Get your tweet on and shake your verbs, Tweetie — the much-celebrated iPhone Twitter client — has hit the Mac OS X desktop.
As regular readers will know, I adore my iPhone and I’m an avid tweeter. A few months back, I weighed the options and, despite there being an array of free alternatives, the iPhone version of Tweetie, available for $2.99, was my favorite Twitter client.
Over on Twitter there’s been some serious buzz surrounding the release of the desktop version of Tweetie. Available now, either for $14.99 or as a free ad-supported version, Tweetie for Mac blends a streamlined user interface with a host of essential features, including multiple account support, threaded conversations, URL shortening and image uploads.
From iPhone to Desktop
Every seasoned Twitter user’s stream is more akin to a flood of data: names, links, descriptions, useful posts, phatic musings and more. Opening Tweetie for the first time, the most immediately noticeable and pleasing aspect of this desktop application is the streamlined interface.
The main Tweetie window takes up but a slither of screen real estate. Along the left of the window are the main navigation icons, including avatars for shifting through multiple accounts, and shortcuts to view @replies, DMs and more.
The top of the Tweetie window displays exactly where you are in a given thread — incredibly useful as a visual aid when drilling down through conversations and replies. The main body of the Tweetie window contains your stream, filtering out different information depending on which section you’re in.
Minimal & Sleek Looks
Tweetie’s streamlined approach to presenting and navigating the Twitterverse is also applied to the application’s aesthetic styling. Where Twhirl is garishly on-brand and Tweetdeck is a visual overload, Tweetie’s visual style is, despite the vast quantity of information, minimal and sleek.
Only the most essential icons are on display (other functions are accessed via right-clicking) and clicking through icons to navigate to different sections causes tweets to swish and slide around in an incredibly satisfying way.
Individual tweets keep the visual clutter to a minimum. Alongside the message itself and @reply button, the user’s profile picture and name is presented. Setting aside the @reply button, clicking a username within the message body takes you to that user’s stream, alternatively, double-clicking the profile picture takes you directly to the user’s Twitter stream.
When new tweets arrive, Tweetie’s OS X menu bar icon glows blue, while within the app, updated streams are marked with helpful blue dots. Of course, it all seems so obvious, but that’s because navigating Tweetie is intuitive — allowing you to breeze through conversation threads with ease.
It’s worth noting that the ad-supported free download of Tweetie drops an ad into your stream every hour. The ads genuinely don’t intrude or impede your tweeting: They look good and appear rarely, for $14.99, though, you’re able to order a registration code to disable them.
Getting The Message Across
At the bottom left of the main Tweetie window is the compose button. It seems odd to place the button for such an oft-used function so out of the way from the main application interface. Although you can access the same function via the Command-N keyboard shortcut, the tiny button feels totally disjointed from the actual application.
The tweet composer opens up in a separate window, meaning that the integrity of Tweetie’s sleek ‘n’ chic design isn’t impacted. Plus, you’re able to focus on writing your 140 character musing without distraction from the main stream.
The composer window also packs in a broad range of tweet-enhancing features. For starters, users with multiple accounts can select from which account they would like to send the tweet. If your tweet is over 140 character, Tweetie offers to post via Twitlonger. Plus, via a dropdown menu, you’re able to automagically shorten URLs or add an image.
The latter function can also be accessed by simply dragging and dropping an image into the compose window. When you click the Post button, Tweetie will then upload the image to a Twitter image hosting service — you can choose from Imageshack’s YFrog, TwitPic, Twitgoo, or Posterous.
The selection of URL-shortening services to choose from is excellent. All the usual suspects are there — TinyURL, Is.gd and Tr.im — but there’s also feature-rich Bit.ly and URL-squishing newcomer Diggbar.
Bit.ly is my shortener of choice, however there’s no account integration for the service. This means there’s no simple way for me to track a specific link and gather stats such as number of visitors over a given period. Although I’m not as familiar with Diggbar, I’d imagine that users of Digg’s fledgling URL shortener may be hankering for account integration, too.
There are a few outstanding issues with tweeting, though. For starters, prolific tweeters may be dismayed to discover that there’s no drafts functionality. Furthermore — and this is a major issue for me — there doesn’t seem to be a method for deleting tweets once you’ve posted them.
Navigating the Twitterverse
Finding your way through the torrent of tweets is rendered effortless with Tweetie. Alongside the intuitive click and double-click features mentioned earlier, it’s also possible to navigate the Twitterverse via a variety of keyboard shortcuts — a real time-saving boon for power users.
Hash tags are clickable, too, instigating an immediate search for the tag. The search section also incorporates trending topics, however it’s executed in an incredibly obtuse way — clicking the magnifying glass icon on the search page brings up a list of currently trending topics. Clicking one of the topics in the list instigates a search. For such an important feature it’s all but hidden and clunky to access.
There are also a few other features missing which, although I tried, it was difficult to adapt to life without them. For starters, there’s no refresh button on the main tweet stream. As such, users hoping to refresh regularly will find it frustrating to have to use the Command-Shift-R shortcut, or simply wait for an auto-refresh.
I was also surprised to discover that Tweetie doesn’t support groups, allowing you to place users in different categories and filter through your tweets. It’s a feature that, when viewing and organizing your contacts in such depth, would have been perfect for the desktop version of Tweetie.
Moving on, the way in which Tweetie renders profile pages follows suit with the rest of the app with a clear design, integrating core features with a couple of useful twists. Stats such as updates, favorites, followers and bio are all on display, accessed in more detail via a quick click.
Clicking the cog icon on the profile page opens a menu with options to @reply, DM, or follow the user. Most useful, though, is that Tweetie clearly tells you if this user is following you. Such an unexpected feature, yet so obvious in retrospect and, especially for social networking via Twitter, inherently useful.
I’ll Get Back To You
The mentions page, represented by the @ button on the left side of the Tweetie interface, works just like Twitter’s own mention page — grabbing any instance of your @username from the Twitterverse. You can even double-click a message to view the conversation thread in full, however this feature seems a little haphazard. It’s still not entirely clear to me when Tweetie will actually display a conversation thread; sometimes a double-click just loads that single message on its own.
Although there’s a reply button on all tweets, there are no dedicated buttons for DM, repost or favorite. Instead, right-clicking the message body brings up a menu with a variety of options: reply, repost, copy link to tweet, direct message, mark as favorite and open in browser. This isn’t ideal, though, as it’s preferable that frequently used functions — such as DM and repost — have a dedicated button.
The DM section breaks with Tweetie’s overall styling. First, there’s an instant messenger-style conversation overview page, displaying links to all your active DM-exchanges in chronological order. Clicking through brings up an iChat-style page, featuring back and forth tweets in text bubbles. It looks strange and certainly feels out of place but, setting aside the aesthetic, works correctly.
Tweetie’s success is that it simplifies what could be a complex experience — dealing with a Titanic stream of incoming information and interacting with a multitude of other users. Just like its little brother on iPhone, the application is visually streamlined and loads quickly.
There are drawbacks though: there’s a missing refresh button, no method for deleting tweets, the compose button needs to be integrated more clearly with the overall design and, although it’s not essential, the next version of Tweetie will ideally incorporate organizing contacts in to groups.
But these few issues don’t impact on the overall experience of Tweetie, an app that incorporates a wealth of features for the seasoned tweeter and yet is inviting and easy to pick up for Twitter newcomers. Twitter users looking for a well-designed, feature-rich client should certainly download Tweetie today.