Usability is key to my using an application, so, while I’m not usually one who falls for flashy interfaces, I surely can appreciate them if they are part of an otherwise strong application.
Such is the case with blu, formerly known as chirp, a beautiful new (Windows 7 or Vista only) desktop client for the web worker’s favorite time waster or productivity tool, Twitter, that I just discovered (via Steve Clayton.)
At first glance, blu looks and feels a lot like Twhirl with a single scrolling pane of updates. Then you notice just how stunning and fluid the app’s UI is. Arrivals of new updates and transitions between panes flow easily and really take full advantage of the Windows Presentation Foundation architecture. Panels flip and items move almost effortlessly as you navigate.
But not everything is just presentational, there are some great features here as well.
Particularly cool is the way you can easily track conversations with blu. Replies feature an arrow that when clicked, flips over to the original tweet so you can see things in context. Very handy.
It covers the basics quite well, also. Posting a new update calls up a hidden input box with a nice character counter and a built in spell checker. Just this morning, a new release added URL shortening functionality with TinyURL. The lack of this in earlier versions was sort of a deal breaker for me as it is something which I really have come to rely on, so I was really glad to see this.
Individual tweets can be replied to, retweeted, or prompt a direct message.
Clicking on a user avatar pulls up their profile for more information and other options.
Obviously presentation and UI aren’t the only things that matter, but blu is just a joy to look at and interact with.
It doesn’t feature TweetDeck-like grouping but you can mark folks as faves and get a visual notification when they tweet, plus it has the ability to filter out items from just those people.
Visually, the lack of a scroll bar initially threw me a bit. It turns out you can click and drag the timeline to move up and down though. A new version I just downloaded adds the ability to use up/down and page up/down to navigate more quickly, which is a great addition.
It only works with a single Twitter account, so if you are looking for a tool to cross-post, or need to manage multiple accounts, blu isn’t for you.
Overall blu is just stunning and I am sure there are surprises in the works as well. Obviously the lack of support for non-Windows platforms is a deal breaker for many, but if you are using Vista or Windows 7 blu is a great choice. It is well on the way to becoming my full-time Twitter desktop app.
Is there room for yet another Twitter client? Does blu look good to you?