The Drupal community heavily uses Internet Relay Chat (IRC) to talk about ideas, development, contributions, events, and everything else concerning Drupal. A low barrier for communicating contributions, as well as getting and offering support is crucial for the Drupal project.

Even though IRC is a simple, yet old web protocol for which many client applications exist, it still requires to install an application on your computer. To minimize that installation task, a popular IRC client of choice is ChatZilla, an extension for Mozilla-based browsers, such as Firefox. One click installation, for the win!

Having used ChatZilla as Firefox extension over the past ~2 years myself, I occasionally ran into the problem of having to restart the browser (for reasons unrelated to ChatZilla), requiring to close and disconnect from IRC, and of course, always forgetting to restart ChatZilla after restarting the browser... ;)

Luckily, ChatZilla has been developed as an autonomous application based on Mozilla's XML User Interface Language (XUL), so a quick search yields the stand-alone ChatZilla on XULRunner project maintained by Rob Marshall.

However, even though the installation instructions are looking straightforward, I still felt uncomfortable with having to install (and consequently, maintain) XULRunner in addition to ChatZilla, and well, Firefox.

Thus, I dug around a bit further in Mozilla's developer documentation and found a nice little sub-chapter within a tutorial explaining how to code your own application, titled "Using Firefox 3 to run XULRunner applications"...

Firefox 3 contains the XULRunner runtime. It has an -app command-line switch to run a specified XUL application instead of starting the browser.

Seriously? Awesome! Exactly what I wanted.

So here we go:

Using ChatZilla as a stand-alone application via Firefox

  1. Download ChatZilla for XULRunner
  2. Extract it into a folder of your choice; for example, C:\Program files\ChatZilla
  3. Optionally, to manually test this upfront: Open a command line (e.g., Start » Run... » cmd) and execute:

    firefox -app "C:\Program files\ChatZilla\application.ini"

    This will invoke the built-in XULRunner engine of Firefox, but instead of starting the Firefox application, it will start ChatZilla.
  4. Find the regular Firefox shortcut link on your desktop or in your start menu, and right-click to copy it. Paste it somewhere else, rename it to "ChatZilla", and edit the link target from something along the lines of

    "C:\Program files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe"


    "C:\Program files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe" -app "C:\Program files\ChatZilla\application.ini"

    ...and if you like, also change the icon to:

    C:\Program files\ChatZilla\chrome\icons\default\chatzilla-window.ico
  5. Profit!

Some further notes:

  • If you used ChatZilla as Firefox extension before, you likely want to take over your IRC/ChatZilla settings. To do so,
    • Close ChatZilla
    • Open prefs.js in your Firefox profile folder in your favorite text editor
    • Copy all lines starting with

    • Append those lines to prefs.js in your ChatZilla profile folder.
  • Invoking ChatZilla this way will create an Application Data\ChatZilla folder in the user profile, which behaves identically to the Firefox' application data folder; i.e., you can setup multiple profiles, or choose to move your ChatZilla profile folder to a different location via profiles.ini.