When I first started using Twitter, I relied on the browser interface, and that seemed good enough. And then I discovered Twitterrific, which provided a better-designed and more enjoyable experience. And then I got an iPhone, and – as they say – that changed everything. After a few hours using the original version of Tweetie, I found it very difficult to use any other client, either on the desktop or my iPhone. Thankfully, not too long afterwards, Atebits released the desktop version of Tweetie, and all was well in Twitterland.
This status quo remained for a long time: Tweetie on iPhone, Tweetie on desktop. But then things changed. Specifically, Twitter bought Tweetie. A few months passed, and then a new version of the iPhone app was released. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t like it – but I know I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. The King had been deposed. A recent update to the desktop version changed little, and I found myself wanting a change – I decided to leave behind the world of Tweetie-now-become-Twitter…
And so began a quest for a new Twitter client – really for a clutch of Twitter clients: for iPhone, Macbook, and iPad. This market is pretty full now, and I’ve tried most of them. Here I’m going to give a tour of Kiwi, which is a fairly recent addition to the list of desktop apps available.
Kiwi’s biggest selling point is its good looks, and the fact that you can easily change its appearance by choosing from a growing pool of themes, hosted on a dedicated website. A number of very talented people have contributed some great designs. This is the Milky theme, my current favourite:
Nice and clean, legible and stylish. What’s harder to demonstrate in a screenshot is that this theme – and many others – include some subtle animations; so when I mouseover a tweet, the message above and below it shift slightly, to show that it currently has focus:
Clicking on that small ‘reply’ tab on the right pops up a text entry box so that you can type your reply directly:
Otherwise, you could either click on the button at bottom-left or hit [cmd]+[n] to compose a new tweet.
Now, the problem with writing about an app that is so theme-based is that different themes can make it operate in quite different ways. Take, for instance, marking a tweet as a favourite: the Milky theme doesn’t display a star icon to make this easier, while many other themes do, among them Pushpin:
You can, of course, simply right-click on any tweet and you’ll receive a menu that includes an option for favouriting, or you could use a keyboard shortcut:
You can search directly from the main window, using the small search area at bottom-right.Finally, you may have noticed that little fella in my menubar – he’s green to let me know that I have unread tweets:
Working With Kiwi
In use, Kiwi is very similar to Tweetie – I’m not suggesting that this new app copied the appearance or functionality of the older, but the truth is that Tweetie simply got most things right. Here you have buttons in the toolbar to switch between your Home, Retweets, Mentions, Direct Messages, and Favourites Timelines.
There are also keyboard shortcuts for each of these, as there are for most other functions (retweeting, marking as a favourite, refreshing, etc.), making Kiwi a great choice for keyboard addicts. And, of course, you can edit your toolbar to remove any of the Timelines that you don’t use (as I’ve done with retweets).
You can easily add a number of Twitter accounts to Kiwi, as well as setting up saved searches, and adding a Tumblr account in case you want to quickly repost anything you come across. If you have multiple accounts setup, you can use an Accounts window to switch between these, or just click on the avatar image in the toolbar to cycle through them:
I would love if Kiwi added support for a few of the other services that many iPhone clients now work with, especially Instapaper and Pinboard. I find it interesting that iOS Twitter clients are usually much more full-featured than Mac desktop clients. I assume developers decide that all these features are more easily accessible from your desktop browser, and so leave them out.
The one feature that I really miss – especially when I’m doing research on a particular topic – is the ability to quickly translate from within Kiwi (and this is true for every other desktop Twitter client I’ve tried, whereas it’s possible in many iOS apps).
Kiwi supports inline display of images – this is a great feature that allows you to see in a moment whether or not you want to click through to see a full-size version of a picture:
Kiwi works with Growl to keep you up to date on any new activity. This works well, but it took me quite a while to work out how I could get more control over when I receive notifications: I don’t want to be disturbed every time somebody tells the world about a cute cat video.
But I do like to know when a friend sends me a direct message or a public reply. To fine-tune your preferences here, you need to go into the settings for each account, and then click on ‘Notifications’, and then you can get things set up exactly as you like them:
Once you’ve tracked down where to set things up to your liking, Kiwi actually gives you more control than most other Twitter apps.
Kiwi also includes Rules, which allow you to set up persistent responses to particular triggers – so you can have every Tweet that mentions a subject you’re interested in highlighted in red, for example. Or you could have Tweets that raise a particular issue hidden from view.
I’ve not delved into this feature at much depth, but I think it could be very useful if you’re a Power User in search of information on issues that interest you, or if you’re keen to thin out your Timelines.
A Few Issues
Other than the matter of a few tools I would like to have onboard (translations, in particular), I have a few other issues with Kiwi.
I can’t figure out how to view a user’s Profile. In Tweetie, that’s as easy as clicking on their avatar, and once there, you can click to zoom in on their avatar, view their recent Timelines, Favourites, and their Profile information. In Kiwi, clicking on a username or avatar takes you to that user’s Timeline, but you don’t seem to be able to get any further information, or take a closer look at how they’re representing themselves online.
Double-clicking on a tweet shows you a thread view, which works well, but then getting back to your Timeline doesn’t work so smoothly – neither the keyboard shortcut nor the toolbar button helps: you need to click onto one of your other Timelines and then click back to your Home Timeline.
And while Kiwi in many ways outshines another of its rivals, Echofon, what that app has that Kiwi doesn’t is its tight integration between its various versions. Okay, I know that Kiwi doesn’t have an iOS version (yet?), but Echofon’s synchronisation between Firefox, iPhone and desktop versions is a killer feature (sadly, the iPad version doesn’t currently sync with the others…). And this feature alone might lead some people to choose Echofon over Kiwi.
Kiwi is a polished Twitter client with some really great features. It’s proved to be stable in use (it wasn’t a few months back), is great to look at, and will probably meet most users needs very well.
Do you have a favourite Twitter client? Let us know in the comments – we’re always pleased to learn about new apps, or to have holes in our knowledge of the app landscape pointed out.
With your help, we can give our readers the most comprehensive overview possible. And if you’ve some good advice to offer in my search for the perfect Twitter client, I’ll be very happy to hear it!