Textual’s Twitter Take Part II

19 11 2007

Judging by the stunned silence that greeted the last part I can only assume you guys are all now in love with Twitter. You’ve no doubt all got accounts (don’t forget, Textual Relations on Twitter) and are eagerly awaiting this second instalment. Now that’s all taken care of you want the good stuff, the windows applications that let you follow your friends (or the public timeline if you wish) and even post Tweets direct from your desktop without visiting the site.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the site. In fact quite the opposite. If the site were a woman it’d be Jessica Alba. Or Scarlett Johansson. Or Keira Knightley. Or Halle Berry. Or…sorry, got a little distracted there. Where was I? Oh yes, Twitter. Great website, it may have its knockers but I happen to like knockers. I need help.

Moving on, late last month I did a review of some Twitter clients for windows. It singularly failed to impress but that’s because you cretins wouldn’t know great journalism if it hit you in the face with a wet kipper. If you did, of course, you wouldn’t be reading this. Anyway, the only comment that I did receive was from the man behind Pwytter telling me about some changes so it only seemed right I revisit the review.

To be fair I was considering it anyway because a prolonged use of TwitBox over the few days after that review highlighted bugs I hadn’t seen before the review and therefore didn’t make it into the review. It was these bugs that made me switch back to Tweetr because it handed the bugs slightly better. I know how much you people look to me for guidance in this dark and scary world we live in so it was important that I set the record straight and retract my earlier recommendation, lest you blindly follow it.

Interestingly enough I left my last review hanging with the sentence “I await await the next full release of the amazing TwitBox with eager anticipation.” and lo and behold we’ve since been graced with a new release. So two new versions to review, but what about the other clients I reviewed last time? Well Tweetr have released v2.26, Twitterlicious and Twitteroo were having website problems that prevented me downloading either, there’s been no update to MadTwitter or Twitterbox. Witty missed the cut last time (I ran out of time so was unable to review it) but fortunately enough there’s actually been a new release since then so I’ll review that instead.

It’s with Witty that I’ll begin. It installs pretty easily and there are some nice touches. It’s incredibly easy to send a direct messages, it looks pretty nice (although not astounding) and the replies, user and messages timelines are pretty decent. That, however, is where any positives end. The “recent” timeline doesn’t actually work. My own updates showed up but none from my friends timeline. If I wanted to see my own tweets I could simply look at the “user” timeline. At over 60MB of RAM it’s not lightweight either. Avoid.

On to Pwytter, the client whose update was one of the reasons for a fresh review and it’s easy to see why the creator was at pains to point out the improvements made. I’ll get onto the features that have been improved in a moment but crucially this improved client comes in at 15MB of RAM, 6MB less than the predecessor. I’m always impressed when developers manage to pack even more features into an even more lightweight client. The “favourite” function with the star actually works now. Well, sort of.

You see the first time you click the star it fills up and marks the Tweet as a favourite. Great. If you change your mind click the star again, it goes blank and the Tweet is no longer a favourite. Also great. However if you’re indecisive (or a woman) you may change your mind again and unfortunately the second time you click the empty star, although it fills on the client, it doesn’t on Twitter itself. The only way to get it to the mark the favourite the second time is by clearing the star, refreshing the timeline and then filling it again. This isn’t a huge flaw, but it’s a flaw nonetheless.

Being such a small flaw it’s easy to overlook it. The black skin is rather attractive to look at but the white and blue ones are very bland (in fact I can’t tell the difference between them). It says “from Pwytter” when you send a Tweet (a small thing, but I like it) and like Tweetr it updates automatically when you send a Tweet rather than having to wait for the next refresh. It’s a very good client for the amount of memory it demands but one last flaw was a deal-breaker for me, if only because of the wealth of competition.

Although you can select how many Tweets the client collects that also determines the size of the window. There’s no way to scroll so the window expands instead. If you follow a lot of people but want the client to take up little desktop space you can’t do it. When you think that our web browsers are bloated pieces of software taking up over 100MB of memory and we hardly feel that in a modern machine, I doubt memory is top of most people’s concerns. For those running an older machine (those with less than even 1GB of RAM) however, every little helps so this may still be of use. It gets silver in my review.

My golden child since I began exploring Twitter clients for windows has been the excellent TwitBox. The last release was an interim one and I was eagerly awaiting the next release. Cosmetically nothing has changed and that was unsurprising since Steven did say that the release was mainly to deal with bugs. Unfortunately some have been addressed, others have not. There were bugs that happened over prolonged use last time that didn’t make it into my review. The timeline would often refresh funny and throw up the timeline out of chronological order, for example. That’s been addressed.

However the multiple accounts bugs still persist. You have to add the second the second account twice for it to show up. Granted this is a rather groundbreaking function, none of the others clients for windows offer it (I don’t think even that client for Mac does either) but it’s a black mark against the one feature that marks out TwitBox from its competition. The account manager is one of the new features that’s been mentioned in the changelog but it actually doesn’t work. I was unable to remove my secondary account once I had added it, instead I got an unhandled exception.

There are some positives. The footprint has dropped dramatically from 50MB to 35MB, and one of the features I explicitly mentioned as missing from the last release (the right click context menus) have made a return. One feature I did like that I haven’t seen elsewhere is the ability to add/remove friends from within the client. Yet the bugs still persist, it can be very temperamental when refreshing (sometimes when it’s due to refresh it simply doesn’t) and ultimately the very bugs I expected to be fixed for this release have not been. You still can’t delete your own tweets either.

If TwitBox has disappointed, Tweetr has impressed incredibly. Initially I was never much of a fan, I thought it was like a trophy girlfriend; very good to look at but lacking any real substance below the surface. As time has gone on its developed immensely and where TwitBox seems to have taken a few steps backwards (possibly in biting off more than it could chew) Tweetr has taken several leaping bounds forwards. The memory footprint has gone up an incredibly small amount (just 3MB) but you do get more bang for your buck. You can choose from two url shortening services or turn it off entirely.

I’m not sure if the option to change where the notifications pop up was in the last build (if it was I didn’t see it) but it’s there now. The notifications themselves are jaw-droppingly gorgeous, practically drool-worthy and show the latest Tweet, who sent it and their user picture, all on a very sexy “glassy” background. It really is beautiful. You can favourite/unfavourite Tweets to your heart’s content, delete them and it updates whenever you send a Tweet (as well as the normal refresh time). These aren’t new features but crucially they work. It’s slick, it’s fast, it’s gorgeous and it works.

What more do you want? Regular updates? Check, there’ve been four versions since September. Good support and development? Check, each new release has addressed old bugs but also released new features. Less memory? This last one was one of my traditional pet peeves with Tweetr, and to a lesser extent it still is. Yet again I have to say check because if you look at the proposed changes for version 2.3 the issue of the amount of memory it takes is being addressed. Multiple account support perhaps?

Even without it I’d rather use Pwytter and Tweetr in conjunction (and thus get two accounts logged in) rather than use the buggy multiple accounts feature in TwitBox. That’s not meant to be overly harsh on Steven, I sincerely hope he can get the feature working properly, in which case I’ll probably gladly go back to it. In the meanwhile though it’s too buggy to be trusted. Tweetr wins the gold, Pwytter takes the silver and my old darling TwitBox is lagging behind but still snatches bronze.



5 responses

19 11 2007

Sorry for the deafening silence. I did go on over to Twitter to have a look, but decided I had no need for a new platform to announce whatever it is I’m not doing to the world. Besides, I’m a travel agent. I spend 50 hours a week chained to a desk by an umbilical phone cord. I answer roughly 80-100 emails every day. If someone’s trying to tell me something, I know about it pretty quickly.

20 11 2007
Mr President

You mean you’re not in love with Twitter? Drat! Back to the drawing board I suppose. Actually you’re by no means the only one to come to that conclusion. I’m not sure I agree, but that’s the beauty of free choice.

20 11 2007
Steven Hodson

hmmmmm …. still see some problems exist 🙂

thanks for pointing them out and I’ll see what I can do to get them fixed.

20 11 2007
Mr President

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t being overly critical, some of your earlier releases were simply mindblowing and I have no doubt once you work out the kinks TwitBox will be back to the top of the perch as the number one Twitter client. I’ll certainly be reviewing the next release eagerly because TwitBox has always been my favourite client. Just right now it’s a tad too buggy.

21 11 2007
Steven Hodson

I realize that 🙂 and I appreciate the good words you have written.

In regards to the memory used by TwitBox I just want to clarify a couple things. One – it’s a .NET program 🙂 and because of that it will use more memory (not my fault but Windows/Microsoft) … Two the reason it does use the amount of memory is because the lists displaying the various Twitter timelines are created dynamically which means basically loaded into memory. I could reduce it by increasing the exe size but including the created lists in code rather than creating them on the fly. I choose to go with the increase in memory size in order to provide the lists.

Now .. let’s get our hands dirty and see about getting the things you mentioned fixed and out of the way. I have tried the Account Manager and had no problems deleting an account. So trying to reproduce it is going to be a little hard. Can you help out by creating a new account info in TwitBox and then delete and email me the information from the error message that gets displayed (steven @ winextra do com)

As for deleting one’s own Tweet. I have tried it here and yes it does work .. that said though the main problem (and one that is irritating me no end) is that the list control I am using is really frikken picking over its item selected and I think that is what is causing your problem.

That said are you trying to delete one of your tweets from the toolbar button or the context menu. I will be trying hard to get this worked out but until I can get the list control to behave it is going to be a little tough.

Please feel free to email at any time with the bugs and such …. I think I have gotten over my programming funk so I should be back in fairly regular work frame of mind.

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