Why I Use Fluid for Twitter Instead of Apps

If you’ve been a Mac user for a while, then you’ve probably heard of Fluid. It’s a simple tool that lets you make websites feel like actual apps, with their own webkit-powered window and dock icon. You can customize icons, save userscripts for individual sites, and more. It’s quite the useful app if you use web apps often.

I’ve been using it more frequently lately to replace the Twitter clients I used to have on my Mac. Why, you ask? Well, there are a few reasons. Join me after the break for an example of how you can use Fluid to make your experience with Twitter and other apps on the Internet more up-to-date and smooth.

Clients Are Out of Date

It really doesn't look like Twitter cares to bring features to their app.

It really doesn't look like Twitter cares to bring features to their app.

First, Twitter clients on the Mac are the last things to get updates whenever the website gets a new feature. This is a pretty big letdown for people who like staying on top of things, and I’m one of those people. For Mac users, it’s actually even worse since there aren’t that many good alternate Twitter apps available. The official client is just terrible and hasn’t been updated in over a year, lacking features like pic.twitter.com uploading and support for “read it later” services. Osfoora isn’t too bad, but it has some irritating bugs that need to be fixed. Others like TweetDeck, Twitterrific, and Itsy are either too retro or lacking in features.

It sure would be nice to see Tweetbot come to the Mac and we know that’s going to happen eventually, but until then there’s really no decent client available. Twitter was supposed to update their official app on all platforms sometime, but the news of that was back in December of 2011 and we haven’t heard anything else since. Who knows when they’re going to actually move forward with the plans.

Tweets can be so much more

So what are you really missing by not using the web app? A lot, actually. The web version has been actively updated while the native apps have stagnated, so you’ll likely get a much better Twitter experience straight from their site.

You can watch YouTube videos on Twitter's website.

You can watch YouTube videos on Twitter's website.

You know how you can click on a Tweet to expand it when using the web version of Twitter? If there’s a link to an Amazon product or something in the App Store, it’ll show a preview of what the item or app is. You won’t find anything like this in Twitter clients. Instead, you’ll simply have the usual inline image support, if that is even available. In the web version, you can play YouTube videos or music from Rdio without leaving the page – it’s really, really nice to have such tight integration on a webpage.

Easily listen to music someone shared right in Twitter.

Easily listen to music someone shared right in Twitter.

When you think about it, you probably don’t want to leave the Twitter website just to see what a link is, so previews are a really nice thing to have. Right now, only certain sites are supported, but previews will come to more links in the future. I like the idea of staying in one single web app instead of opening a bunch of tabs since it’s a more unified and organized experience. We don’t need to make the web like our desktop computers in that they’re always cluttered with over five open apps because it’s already irritating enough. With previews, everything happens in one place, so there’s less of a need to even leave Twitter.com.

One other thing that’s really nice about expanded Tweets is the extra info that they offer. For instance, you can see the exact time something was published, the client that was used, how many retweets and favorites it got, and some of the people who retweeted it. It’s a bit limited, I’ll admit, but it’s nice to have it – and most clients don’t have any such features.

Twitter’s Site is Fast

Twitter’s website is way faster than apps that access the network’s API. I’d think that Twitter just gives the website priority with the first access to anything, but I’m not really sure. It seems odd their own native apps wouldn’t at least be as fast as the site, but they simply aren’t. One thing I do wish the web version had is true streaming that doesn’t require you to click something or send a Tweet just to see new tweets that have come in. That’s definitely a big piece of functionality from native apps that I miss.

Use Fluid

Setting up Twitter, or any website, in Fluid is really easy.

Setting up Twitter, or any website, in Fluid is really easy.

Until there are more suitable solutions the Twitter apps problem, I’ve found that the web version of Twitter works great as its own standalone app. Celestial Teapot Software’s Fluid lets you create just that with a few simple clicks and a little typing. It’s a tad more complicated than just downloading an App Store app, but there’s no command line nonsense or anything, and you can customize Fluid apps to your heart’s content.

The other day, I grabbed Fluid for free and decided to use it as a replacement for my Twitter clients, uninstalling them in the process. It’s actually worked very well so far, but I’m still getting used to the different shortcuts that the web version has. I’m probably even going to purchase the full app soon to support the developers and get the features like fullscreen mode and separate cookie storage. It’s well worth the $4.99.

Other Applications

I think Twitter was just the beginning of what I can do with a standalone app for certain websites. I’ve begun experimenting with other services like WordPress to try blogging in an app without tabs or anything. (Please note that Fluid’s browser does have tabs, but they’re not meant to be used like the traditional browser.) It’s not what I’d call the best solution out there since I could just write in Byword (as I did for this article), but it works fairly well. There are a lot of possibilities with Fluid, and I’m just getting started. You should definitely try it out sometime if you haven’t already – it might prove to be much better than actual apps.

What do you use Fluid for and would you ever consider replacing one of your actual apps with a website?


  • Steve C.

    I wasn’t aware that the Twitter apps were so outdated! The only issue I see with this is using a Twitter app to manage multiple accounts. Plus, using Fluid doesn’t work with 1Password, so I’m stuck having to remember my passwords again. :(

    I guess I go straight to Twitter online, but then there goes Fluid.

    • Tamara

      Fluid works just fine with 1password. You have to make sure you enable 1password for it.

      When you crate your SSB, you should see a pop-up that asks if you want to enable 1password. Make sure your 1password is up to date.

  • Despoina

    I use Echofon for mac and it’s rather awesome.

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      I used to hate that client because it was so ugly, but it actually looks better now. It’s interesting to see that it has a different kind of layout than other clients with the menu bar at the top. I’ll have to try it out.

    • Franko

      i tried the desktop of Echofon because i like the app on my iphone, but i hated that there was no customization of the look, and no way to control how often it checked for updates to your twitter feed. having it ping in constantly was a nightmare for me — i’d rather it check every 5 or 10 minutes and give me a large hunk of tweets. so, i went back to Twhirl. i wish Seemic hadn’t abandoned it.

  • http://ipodtouchnews.co.uk Josh

    If the twitter site was responsive, so it could be used in a narrow window. I would do the same. However as it is to use as an ‘app’ it just takes up to much screen real estate so until that happens or Tweetbot arrives I’m sticking with Twitterrific.

  • Brad

    Twitter clients lacking features has everything to do with developers. There are several Twitter apps out there that have made great strides towards matching a lot of the features on the Twitter website, while offering may more options on top of it all.

    Unfortunately, the Mac Twitter app market seems to have stagnated while the iOS scene races forwards. I think the reality is that everyone’s just waiting for Tweetbot for Mac, because that will easily be the best client available for the platform.

    Osfoora has done a good job of bringing more features of a modern Twitter client to OS X and has replaced Twiterrific as my preferred way of accessing Twitter on my Mac.

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      Osfoora is nice and all, but it has a lot of bugs and annoying little things that I can’t stand.

  • Paul

    I liked Nambu but it had been out of development for quite sometime which started to cause problems so I switched to Twiterrific, mainly for the Tweetmarker functionality. This way everything stays in sync with my iPhone and iPad (both Tweetbot) clients. I don’t think a Twitter Fluid client could do this?

    I actually think the official Twitter client is kind of slick but the lack of updates and Tweetmarker kill it for me. It’s too bad because they really had something promising there.

    In any case it’s all a moot point now that Tweetbot for the Mac is on the way.

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      Eh, Nambu had that generic OS X feel and was rather boring in my opinion. No, you’re right — it can’t sync via Tweetmarker. However, I don’t use the service because I’ve found it to be irritating and sluggish in Tweetbot.

  • Mathieu Allaire

    Tweetbot is coming for Mac (at least tapbots is working on it). See: https://twitter.com/markjardine/status/215868674232434688/photo/1/large

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      Yep, I know and that’s why I said “until then”. ;)

  • Bruno

    You should seriously try out Echofon.
    I’ve tried a lot of twitter apps and used twitter.com, but nothing beats Echofon.

    It is by far the best twitter client, i have ever tried on ANY platform, even beats Tweetbot on iOS. Sorry.

    • Roger

      +1 for Echofon

  • http://rodeoapps.com Jerry Daniels

    I was an early user of Fluid, but wanted to have multiple, preloaded pages in my web apps. So, Sarah Reichelt and I built Rodeo App Maker (http://rodeoapps.com). It costs a buck ($1.00) and has an option ($12.00/yr) for storing all your apps in your own public app store as well. Check it out. Mac only.

    I have over twenty apps that are clever combinations of web pages including one for Twitter.

  • Andy

    The problem with using a site-specific browser app like Fluid with Twitter is that you can only use it with one account. I have three Twitter accounts (personal, blog and work) and with the Twitter site embedded in an app I’d have to log out of each to view tweets and make posts.

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      Ah, very good point. Also, there aren’t any desktop notifications.

    • Chad

      You can set up each instance of Fluid to store cookies separately. This solves the multiple accounts issue but requires unique instances of Fluid to be open for each account. I still haven’t found a workaround for notifications.

  • http://www.500px.com/Linkert Robin Lundgren

    Been using Itsy for two years now (?), and I’ve had ventures to other clients. I’m back on Itsy and it’s great.
    Straight to the point, If you can’t keep up with the tweets because there is no multipane, no groups or whatever you probably follow to much people. That’s just my philosophy within any sort of social network really.

    Fluid app for twitter would probably be my second choice :)

  • http://www.AliceGraphix.com Jen K

    Part of the reason the why the Twitter app has not been updated is because they purchased Tweetdeck. They have made updates to their new version of Tweetdeck as recently as March 22, 2012.

    I believe they have plans in the future to kill off the original Twitter app for a new app that merges the the features of the iOS Twitter with that of Tweetdeck. I know I read it somewhere, just can’t remember where.

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      They killed TweetDeck though. Also, they should be able to put half the team that’s developing their apps on the actual Mac app as well. I’m sure they have plans to fix it, but nothing is moving forward at the moment and it’s been stagnate for quite some time now.

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  • Jason

    Regarding Fluid, it’s a shame that the Mac Chrome does not support the application shortcut. I would have been curious how it compares.

    I agree what others said about the web page being unrefined for width space. I’m concerned that Twitter Inc. is slowly edging out these clients supposedly for guarding a consistent experience.

    I liked Itsy too because it was lean however, it doesn’t have a companion iOS app so when I read tweets on one device it’s not synced.

  • Rocky

    What icon do you use for the Fluid instance and where did you get it? I’ve had trouble finding a good one. Thanks.

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