The university runs its own chat service called heiCHAT. heiCHAT is based on the open Matrix protocol, which is an alternative to proprietary services like Discord, Microsoft Teams or Slack. Different from many of those alternatives, heiCHAT is end-to-end-encrypted by default, which means nobody except you (not even the university) has access to your messages.
We as Fachschaft run a Space for computational linguists (if you know Discord: a heiCHAT Space is somewhat comparable to a Discord Server). Within the Space there are several rooms you can join (a heiCHAT room is comparable to a Discord channel), first and foremost our Cosy Online Pool, which you can use to chat with computational linguists from all other semesters about more or less study-related topics.
Set up heiCHAT
To use heiCHAT, you need the application “Element” (formerly known as “Riot.im”). You have to install Element on your mobile phone or desktop computer. There is a web version of Element, but if you use only that version, you’ll sooner or later run into encryption issues, so we strongly urge you to install Element somewhere (more on that later).
After opening Element, you have to enter the details of the University’s home server and log in with your Uni ID and password. The Unirechenzentrum provides an explanation for that:
You should then be prompted to set a Security Key or a Security Phrase. Do so and save key or phrase at a secure location you’ll have access to until at least the end of your studies, as you might need that key in the future.
Join the Space
You managed it? Great! Now you can join the space using the link below. Just click on it and press “Continue”. The Element application you just installed should open automatically. Looking forward to seeing you! ☺️
We know that the setup process is slightly more involved than ideal, but once done, everything runs pretty smoothly. If you experience any problems during setup, do not hesitate to send us an email (you can find our address in the “Contact” section of the menu).
Can I also use heiCHAT in the browser?
Yes, the university operates an instance of Element Web at matrix-im.uni-heidelberg.de, where you can use heiCHAT in your browser. However, you have to be careful with your keys: Immediately after logging in, you can’t read the messages because of the end-to-end encryption. You first have to verify your session with the help of another device on which you have installed Element or the security phrase you set up when you first logged in. After that, Element Web can also decrypt and display the messages. Functionally, Element Web is in (almost) no way inferior to Element Desktop, so it is quite possible to get by in everyday life with just Element Web – as long as you have another Element installation to verify the session or keep your security phrase well.
Can I use other clients instead of Element?
(Probably) yes. There are some other clients that are also compatible with the Matrix protocol on which heiCHAT is based. You can use these instead of Element. All you have to do is set your home server to
On the Matrix website you will find a list of alternative clients. Please note, however, that we have not tested any of them and, as far as we know, the university does not officially support alternative clients – so if you run into problems with an alternative client, you will have to help yourself.
Can I use heiCHAT with a Matrix account from another provider?
No. Matrix is actually a federated protocol (just like email, where you can write emails to each other even if you are with different providers), but the university has unfortunately switched off this function for heiCHAT.
This means that you can only join rooms and chats at heiCHAT with your university account. As far as we understand it, the messages never leave the servers of Heidelberg University (except, of course, to get to you on your end device). This is also the reason why the “official” Element web client at
app.element.io does not work for heiCHAT – if you want to use Element in your browser, you have to use the university’s own instance.
This page (or parts of it) were translated automatically using DeepL.