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Tweetie, the prettiest Mac-native Twitter application in town

Submitted by on April 21, 2009 – 16:44No Comment

Tweetie About BoxDevelopment in the world of Twitter is running at breakneck speed and today I’m looking at yet another Twitter client, aptly named Tweetie, which just got released to the world on Monday 20th April, 2009.

There are four types of ways you can access Twitter today, those being a) via a web browser, b) via an Adobe AIR application, c) via a native application or d) via a mobile application. Tweetie falls in to “native application” category. What this means it that instead of using another virtual machine such as Adobe AIR or Java, the application is written using the language and development tools for the native operating system and runs directly on that system as opposed to running inside a virtual machine such as AIR. In the case of Tweetie, it has been written to run natively on the Mac OS-X 10.5 operating system, and has already been available on the Apple iPhone for quite some time. The release of Tweetie for Mac OS-X marks a significant turning point for the developers of that application, for it will be the newly written, leaner and more modular application core of the new desktop client that drives the future development and coding structure of the legacy iPhone application that already exists today.

I previously reviewed another Mac native twitter application called Nambu which I love – although it has a number of quirks and bugs, which I have to hand to the developers of Nambu have been ironed out since my review appeared. It has to be said that no complex software is ever totally bug free and I’m sure there will be ongoing improvements and fixes in Nambu and Tweetie as time moves on. I also use Twhirl, Tweetdeck and Seesmic Desktop to access Twitter on my laptop. I’ve been playing around with Tweetie for the better part of two working days, so how does it stack up? Rather than doing a feature by feature comparison of each Twitter client, I’m doing to concentrate on Tweetie and talk about what I feel it does well, how it works and point out areas where I think it needs improvement or has gaps in functionality.

The first thing that you notice when you get to the Tweeite website to download the application is that there are two versions of it. The one being promoted up front is the premium version which is currently going for a very reasonable $14.95 (US Dollars) up until May 4th after which it’ll revert to its standard price of $19.95 – still very reasonable. The second version is, of course, the free version. As far as I can tell, both from what the web says and from application functionality, both versions of Tweetie are identical except for the free version where ads are inserted in to the time line and made to appear almost like tweets from an ordinary user. Cunning and modestly unobtrusive – and to the developers credit, there is an easily noticeable byline which clearly says “Ads powered by Fusion”. The premium version would remove these ads from your time line.

Tweetie time lineAt first glance, Tweetie is a very pretty application to look at. As a Mac-native application it’s not overtly pretending to be an out and out integrated OS-X app. This is the criticism I’ve heard directed at Nambu by a number of people who consider Nambu to be too closely aligned with a bog standard Mac finder window. I have to admit, I love that aspect of Nambu, but applications like Tweetdeck and Twhirl have also proven that you don’t need to merge in to the standard OS-X GUI to work well.

So apart from looks, what else stands out? The developers of Tweetie have clearly put some good thought in to the user experience side of things. For example, the ability to configure the application to NOT scroll the time line every time a tweet comes in is very handy. When you’re following a lot of people, it can often be very annoying when a cluster of messages you were looking at suddenly scroll off, to be replaced with fresh new tweets. You can have Tweetie do that by all means, but you can also configure it to hold it’s position, allowing you to call the shots and scroll up the timeline as and when you’re ready to read more recent tweets. Nice.

As with nearly all other rival Twitter clients, Tweetie allows you to search for trends, words and phrases that may be contained in the tweets of the other people. The resulting list of search results can be “torn off”, as the developers put it, in to a new window and left open on-screen for you to monitor. It updates automatically and continue to pull in Tweets containing the search phrase you stated. What’s missing is that once you close the search windows you’ve torn off, there’s no search history for you to easily reference so you have to start from scratch and search again (this is if you remembered what you closed previously).

I like the compactness of Tweetie, in so much as that it doesn’t over use icons and clutter it’s clean layout. This is aptly demonstrated in the way it handles multiple Twitter accounts. Once you have more than one account configured, it will display all the accounts in the side bar. Unlike Nambu which has a set of duplicate action items to click on under every account icon, what Tweetie does is just re-arrange the side bar to bring your currently selected Twitter account to the top and then re-links the icons below to that account. OK fine, so you can collapse and expand the icons in Nambu to save on space and clutter, but I find the way Tweetie goes a step further in it’s organisation of side bar icons to be very nicely done. Top marks. The Tweetie side bar will give you access to your time line, @ messages, direct messages, a search icon and icons for all your other Twitter accounts (assuming of course you have more than one Twitter account, which not everyone does).

As I keep using Tweetie, I discover small features which make big differences. Last week I wrote about contextual short URLs by a service called that was recently launched by my colleague Tom Newton and was featured on TechCrunch. Although doesn’t yet appear as an option in Tweetie right now, you may want to check back with Tweetie in a few weeks and see what’s going on there. However, even without this contextual URL shortening capability, the very useful URL preview feature is just one of those little options that makes a big difference. Got a short email link in some of your tweets but you’re not sure if you want to click on them for fear of them leading you to some virus laden web site or to perhaps some other dubious content you’d rather not bring up when you’re at work, with friends or colleagues? No problem. Just configure Tweetie to un-shorten the URL as a preview, which expands it out to it’s full equivalent, and then click through to it when you’re happy and ready to do so. Simple but brilliant.

Powerful features such as the ability to thread conversations is also available in Tweetie. Say you’re you’ve exchanged ten or fifteen tweets with a friend using @messages and they’re dispersed throughout your time line. Tweetie will conveniently group the whole conversation thread together so that the original messages links through in one block to all other messages that were spawned from the initial one via @ messages or direct messages. This was something I was raving about in Nambu as being one of its power features and I’m glad to see this is nicely implemented in Tweetie. Tweetie’s aesthetically pleasing graphical cues also make it a tad easier on the eye and brain to follow a conversation thread when compared to Nambu although the difference in reality is small.

Have you just spotted someone tweet something that looked interesting and got your curiosity up about their other recent tweets? Well then a simple double click on the users icon will pull up their entire public time line in to one neat window. Further more, from this screen you can also view the users @ messages, favourited messages, and profile information. Where appropriates, URL’s in a users profile are hyper linked. You can follow or unfollow a person here and a number of other places within the Tweetie application.

A feature I do miss greatly in Tweetie is Growl integration. In it’s current version 1.0.1 release, there is no growl support, through I suspect I will be seeing this in a future version. Growl, for those not familiar with it, is a nice little app which constantly runs in the background and pops up update messages from a wide array of applications. For example, when I’m using Nambu, I can tell it to pop up all incoming tweets on the corner of my screen without bringing the main application to the foreground. It’s one of those taken-for-granted features which can be sorely missed when not available. I’d love to see this functionality in the next release of Tweetie, and also the flexibility to tell Tweetie that I only want to Growl notifications for @ messages, direct messages, all messages or only for messages which contain a URL or picture link. Now that would be very cool.

Here’s another thing. Like with TweetDeck, Nambu, Seesmic Desktop and Thwirl, I really like the ability to view multiple Twitter accounts all at once, arranged nearly as side by side columns or anywhere on screen at the users discretion. This sort of user controlled interface presentation is currently not possible in Tweetie. I can understand why. The developers have taken a very specific and neat way of handling the clutter within Tweetie, but I would have liked the option to customise the UI exactly the way I wanted it to be presented like you can in the previously mentioned applications. Maybe one for a future revision? I’ve been asked by many people why I’d ever want to do something like monitor multiple twitter accounts all at once. Well, lets say you’re a commercial business utlising Twitter to market multiple services or you’re a business engaging with customers via Twitter on multiple services or products. I would imagine that it would be mighty useful to be able to have right up-front the time line of tweets coming in for multiple accounts so that one person could monitor across all the accounts in real time without having to click an icons or use a keyboard short cut to shift between accounts. This is particularly important if you ever want to respond rapidly to a real-time situation or events which is being augmented or supported through Twitter.

Here’s a feature that’s sure to drive some people up the wall, but also prove particular valuable from an accessibility point of view. Not only can you control pretty much every function in Tweetie via a keyboard short cut, which is handy for those unable to easily use a mouse, but you can also get Tweetie to speak out tweets using the built in Mac speech synthesizer. I’d recommend headphones and/or hope for very forgiving and tolerant friends, colleagues or spouses when using this feature. Jokes aside, it’s a nice touch and I know that certain groups of people will use it beyond the novelty factor purely because it will enable them to interact with Tweetie in ways that other Twitter clients might not allow (yet).

Tweetie shows a great deal of promise and has a number of other interesting features hidden within it that I have yet to fully unravel. With a lack of any online instructions on the Tweetie web site or in the application, it’ll take me a bit more time to get accustomed to those others features, but I will report back with updates. What Tweetie has got going for it is that it’s a lean, clean, very attractively designed and fast application to run. It doesn’t require Adobe AIR or any other VM to be installed on your system, therefore saving you on disk space. Tweetie’s developers has spent quality time really thinking out the user interface very well and as such the application feels natural to use. Its copious and well through out use of keyboard short cuts will appeal to many people and its smart way of presenting conversation threads, supporting multiple URL shortening services and multiple Twitter accounts makes it a feature rich and capable Twitter client. Out of everything I’ve written about in this review, I’d have to say “looks” is where Tweetie wins and it’s intuitive support for drag/drop which many long time Mac users are used is also a great boon. However, I feel that Tweetie still hasn’t come out with a really wow-factor feature or service which makes you want to instantly drop your existing Twitter client and move to Tweetie – at least, not yet for me, although I will continue to use Tweetie, along side other Twitter clients as I have been doing for quite some time already.

Finally, some simple things that Tweetie doesn’t do which pretty much all other Twitter clients on the Mac or Windows PC’s do do are missing. No growl support and no way of listing who you’re following or who’s following you. I also don’t seem to have the ability to save my search history. Over-all, Tweetie is a great Mac native Twitter client and I’m sure it will continue to evolve and the developer of Tweetie will continue to introduce new, innovative and compelling features in future versions.

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