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Clients Are Out of Date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?