I have a Twitter address. But I really disliked having to either open a new tab to view comments and replies or having to keep returning to the site to see what’s going on. And I won’t be going into the various merits or demerits of Twitter as a site or function. There are plenty of sites that are happy to do that for me. So, being the kind of guy I am, I went hunting for a Twitter client so I didn’t have to use the browser.
There are a number of clients out there, so there’s no shortage whatsoever. Unfortunately, most are written for Mac or for Windows and I run Linux. So using my brain I went hunting on the web for a client that I could run. I was running Spaz, but it became unhappy when I upgraded my distro and started running KDE4 – it just sits in the system tray and won’t actually do anything useful. More on that later.
So, after the jump, I’ll run down the ones I tested and the one I’m on now. Incidentally, some of my results are skewed by the fact that I believe KDE to be messing me around – some apps run once and then never again. I am well aware that this is not the fault of the app itself, so I will not refer to the running (or otherwise) nature of the app. Also, big thanks to the nice people at Adobe. Many of the apps tested run on Adobe AIR (get it here). If you remember Klik, Adobe Air is kinda like that but easier to use. The BBC iPlayer Desktop app runs through AIR which allows it to be cross-platform. Jump coming up now…
Spaz is easily installed via Adobe AIR. It is a functional client for Twitter which has a single column layout. All posts, retweets and replies are listed in chronological order. You can post/reply directly from the client. It takes little effort to set it up and it is very powerful for all it’s simplicity. This was the first client I tried out and was very happy with it. Aside from everything else, the name conjured up conversations from my childhood. It’s themeable and has some customisation options in it. Very useful client and very easy to use.
When minimised, it sits happily in the system tray as an icon, only calling attention to itself when a new post is made. There appear to be a load of more “professional”(?) Twitterers out there who need much more functionality than this app can give, I’m not one of them and I do like to have simplicity in the applications I use. Spaz uses up little screen estate, which is important for anyone using a netbook or for anyone who needs the screen to be given over to more important apps – like that spreadsheet you should be doing instead of reading this!
This is definitely a good, solid application that should satisfy the needs of most users. It’s available for Windows, Mac, Linux and Palm Pre. It can also be used for Laconi.ca and identi.ca accounts.
Posty also runs on Adobe AIR, making it fully cross-platform. This is a step up from Spaz. It’s still a very simple layout and easy to configure, but Posty supports far more sites: Twitter, Jaiku, Tumblr, LinkedIn, FriendFeed and identi.ca. You can post to all of these sites from this app. I have only the Twitter account, so there are more options than I possibly need, but for more serious people this would be extremely useful.
This will work behind proxies and will also show pictures and video. The ubiquitous URL shortening is supported by the client. There are plans for this to be ported to the iPhone, so you have that ever useful cross-system similarity.
It’s unobtrusive, again it sits in your system tray and it’s an attractive app. If you have an account on one or more of the above sites this will very much simplify your posting and reading. If you have only one of the accounts, though, it may have more than you need. There is the option to not see accounts that you don’t have, but if this is the case you may be better off with a different app.
Choqok (meaning ‘Sparrow’ in Persian) is only available for KDE, which means that unless the Windows and Mac ports are really far along, you have to use Linux to use this app. This is a very simple app – it only supports Twitter and identi.ca accounts at this time of writing. Once configured it lives in your system tray. You can open up the whole Choqok client to see your Twitter and identi.ca posts in separate tabs, or leave it minimised and just use it for quick tweets.
Choqok is a great client for someone with few accounts and who values an uncluttered app. Right now it’s at version 0.6.1 so I would expect this app to grow and to add functionality. For KDE users, this is a pretty good pick: the integration means that it picks up the theming from your desktop and you don’t have to feel that you need to change it too heavily.
As I said, if you don’t have the full complement of social networking/micro-blogging accounts this app is very useful and usable.
This pops up on a lot of lists of top Twitter clients. The site shows it as Beta, but it is very polished and very functional. This is a tool for a serious micro-blogger – it supports multiple Twitter accounts as well as Facebook, StockTwits, TweetScoops, pictures, videos, groups and other stuff. It has a multi-column layout, separating posts from replies from searches from groups and so on.
For my needs this is too huge a tool. I don’t want an app that rivals my browser in size just to post random one liners, thank you very much! This is available for Windows, Mac, Linux and iPhone and many twitterers swear by it. They say it makes Twittering easier, more useful and better. It’s used by, I believe, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, if that sways you any. However, I am not a pro-Twitterer so this is too much for my needs.
Seesmic is seen by some as a TweetDeck killer. Again, it’s an Adobe AIR product, running on Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone and it has it’s own web-interface (useful if Twitter clients are not allowed at work!). I am indebted to Twittercism for puttin me onto this app. It looks, on default settings, just like TweetDeck, but it has a handy button to allow you to reduce it down to just one column making it look and act like Spaz or Posty. So this sits very nicely in a space between the pro- and non-pro- tool.
It supports all the same things that TweetDeck, et al, support – multiple accounts, pictures, videos, URL shortening and so on, but the killer bit for me is that you can do it all in one column. The single column shows posts to and from the accounts, as well as replies and private messages. The columns also shrink down to sidebar items so you can view them all in one (default) or just view the replies, or private posts and so on.
The philosophy seems to be “release early, adjust per the community’s needs” which pretty much fits with what I like to see.
In conclusion, I am running Seesmic at the moment because it does everything I need and doesn’t lumber me with stuff I don’t. I don’t want to get into a debate here about the various arguments for and against Tweeting and the social consequences. It’s just the new and latest thing and something else will take over in a year or so. It is handy for those one liners you want to get off your chest.
This is a short list on purpose. I’m not saying that these are the cream of the crop (nor am I saying they aren’t), these are the ones I have tried. Plug in “Twitter desktop client” to your favourite seach engine to see if there are others that you would prefer to use.