mcabber is console based XMPP or Jabber client. It runs happily within a screen session, its lightweight, and it does all of the basic things that you want from an IM client without being annoying and distracting. For the first time since I started using this software a year or two ago, there's a major release that has some pretty exciting features. So I wanted to install it. Except, there aren't packages for it for Debian Lenny, and I have a standing policy that everything needs to be installed using package management tools so that things don't break down the line.

These instructions are written for Debian 5.0 (Lenny) systems. Your millage may vary for other systems, or other versions of Ubuntu. Begin by installing some dependencies:

apt-get install libncurses5-dev libncursesw5 libncursesw5-dev pkg-config libglib2.0-dev libloudmouth1-dev

The following optional dependencies provide additional features, and may already be installed on your system:

apt-get install libenchant-dev libaspell-dev libgpgme-dev libotr-dev

When the dependencies are installed, issue the following commands to download the latest release into the /opt/ directory, unarchive the tarball, and run the configure script to install mcabber into the /opt/mcabber/ folder so that it is easy to remove later if something stops working.

cd /opt/
tar -zxvf mcabber-0.10.0-rc3.tar.gz
./configure --prefix=/opt/mcabber

When that process finishes, run the following:

make install

Now copy the following /opt/mcabber-0.10-rc3/mcabberrc.example file into your home directory. If you don't already have mcabber configured, you can use the following command to copy the file to your home directory.

cp /opt/mcabber-0.10-rc3/mcabberrc.example ~/.mcabberrc

If you do have an existing mcaber setup, then use the following command to copy the example configuration file to a non-overlapping folder in your home directory

cp /opt/mcabber-0.10-rc3/mcabberrc.example ~/mcabber-config

Edit the ~/.mcabberrc or ~/mcabber-config as described in the config file. Then start mcabber with the following command, if your config file is located at ~/.mcabberrc:


If you have your mcabber config located at ~/mcabber-config start mcabber with the following command:

/opt/mcabber/bin/mcabber -f ~/mcabber-config

And you're ready to go. Important things to note:

  1. If something gets, as we say in the biz "fuxed," simply "rm rf    /opt/mcabber/" and reinstall.
  2. Check mcabber for new releases and release candidates. These instructions should work well once there's a final release, at least for Debian Lenny. The release files are located here.
  3. Make sure to stay up to date with new releases to avoid bugs and potential security issues. If you come across bugs, report them to the developers there is also a MUC for the mcabber community here:
  4. If you have an additional dependency that I missed in this installation do be in touch and I'll get it added here.
  5. Debian Lenny ships with version 0.9.7 of mcabber. If you don't want to play with the new features and the magic in 0.10, then go for it. If you just want a regular client, install the stable mcabber with the "apt-get install mcabber" command and ignore the rest of this email.