I've been increasingly dissatisfied with my two primary Twitter clients on PC--I use the official Twitter for OS X client on my Mac and the final Adobe Air version of Tweetdeck on Windows. Two things have happened, both clients have started to behave oddly, and neither client is particularly well-supported anymore. The Air version of Tweetdeck has been replaced by a native app that lacks key features; and Twitter for OS X hasn't been quite right since Lion came out. I do appreciate what Twitter is trying to do with their web app, I'm not particularly interested in a browser-based client.
I understand that my hunt for a good Twitter client may not be of paramount importance for many of you, but please indulge me. I'm a pretty active Twitter user. This may be a surprise, because I don't post that often to my main timeline--those are the messages that everyone sees. The majority of my Twitter messages are replies, bits of conversations with people who I follow or who follow me. Unless you happen to also follow the person I'm talking to, these replies won't show up in your timeline.
The 1-to-many relationships that Twitter fosters and the semi-private nature of @replies gives Twitter a conversational tone that I love. So, when I finally got fed up with the cursor jumping problem in Tweetdeck and having to force quit Twitter for OS X twice a day, I realized I had some pretty specific criteria for my perfect Twitter client. Yes, I realize my criteria are tailored to the way I use Twitter, but Tweetbot for iOS fulfills most of them, so what I'm asking for clearly isn't that unreasonable.
After giving the topic considerable thought, here's my list of required features for a desktop Twitter client. Obviously, these are predicated on the assumption that the app is functional, speedy, lightweight, stable, attractive, and support multiple accounts:
- I need to be able to see multiple views at once--whether it's columns (ideal), separate windows (less cool), or something even rad that I haven't thought of, doesn't matter. Potential views include my main timeline, mentions, lists, and searches.
- I need the client to display tons of info about the people I'm talking to. I want to see Twitter handle, real name, location, and their number of followers on every message. I want to be able to click a tiny thumbnail of their profile photos and see the full size. I respond to everyone I can, but it's nice to know when someone I should probably know sends me a message, and I'm terrible at remembering people's names, so I need all the help I can get.
- Send to Instapaper is vital. I'm sure other people use Readability or some other service, but Instapaper is what I use, and without it, I can't use a Twitter client.
- Twitter's streaming API allows for live updating of your feed. I love this because oddly, it removes the pressure to keep checking into Twitter for me. No, I can't explain why.
- Mark all DMs as read with a relatively low number of clicks. Having 200 unread DMs and no way to quickly mark them all as read would cause me such major OCD problems that I couldn't function.
- Auto-complete Twitter usernames, even for people I don't follow. I love this feature in Tweetbot; it should be in every app.
- I love how easy the distinction between reply and reply all is on Twitter for OS X. When you reply to a Tweet that includes multiple people, the new message is starts with an @reply to the person who actually wrote the tweet you are replying to, with all other mentioned individuals listed after. The neat trick is that those secondary users' names are highlighted, so if you don't want to reply to them, you can just start typing and their names will be erased. If you want to include them, you just have to tap to move the cursor and start writing. This is better in every way than a dialog box.
- I don't use timeline keyword filters that often, but when I do need them, they're very handy. #KCA
- Finally, I'm going to put keeping track of my place in my main timeline and mentions column as optional--but strongly encouraged. Tweetbot supports a relatively new third-party tool called TweetMarker. While it's handy when I'm moving between my iPad and iPhone, it would be much more useful if it synced across to my desktop PC as well.
That's it. I installed almost a dozen desktop Twitter apps this morning (MetroTwit, DestroyTwitter, Echofon, Twitteriffic, Osfoora, new Tweetdeck, Tweetings, Yorufukurou, and Janetter), spending almost $30 in the process, and I found a deal breaker with each of the clients I tested within ten minutes. Either the app didn't support the streaming protocol, notifications were messed up or noisy, you had to click through a bunch of popups to reply to someone, one feed or another wouldn't update itself, or something was just flat-out broken.
What's left to do? I'm probably just going to start sending checks to the folks who make Tweetbot and make due with twice-daily restarts of Twitter for OS X and the old Adobe Air version of Tweetdeck. At least until the guys at Tapbots decide to end my suffering and release a desktop version of Tweetbot.
Do you have a favorite Twitter app? Please, tell me about it. Please.