UPDATED: Twittering Without a Client App


Many of us are hip to Twitter these days, and there are a myriad of options for keeping track of the resulting tweets. I personally bounce between the webpage itself and Tweetdeck (while on my Mac). But sometimes I want to trim down my open windows to the bare minimum. Here’s one way to keep up with your Twittering, without having any windows open.

Twitter w/o Windows

Twitter w/o Windows

You’ll need Geek Tool to monitor incoming tweets. (Geek Tool is a free utility that runs as a Preference Pane and lets you embed shell output, URLs, and more in your desktop.) I set up a new Shell Command entry, with the following command (all on one line):

curl -s -u username:password http://twitter.com/statuses/friends_timeline.rss | grep title | sed -e 's// /' | sed 's// /' | sed 's/ //'

This command uses the shell command curl to pull the RSS update feed of those you follow. Be sure to substitute username:password with your own Twitter credentials. The sed commands mainly perform a find and replace to clean up the output, removing html title tags and leading spaces. If you’re looking for more information on the curl and sed commands, pop open your Terminal.app (/Applications/Utilities), and type man curl or man sed for the manual of usages for each. Geek Tool offers other customizations like font and positioning on screen so play until you find your sweet spot.

Using either Quicksilver or Google’s Quick Search Box (Quicksilver’s new sibling), will allow you to post tweets easily without a client app front and center. With either, you can quickly invoke the input window, type your 140 characters, and send it off to Twitter — and like that, the interface vanishes until you need it again. Using Quicksilver requires that you download an Applescript which gives you a ‘Tweet’ action, and then modify a Keychain setting for your Twitter login credentials — the latter can be a bit messy for a novice. Quick Search Box is much easier in comparison, only asking you to add your Twitter account details in one of the preference windows. Once you’ve setup Quicksilver or Quick Search Box, invoke the interface, type your Tweet, and send it off. Easy peezy, lemon squeezy.

This setup may not be useful for everyone, but it is nice when you want minimal interference while you work. I’m quickly finding this interface to be my preferred mode of interaction with Twitter.The GeekTool/Quick Search Box (or Quicksilver) combo do nicely to sit in the background until you’re ready, and then fade back out as soon as you’re through with them.


Two TAB readers were kind enough to provide some modified code that are a bit cleaner than what I posted and are tweaked a bit to their liking.

Scott: “Here is the updated code that I’m using, which only uses one sed invocation so avoiding another process spawn (the head and tail are obviously because I only want the most recent 14 entries and don’t want the top line):”

curl -s -u username:password http://twitter.com/statuses/friends_timeline.rss | grep "<title>" | sed -E 's/^[ ] //; s/<title>(. )</title>/1/' | head -n 15 | tail -n 14

Matt: curl -s -u username:password http://twitter.com/statuses/friends_timeline.rss | grep title | sed -e 's/<title>/ /' | sed -e 's/</title>/ /'


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