Twitter clients for the iPhone and iPod touch seem to have leapfrogged their counterparts on the Mac, leaving many Twitter-holics lamenting the fact that they feel hobbled when they tweet from their computer. atebits, however, is aiming to quench Mac user's Twitter thirst with its new Tweetie for the Mac application -- which is based on the company's popular Tweetie for the iPhone app.
Twitter is a microblogging service where users share comments, thoughts and ideas in posts, also known as tweets, that are limited to no more than 140 characters.
Tweetie for Mac mimics the Tweetie iPhone interface.
Tweetie on the iPhone has proven popular because it offers a wide feature set with a simple and easy to understand interface. Tweetie for the Mac aims to match that, and does a great job of offering users an experience that comes close to what they get on their iPhone or iPod touch.
Twitter's timeline, mentions, direct messages and searches are grouped on the left side of the application window. Selecting an option displays the matching tweets in the main part of the app window on the right. A blue indicator appears next to the category icons when new messages are available, which makes it easy to see what types of messages or tweets you have without having to touch Tweetie.
Tweetie lets you know when you have new messages.
Individual tweets are easy to tell apart because each appears in its own iChat-like text bubble. Your own tweets are color coded, so you can pick them out from the rest of the messages that are streaming in.
Interacting with other users is one of the draws of the Twitter service, and Tweetie makes it easy to do that, too. A reply button is available in each tweet message bubble, and Control-clicking on a tweet shows additional options like re-post, direct message and mark as favorite.
You can view all of your recent mentions at once.
Direct messages are all grouped as individual conversations with message counts and a time stamp that shows when the last direct message from each person was sent. The message groups make it substantially easier to keep track of private conversations, especially if you tend to have several going on at the same time.
Tweetie supports several URL shortening services along with multiple Twitter image uploading services, and it can auto-shorten URLs you enter. You can choose to leave timelines at the last viewed tweet or auto-scroll to the most recent tweet, post and follow messages from multiple Twitter accounts, and read conversations by double-clicking on one of the tweets that's part of the message chain.
Tweetie's Conversation view.
Unlike other Twitter clients, Tweetie uses a separate window for entering new messages. You can click the Post button to send your tweet off for all to see, but Command-Return works, too, and it saves you from taking your hands off of your keyboard. The new message window disappears once you send your tweet, so you don't have to worry about wasted Desktop space. Also, you can keep multiple new message windows open which is handy if you are working on public and direct message tweets at the same time.
Using the two-window approach felt a little awkward at first, but I adapted quickly. I ultimately found that the extra window came in handy when I wanted to post a message and look at my Web browser at the same time. The small new message window saved me plenty of display real estate when I was limited to working from just my MacBook Pro's built-in display.
The multi-window approach does, however, come in handy for Twitter searches. Individual searches can be broken out into their own windows so you can track multiple topics in real time. I used this feature to follow what other Twitter users were saying about Tweetie before it's official launch, and to track what was going with the RSA Conference at the same time.
Tweetie's Twitter search view.
The app also includes a handy bookmarklet for Safari that auto-adds the URL for the current browser Window or tab to a new tweet. The bookmarklet is available as a free download at the atebits Web site.
Tweetie is responsive, doesn't bog down your Mac, and is easy to learn. That said, I still found a couple of minor issues with the app.
First, the two-window approach to entering messages might feel a little cumbersome to some people. It would be nice to have the option of forcing the timeline and new message windows to stick together. Second, while there is an indicator badge that tells you when new direct messages have arrived, the individual conversation groups aren't tagged. Seeing times stamps is helpful, but if you have several direct message conversations going on at once it would be nice to be able to see at a glance which conversations have new tweets.
Tweetie also doesn't offer an option to group the people you follow on Twitter. That's not a feature I use, so I didn't see that as a limitation, but that may be a problem for some other hard core Twitter users.
The Bottom Line
Tweetie is a slick and well designed Twitter client application that does something I have yet to see any other app do: It successfully brings the simplicity and minimalism of an iPhone application to the Mac.
My hard drive is loaded with Twitter applications that I've tried and quickly abandoned. In fact, I typically move on to a new Twitter app about once a week -- until now. Tweetie is the first Twitter application for the Mac that I don't think I'll be able to give up.