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Twitter for Mac Review: The Bird Is Back

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A new version of popular Twitter client Tweetie is finally here, launching today alongside Apple’s (s aapl) new Mac App Store. The updated application comes with a new, more official, name — Twitter for Mac. So, are the various changes to this highly popular application worth getting excited about?

To get the new app, you’ll first need to ensure that your Mac is updated to OS X 10.6.6. Once you are all up to speed, with the new Mac App Store installed, you can go ahead and download the updated application for free. You can’t just update your existing version of Tweetie.

When first launching the new Twitter for Mac application, it’s clear that this is no major UI overhaul. Using small but significant visual tweaks, Loren Brichter and the Twitter team have stayed true to what made the first Tweetie such a success: a simple and clean interface, lacking unnecessary distraction.

Changes in the Twitter for Mac interfaceThe most obvious change is the modified sidebar, which now sports a sleek translucent black look, along with two new icons — offering access to your lists and profile information respectively.

In Twitter for Mac, what was once a “New Tweet” button in Tweetie now offers up a menu of commonly used actions. These actions include tweeting, sending a direct message, navigating to a specific user, marking all tweets as read or accessing the application’s preferences. For advanced Twitter users, this is a welcome change, but having to click twice to compose a tweet may annoy some. Either way, customizable keyboard shortcuts are still here to please everyone.

Twitter for Mac now supports native retweets — just hover over a tweet in your timeline to see the retweet button. However, for those that like to add a short message of their own to a retweet, the option to repost or “quote” a tweet instead is still thankfully present (accessible by right-clicking on any tweet in your timeline).

Trending topics have also been introduced — click on the search icon and a list of what is trending worldwide will appear.

One of the most commonly requested features has finally been introduced, as users can now delete tweets within the application. To delete a tweet, just select the one you want removed and either right-click and select the appropriate option, or press command followed by the delete button.

Conversation management has also changed. In Tweetie, you could double-click on a message to see an entire conversation. No matter how deep into the conversation you delved, Tweetie always displayed a breadcrumb navigation history of your actions at the top of the application. Sadly, this handy navigation element has been removed in Twitter for Mac, replaced instead with just a single back button.

On the plus side, for those with newer touchpads on their Macs, gestures have been introduced — select a tweet, and three-finger swipe to the right to see the full discussion. If there’s no further conversation to display, a three-finger swipe will bring you to a user column for the person whose tweet you have highlighted. If there’s a link in the tweet, the swipe will open it in your default browser.

Remember in Tweetie when you wanted to send a tweet with a long URL? You had to click that ‘Shorten URL’ button. In Twitter for Mac you can just paste in any URL, no matter how long, and Twitter will do the hard work for you. The displayed character count for your tweet will already account for the URL being shortened. There doesn’t appear to be a way to turn auto-shortening off, which might be an issue for some.

Despite a few questionable changes, including the removal of the option to see if a user is following you or not, the features introduced to Twitter for Mac make for a huge overall improvement, which is made all the more enjoyable thanks to the applications newfound speed. Twitter for Mac is fast, three times faster according to Twitter. Switching from one account to the other, from your timeline, to your replies, is all super fast and  fluid, and your feed updates in real- or near real-time.

Highs: Fast; clean, attractive and intuitive UI; free

Lows: Lacks some features power-users might miss

If you’ve just downloaded the Mac App Store, make this your first download. Even if you don’t use Twitter, this new client is a pretty good reason to sign up.

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13 Responses to “Twitter for Mac Review: The Bird Is Back”

  1. Good review, thanks!

    The automatic URL shortener drives me absolutely nuts. For some tweets it is vital that the URL remains intact, and when the shortened URL is actually longer than the original, it is just too stupid.

    Real-world example – this is what I wrote into the input field:
    “Excellent first impressions of (iphone calling service)”

    This is what it looked like after the URL shortening magic:
    “Excellent first impressions of (iphone calling service)”

    Come on, Twitter, you can do better than this..!

  2. The thing I liked most about Tweetie was the ability to write block filters directly to the defaults file. This allowed me to block out all the Foursquare checkins, Miso “what I’m watching” tweets, Twitterspam contests, and the numerous hashtags for topics I don’t care to see. From what I can tell, this has now been eliminated from “Twitter” (Tweetie 2?), making it useless to me.

    With all the senseless noise being directed at Twitter, you’d think developers would make it easy for users to filter out stuff they don’t want to see. I am hopeful that Twitter will have this feature added back eventually. Until then, I’m sticking with Tweetie.

  3. You can still tell if someone is following you or not. You need to go to their profile, and then hover over the follow/unfollow button. You’ll see a tool tip indicating if they are following you or not.

  4. “Despite a few questionable changes, including the removal of the option to see if a user is following you or not”

    FYI, it’s still here but hidden, you just have to hover your mouse over the Follow/Unfollow button and a tooltip will tell you.

  5. I just downloaded this after having used Twitterific for a while (MacHeist). I like it, but it seems that tweets update ASAP. Is there a way for the app to only check for new tweets after certain time intervals? This is basically the only thing I am missing from Twitterific.

  6. I may be in the minority here, but I don’t find the Twitter For Mac all that great.

    The entire thing is black with major contrast issues all over the place. There’s basic disregard for the human interface guidelines, mainly the lack of a top bar that every other app has. The context menu has every option under the sun, making it very convoluted to use. The hyperlinks don’t work when using Synergy (a small group of users I’ll admit). The main function (to tweet) is hidden inside a menu that is quite hard to see. The lists function is very limited, not sure if this is an API limitation though.

    Maybe it’ll grow on me, but so far haven’t got much praise to give it.

    • Apple doesn’t even follow their own HIG. For example just look at how the close, minimize, and plus buttons are laid out in the latest version of iTunes or basically the entire GarageBand interface. Add that to the fact that the HIG is due for a major rewrite anyway.

      I’m actually impressed at some of the risks they took with the app and think it’s a great improvement both aesthetically and performance-wise from the last version and certainly head-and-shoulders above competing apps.