If only Macs weren’t “glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults”

12 04 2007

Today I tested out Twitter clients for Windows, more for my own use than anything, but since I went to all that effort I might as well share my findings. Who knows, it might even help you decide to use. The clients I tested were Twitterlicious, Twitteroo (which I was already using but was dissatisfied with) and last but by no means least, TwitBox 0.6.2.

My first impression was one that was common to all three. It was immediately clear that not one of them was as good as Twitterrific. Not only does Twitterific get special treatment from the Twitter service itself (Tweets listed as “from Twitterfific”, as opposed to simply “from web”) but it has a great deal more functionality and looks awesome (as you’d expect from Mac software). Macs get all the best gadgets. Damn those Mac users and their cliqueyness.

Some might say I should just “get a Mac”, which might work if Macs weren’t such lousy computers. Or as Charlie Brooker, a man who pulls no punches (although I do tend to disagree with his politics) put it, “glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults”. In fact that entire paragraph is worthy of being quoted and re-quoted, over and over, because of its sheer perfection. If you feel the same way, please send the following paragraph to your Mac-loving friends:

I hate Macs. I have always hated Macs. I hate people who use Macs. I even hate people who don’t use Macs but sometimes wish they did. Macs are glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults; computers for scaredy cats too nervous to learn how proper computers work; computers for people who earnestly believe in feng shui.

Of course you might not be able to use Twitterific simply because you run Windows on a Mac, in which case you’re an idiot. About the only good thing about Macs is an OS that is far superior to Windows, although that isn’t really that hard. Windows, at least in the hands of an uninitiated, is a pretty poor OS, although if you know a thing or two you can turn it into something incredibly useful. Mac software is generally of a good quality, which is astounding, really, when you think of the terrible excuse for a computer it runs on.

It’s a shame Apple insists on making software that’s only compatible with their own hardware. Even Microsoft realised the benefits of developing software for both platforms. Of course they’re smart and concentrate their efforts on real computers, but nonetheless, the Apple-owning minority were too good a market to ignore (more money than sense. They’d have to be to buy Macs). There’s an even better market existing amongst people who want good software to go with their good (ie PC) computers.

So in lieu of selling your soul to Steve Jobs, what can PC users do? Well I suppose the answer is make the best of a bad bunch. To be fair, none of them are that bad, certainly not bad enough to justify downgrading from a PC to a child’s computer (AKA a Mac). In fact with a minor tweak TwitBox could be perfect, and the same could be said for Twitteroo (if you’re not fussed about looks, that is). I have yet to test Twadget or Twitter WPF, and would actually welcome any recommendations of other clients to test. So get commenting with recommendations! Here are my conclusions:

Twitterlicious

Very minimal interface. This is simultaneously its best and worst trait. It takes up little room, both in terms of desktop real estate (which is a really important consideration for me as I like a clean desktop with no clutter) and memory footprint (easily the least of the three clients I tested). However it’s incredibly basic and sorely lacking in features. The scrolling window doesn’t show Tweet text, only the details of who left it and when. Only once you select an individual Tweet do you then get to read the test. Also the window can’t be resized, which isn’t an issue for me as I wouldn’t want to enlarge it (as I prefer something that’s at the smallest size possible) but might be for you.

Unlike the other two clients double-clicking on a Tweet does not insert the @ name: prefix into your Tweets. It’s not a massive problem, as you can type it if you want, but I’m lazy that way, and with some people’s names it’s also a pain to type. On the positive side it does give you notification of new Tweets with a popup bubble. This wasn’t such a positive for me as I use a dock and the popup bubble simply brought back my taskbar, which I had intentionally hidden, but I did like being notified of new Tweets. However overall the interface was ugly and I would be hard-pressed to recommend it.

Twitteroo

This is actually even uglier. I appreciate it’s that colour to blend in with the default Twitter colour scheme, and the logo, but the key difference is you can change the Twitter colour scheme if it’s not to your liking. And even if you leave it, there’s not as much cyan as there is on Twitteroo. Ultimately perhaps it’s a case of the colour working on a website but not a desktop app, but whatever it is, it’s hideous. Just…ew.

It is, however, pretty feature-packed. When you slect a Tweet you can see the person’s real name (or what they use as their “real” name), the full Tweet text (naturally), but also their profile picture (which, if clicked, takes you to their Twitter page) and a clickable “visit” icon which sends you straight to their own personal homepage (if they’ve put one in their profile). It also has an inbuilt function to shorten URLs using rurl.org which is very useful if you post links a lot (I don’t but I’m sure many do).

My favourite part has to be the notifications though. Personally I tend to minimise the Twitteroo window when I need to reduce clutter from time to time, so having a pop-up notification, not only telling you how many new Tweets there are, but also who wrote them, is incredibly useful. Add to this the ability to tweak transparency of both the Twitteroo window and notifications, how long notifications stay on your screen and even add a sound to go with the notification of new Tweets and it’s pretty packed.

However the inability to toggle between minimising to tray or minimising to taskbar is a major gripe for me. I use a dock for both taskbar and tray, but I’d prefer to minimise to the taskbar dock instead as I have more entries in my tray, which is also more rarely used than the tasks, which I’m constantly using. If Twitteroo had that feature I probably wouldn’t have bothered testing others, despite the fact it’s hideous. Still, it needs a major facelift if it’s to compete with the ever-improving TwitBox.

TwitBox

Let me start by saying that despite me going back to Twitteroo, my favourite was still TwitBox, and it has a soft spot in my heart. If they can iron out a few little details I would definitely use it again, but those minor issues just made Twitteroo a tad more tailored to my needs, functionally-speaking. Looks-wise TwitBox absolutely destoys the competition.

You can tweak transparency (and I actually found the transparency to be better than Twitteroo’s) and the window itself blends in nicely with your Windows theme, which is especially useful if, like me, you like to customise the look of your Windows. There’s nothing worse than going to great trouble to get a certain “look” and then having one app ruin it (currently Twitteroo is doing that to my lovely black and white minimalist look).

It’s not just looks though, it’s also got some nice features, including having both Public and Friends timelines on seperate tabs (which is nice if you like to follow the Public. I don’t, but many do) and being able to tweak both timelines in terms of appearance and updating frequency. There are several hotkey commands that are very useful and there’s even a search function to search for the last 20 Tweets by any user. You can view the profile of a Tweet’s author within the app itself (no need to go to their page) or alternatively click a link to their page itself (as well as their homepage).

Possibly the most useful thing is the countdown timer to the next refresh. The only problems are the lack of a URL shortening function (not a problem for me) and the lack of notifications for new Tweets. It minimises to the taskbar, which is exactly what I wanted, so if it had notifications for new Tweets, it would definitely be my current client of choice. It’s buggy, but then they all are, and the good news is that this client is being thoroughly developed, with a new build being released regularly, both with new features being added and bug-fixes. So this is definitely one to keep an eye out for.


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5 responses

13 04 2007
Steven

As the author of TwitBox I thank you for the kind words and just a little bit of a future update for you.

The next version will havea proper taskbar popup when minimized to let you know if there are new twets for you.

I am working on adding an integration for a URL shortening service so it is on the table for an upcoming release.

As for the bugs I am trying to kill them off as I find them or they are reported to me.

I still have quite a few new features up my sleeve for future releases so maybe I’ll be able to give Twitterific a little bit of a run for it’s money 🙂

13 04 2007
Mr President

I love TwitBox. Like I said, the best thing about it is your dedication to improving it.

Thanks for the update, I was aware of you working on the URL shortening, but not the notification popup.

That was my major criticism of your client, because other than that I’d easily rate it as the best out there.

Bugs were common to all three. Not one of them was bug-free, and TwitBox was by no means the worst. Twitterlicious was actually the worst of the bunch. The key is that your commitment to development surpasses the developers of the other two.

9 08 2007
John Henry

You state “It’s a shame Apple insists on making software that’s only compatible with their own hardware.”

Ever hear of iTunes? How about Safari?

I’m surprised that you would publish an uninformed hit piece attacking Macs and Mac users in the middle of an otherwise excellent review of Twitter clients.

9 08 2007
Mr President

Not uninformed, just perhaps unclear. I didn’t say apple don’t make ANY cross-platform software, only that they do make software that is not cross-platform, something that cannot be said for Microsoft. The main point being OS X on a PC would be a revelation, but unfortunately Apple will never develop it.

Glad you liked the review, however.

22 10 2007
The Twits « Textual Relations

[…] 22 10 2007 Back in April and May of this year I did some reviews of Twitter clients for windows. Since then I have been […]

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