TweetDeck Hits the iPhone: Best Twitter Client Yet?

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Part of me wishes people would stop making great Twitter clients for the iPhone so that I can just pick a horse and stick to it, but another, far larger part of me is thrilled to see TweetDeck (free, iTunes link) come to the App Store. While I stopped using the desktop client in favor of Nambu, and later Tweetie for Mac, because I far prefer a native OS X app to an Adobe AIR one, I loved and deeply missed some of TweetDeck’s features, including support for custom user groups.

Which is why when TweetDeck hit the App Store, I was all over it.

Maximum Usability

With an app like this, I feel compelled to get right to the point: TweetDeck is the most usable Twitter client yet to appear on the iPhone platform. The key to that usability lies in their trademark columnar layout, which they’ve actually managed to successfully port to the iPhone version in a way that makes sense.

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Once you’ve entered your Twitter credentials, you’re presented with a screen that looks a little like mobile Safari when you zoom out to choose between your multiple open tabs or pages. These are the columns in TweetDeck for iPhone. By default, there’s one for all of the people you follow, one for @ mentions and one for direct messages. To this default set, you can also add specific keyword searches, user groups and favorites.

And columns allow for the best implementation of multiple Twitter accounts I’ve ever seen. Once you’ve registered another account with the device, all you have to do is choose that username in the “Add Column” dialog. Then you can rearrange the columns however you like, and have access to multiple account streams side-by-side. Easier than both Twitterific’s Source list and Tweetie’s account switching. Maybe best of all, when you’re composing, all you have to do is click your account name to switch.

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One of the neatest tricks up TweetDeck’s sleeve is the ability to move columns simply by holding your finger on any one in the zoomed-out view. The columns will then start to jiggle, just like icons on your main iPhone springboard, and you can rearrange them as necessary.

Tight Desktop Integration

Another big benefit of TweetDeck, for users of the desktop version, is the ability to sync back and forth. That means that you don’t have to set up your columns and groups all over again when you start using TweetDeck on the iPhone. All of those settings will be imported, so long as you have the latest version of TweetDeck and a TweetDeck account, which you can sign up for from the iPhone app.

Syncing is also automatic, and happens in the background. Not only that, but it’s a two-way street. If you remove a column or account on the Twitter version of the app, the change is likewise made in your Adobe AIR installation as well. That’s very handy if you use Twitter a lot for work purposes, like I do. It might even be reason enough to go back to using the desktop version.

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TweetDeck on the iPhone also looks and behaves like the desktop version, so there’s relatively little ramping up to be done. It even has “Growl” notifications, though I wonder about them using that name specifically, since the people behind Growl can’t have worked on the iPhone version, right? Still, they work, and they work well, although you might find the whole interface a little too busy depending on your aesthetic tastes.

Bottom Line

Is TweetDeck my new go-to Twitter client on the iPhone? Not exactly. Thing is, when I’m using Twitter from my phone, I’d say 90 percent of the time it’s just to kill some time. For that purpose, TweetDeck is overkill, and not really as suited for quick, casual checking as, say, Tweetie or Twitterific. But if I need to find a specific tweet, or I’m using Twitter on-the-go for work or research purposes, than TweetDeck is definitely my weapon of choice.

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