irc:PRIVMSG("#potato", "I like potatoes.")
if not ok then
	-- Handle error.


To process a message received from a server, use irc:process(msg). msg is a raw IRC message received from the server, although if you pass nil or false, irc.process will just silently ignore it and do nothing. It is usually called in a main loop, like this:

-- Using LuaSocket:
-- "client" is the TCP object from the "sending" section above.

while true do

When a message that your program might want to process is received, the appropriate callback is called, if it is set. You can set a callback with irc:set_callback(command, func):

irc:set_callback("PRIVMSG", function(self, sender, origin, msg, pm)
	print( ("<%s> %s"):format(sender[1], msg) )

A callback receives either the IRC object or a user object (see here).

irc.set_callback returns true on success, and nil and an error message if there is already a callback set for command.

Callbacks cannot be overwritten. irc:clear_callback(command) is used to clear a callback.

Nearly all callbacks receive a sender table as their first argument after the IRC object. These should not be confused with sender functions, discussed in the next section, "Extending the module".

Sender tables are derived from the message prefix, and are structured like this:

-- From a user:
sender = {
	type = "user",

	[1] = "Nick",
	[2] = "username",
	[3] = "",

-- or from a server:
sender = {
	type = "server",

	[1] = "irc.server.domain",

-- or no prefix:
sender = { type = "none" }

Whether a callback is actually called depends on whether a handler exists for the command, and whether it returns anything.

A callback will be called if:

  • a handler exists and it returns something, or;
  • if a handler does not exist for the command, in which case the callback gets the sender and the command parameters as arguments.

If a handler exists but doesn't return anything, the callback isn't called.

This behaviour allows for handlers which sometimes pass processing on to another handler; eg. when a CTCP ACTION is received, the CTCP handler passes processing over to ACTION. This way, the ACTION callback is called instead of the CTCP callback. If the callback were always called (as they were in versions 2.1.0 to 5.0.0), the CTCP handler would be called regardless. NOTICE and PRIVMSG also work this way, passing over to CTCP when they detect a CTCP message.

There is more information about handlers in the next section, "Extending the module".

There is a special callback with the special value IRCe.RAW which is called whenever an IRC message is sent or received. This is useful for printing raw messages to a console or logging them. Its first argument is true when the message is being sent or false when the message is being received, and the second argument is the message. It is used like so:

irc:set_callback(IRCe.RAW, function(self, send, message)
	print(("%s %s"):format(send and ">>>" or "<<<", message))

Another special callback is DISCONNECT which is not called by this module, but should be called by the host application (using irc:handle(IRCe.DISCONNECT)) when the socket is closed or the server disconnects. This allows modules and the host application to do cleanup.

The callback IRCe.ALL is called for all callbacks after the specific callback. It follows the same calling rules as normal callbacks (not called when handler doesn't return anything). The first argument (after the user object, see below) is the key for the callback that is being called.

ALL is useful for when you want to relay lots of different kinds IRC events without having to make a callback for every single one.

User objects can take an optional argument, a user object, which is a Lua value/object that is passed to every callback. For example:

local t = {}
local irc =

irc:set_callback("PRIVMSG", function(self, sender, origin, msg, pm)
	assert(self == t) -- This assertion is true.

It defaults to the IRC object itself.

Extending the module

Sender functions

Each IRC command can have exactly one sender function (although you can add ones that don't correspond to an IRC command, for example CTCP). They are stored in irc.senders.

irc.send calls these to construct a message.

Sender functions receive the IRC object (here as self), a state variable (more on this later), and whatever arguments they need, and return the raw message to be sent:

function raw(self, state, msg)
	return msg

function privmsg(self, state, target, msg)
	return ("PRIVMSG %s :%s"):format(target, msg)

-- irc:translate() is called by irc:send() to turn the arguments into a raw message.
-- It can be called like this to chain senders.
function ctcp(self, state, target, command, params)
	return self:translate("PRIVMSG", target, ("\001%s %s\001"):format(command, params))

Sender functions can be set with irc:set_sender(command, func):

-- The raw sender is actually already defined in an IRC object. This is just for demonstration.
irc:set_sender(IRCe.RAW, raw)
irc:set_sender("PRIVMSG", privmsg)
irc:set_sender("CTCP", ctcp)

irc.set_sender returns true on success. If you try to set a sender for a command when one is already set, irc.send_sender will return nil and an error message.

You can remove senders with irc:clear_sender(command).

Handler functions

As with sender functions, each IRC command can have exactly one handler function.

When a message is received, it is first processed by a handler function. This function can either respond to the message, it can parse the message and return information, or both. They are stored in irc.handlers.

They take the IRC object, a state variable, the sender of the message, the command parameters as a table, and a table of IRCv3 tags, if the message had them.

Here are some examples of how the message is broken up:

-- Example: ":nick!username@host.mask PRIVMSG #channel :This is a message!"

command = "PRIVMSG"

-- This happens internally. --
prefix = "nick!username@host.mask"
params = "#channel :This is a message!"
-- ======================== --

sender = {
	[1] = "nick",
	[2] = "username",
	[3] = "host.mask"

params = {
	[1] = "#channel",
	[2] = "This is a message!"
-- Example: ":irc.server.domain 372 LegoSpacy :This is the MOTD!"

command = "372"

-- ======== --
prefix = "irc.server.domain"
params = "LegoSpacy :This is the MOTD!"
-- ======== --

sender = {
	[1] = "irc.server.domain"

params = {
	[1] = "LegoSpacy",
	[2] = "This is the MOTD!"
-- Example: "PING :irc.server.domain"

command = "PING"

-- ======== --
prefix = ""
params = ":irc.server.domain"
-- ======== --

sender = {}

params = {
	[1] = "irc.server.domain"

The handler can either send a reply, parse the parameters and return information, or both. The IRC object is exposed (again as self in these examples) so that the handler can send replies, or call other handlers or callbacks.

-- The PING handler just sends a reply (namely, a pong).
function handle_ping(self, state, sender, params, tags)
	self:send(IRCe.RAW, "PONG :" .. params[1])

-- The PRIVMSG handler just returns parsed information.
function handle_privmsg(self, state, sender, params, tags)
	local target = params[1] -- Nick or channel message was directed to.
	local msg = params[2] -- The message.
	local pm = not target:find("[#&]") -- Whether it was directly to a user or not.
	local origin = pm and sender[1] or target -- Where the message came from.
	-- The origin is generally where bots should send replies.

	return sender, origin, msg, pm -- Return parsed information.

Handler functions can be set and cleared with irc:set_handler(command, func) and irc:clear_handler(command), and this works much the same as with senders.


The state variable passed to a sender or handler is used to store module state. Each module gets its own state table, which is passed to every sender and handler it added when they are called. When a module is loaded, its state table is initialised to an empty table.

This state table is useful for sets of handlers that need to, for example, receive data over multiple IRC messages, such as NAMES and MOTD.

Important: If you add a sender or handler via irc:set_sender() or irc:set_handler() directly and not via a module, it won't have any state associated with it, and so the state variable passed to it will be nil.

Modules and the standard modules

Senders and handlers can be added with modules. This module comes with some standard modules to provide some basic functionality.

A module is a table, structured like so:

local module = {
	init = function(self, state)


	deinit = function(self, state)


	senders = {
		<command> = <func>,
		<command> = <func>,
	handlers = {
		<command> = <func>,
		<command> = <func>,
	hooks = {
		<command> = <func>,
		<command> = <func>,

For example:

local IRCe = require("irce")

local module = {
	senders = {
		PONG = function(self, state, param)
			return "PONG :" .. param
	handlers = {
		PING = function(self, state, sender, params)
			self:send("PONG", params[1])
	hooks = {
		[IRCe.DISCONNECT] = function(self, state)
			-- Do cleanup stuff here.

The init function is called when the module is loaded, and deinit is called when it is unloaded. Either or both can be omitted.

A module does not need to include both senders and handlers, and so either the senders or the handlers table can be omitted (or both, if you really want to).

If a module needs to do something when certain commands are received (eg. cleanup when the IRC object disconnects from the server), this should be put in the appropriate hook. See the hooks part of the above example.

TODO: Document hooks properly (eg. what args they take).

To load a module, use irc:load_module(module_table), for example:

local mod_base = require("modules.base")

If a module tries to set a sender or handler that already has been set by another module, the new module will not be loaded, and irc.load_module returns false and an appropriate error message.

Modules can be unloaded with irc:unload_module(module_table), where module_table is the same table you passed to irc.load_module. This will remove every handler and sender that the module added.

Standard modules

The senders are documented like this:

<COMMAND> (<arguments to sender>)

and the callbacks like this:

<COMMAND> (<arguments passed to callback, if any>)

Senders prefixed with an underscore do not produce complete messages, and their output is meant to be encapsulated in another command, eg. _CTCP returns a message to be sent in a PRIVMSG or a NOTICE.

Unless otherwise stated, sender arguments to callbacks are sender tables.



PING (param)
	Sends a PING with the "param" as the only parameter.

PONG (param)
	Like PING, but with PONG.

NICK (nick)
	Sends NICK with "nick" as the only parameter.

USER (username, realname, mode)
	Sends USER like so: USER <username> <mode> :<realname>
	If "mode" is omitted, 8 is sent as the mode.

QUIT (quit_msg)
	Sends a QUIT with the specified quit message, or with no message if it is omitted.

-- WARNING: May change.
MODE (target, modes, mode_params)
	Sends a MODE message like so:
		MODE <target> <modes> <mode_params>
	Currently all arguments are strings, this may change.


PING (sender, params)
	Called when a PING is received.
	Responds with a PONG, and passes the sender and parameter to the callback.

NICK (sender, new_nick)
	Called when someone changes their nickname.

QUIT (sender, quit_msg)
	Called when someone quits.

CHANNELMODE (sender, operation, mode, target)
	Called when receiving channel modes. This callback is called *once* for
	each mode.
		"sender" is who changed the mode
		"operation" is + or -
		"modes" is the mode
		"target" is the target of the mode

USERMODE (sender, operation, mode, target)
	Called when receiving user modes. Called once for each mode.
		"operation" is + or -
		"mode" is the mode
		"target" is the target of the mode, probably you



NOTICE (target, message)
	Sends a NOTICE with "message" as the message

PRIVMSG (target, message)
	As with NOTICE, but as a PRIVMSG

_CTCP (command, params)
	Used by CTCP and CTCP_REPLY to create a CTCP message.

CTCP (target, command, params)
	Sends a CTCP command in a PRIVMSG.
	"params" can be a list of parameters, or a string to be sent in the
		parameter section of the CTCP command (internally, "params" as a table
		is turned into a string with table.concat).

CTCP_REPLY (target, command, params)
	As above, but sent in a NOTICE.

ACTION (target, action)
	Uses CTCP to send an ACTION command.


NOTICE (sender, origin, message, pm)
	Called when a NOTICE is received.
	"origin" is the channel the message was sent to, or the nick of the sender
		if it's a private message. "pm" will be true if the message came directly
		from a user (ie. a private message) as opposed to from a channel.
	If a CTCP message is detected, processing is passed on to the
		CTCP handler, and the PRIVMSG callback isn't called.

PRIVMSG (sender, origin, message, pm)
	Functionally identical to NOTICE, but for PRIVMSG.

CTCP (sender, origin, command, params, pm)
	Called when a CTCP message is received in a PRIVMSG.
	"params" is a table of parameters.
	If the command is ACTION, CTCP passes processing on to the ACTION handler,
		and the CTCP callback isn't called.

CTCP_REPLY (sender, origin, command, params, pm)
	As above, but for CTCPs in a NOTICE.

ACTION (sender, origin, action, pm)
	Called when an ACTION is received (ie. "/me <action>")
	Callback parameters are similar to PRIVMSG and NOTICE.
	Note that there is actually no handler with this name. Regardless, the
		associated callback is called.



JOIN (channel, key)
	Attempts to join a channel.
	If "key" is included, it is sent as the channel access key.

PART (channel, part_message)
	Parts from a channel.
	If "part_message" is included, it is sent as the part message.

TOPIC (channel, topic)
	If "topic" is supplied, attempts to change the topic of "channel"
		to "topic".
	If "topic" is not supplied, queries the server for the topic of "channel".


JOIN (sender, channel)
	Called when someone joins a channel.

PART (sender, channel, part_message)
	Called when someone parts from a channel.
	If a part message was supplied, it is passed to the callback.

TOPIC (channel, topic, message)
	Called when receiving a channel's topic.
	"topic" is `nil` when no topic is set, and "message" is the message
		that came with the RPL_NOTOPIC.
	Otherwise, "topic" is the topic and message is `nil`.

NAMES (sender, channel, list, kind, message)
	Called when a complete channel user list is received.
	(Specifically, called upon receiving a RPL_ENDOFNAMES.)
		"sender" is the server that sent the RPL_ENDOFNAMES
		"channel" is the channel that the list is referring to
		"list" is the actual list
			Is `nil` when the channel specified in a prior NAMES message
				sent by the client doesn't exist.
		"kind" is the kind of channel (@ (secret), * (private) or = (public/other)).
			Is `nil` in the same condition as "list"
		"message" is the message that came with the RPL_ENDOFNAMES


A Lua IRC module that tries to be minimal and extensible.







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