For a while now, members of the Tapbots team have teased an upcoming release of Tweetbot for Mac by using it to Tweet, leaving the footprint of “via Tweetbot for Mac” all over their timelines. While there was a rumor going around Twitter claiming that the full version of the app would be making its debut today, the developer instead decided to release a free public alpha to let everyone be a part of testing a new robot masterpiece.
I spent a few hours using Tweetbot for Mac version 0.6 today and have jotted down all my thoughts on the new client. Is it worth trying out, or should you stick with the official Twitter app? How many bugs does it have? What’s the difference between it and stable alternatives on the Mac? Find out the answers to these questions and more after the break.
Before reading on, please remember that Tweetbot 0.6 is an alpha release, has its share of bugs, and is not intended for daily use. I’m going to give it some constructive criticism despite that, but this is by no means a full review of the app.
Same Old Experience with a New Look
If you’ve ever used the iOS version of Tweetbot you’ll find nothing new in the basic functionality of this app. It’s the usual Twitter experience that you’d expect from Tapbots, except on a Mac. As an alternative to the official Twitter app, it brings read-it-later support and better uploading services like Droplr and Twitter for pictures (the official app still doesn’t have the latter).
If you have a trackpad or Magic Mouse and enjoy using them to control your Mac, you’re going to love this client because it really speeds things up, allowing you to flick around the interface. (Instead of swiping left or right with one finger over a Tweet, use two fingers as if you’re scrolling.) So far, it’s good, but there is a lot of room for improvement. An example would be that you can get stuck in Conversation view and there’s no keyboard shortcut or gesture to get out. It’d be nice to see some additional actions supported in gestures and not just what the iOS apps have. What about a three-finger scroll to change timelines or accounts?
I think it’s a shame to see that Tweetbot didn’t bring anything more to the table than this. They have a chance to give users something completely different with Tweetbot and they’ve just gone and used the same layout as in the official app. It does have more polish on the user interface, which is always welcomed, but there’s nothing major in the app. As for mute filters, it would be nice if I actually had a use for them; I honestly don’t know anyone who does. What’s the point of muting someone when you could just as easily block or unfollow them?
When you go to a profile, whether it be yours or a friend’s, the interface is a bit confined. Instead of being able to scroll down their timeline and see their Tweets using the whole window to your advantage, it stays restricted to the a little area where their Tweets are. I’m not sure whether this is a bug or feature, but I hope they tend to it in the finished app.
My major problem with using Tweetbot instead of Twitter or Osfoora is that it doesn’t support Notification Center or Growl. I really wish they would have included some sort of notifications for daily use. Growl, for instance, would have been perfect for the job and doesn’t take too long to integrate. Without those, using this as my main client seems unrealistic. There’s also no support for iCloud sync yet since the app isn’t in the Mac App Store. Instead, you can use Tweet Marker, which is just as speedy in keeping Tweets, mentions, and more on all your devices in the same state.
Like I said a few paragraphs back, there’s not much of a difference between the iOS version of this client and the Mac one in regards to the layout and user interface. You might as well use the iPad one because it’s actually on a touchscreen device and works as it should. When you take an app that’s meant to run on iPad and bring it to Mac without changing it at least a little in the process, it doesn’t seem so realistic to use. It feels a unnatural in areas and I’d like to see some more keyboard actions in the future just to bring have the desktop experience.
Other than that, the user interface has several choppy spots like the action bar when you hover over a Tweet, the preferences window, and font that’s on Tweets in a user’s profile, but that’s expected in any testing version. The designer could have done a lot better at making sure this part of the app was in agreement with the rest of the user interface. Right now, the buttons are too big and need a drop shadow to look like they actually belong in the app. It’d actually be great if font resizing worked as a universal setting, changing the button sizes as well. Just an idea.
I also wish there were some transition animations when navigating between timelines, like what Twitter’s official app has when you use CMD + ] or [. Right now, this portion of the app feels rushed and literally lurches from one tab to another. It makes things look tarnished and, to say the least, hastily made.
It feels like an iOS app on a Mac and not much more than that -- yet.
It seems as if Tapbots has taken a superb iPhone app and simply brought it to the Mac, yet they actually had to work harder than you'd expect. Instead of simply porting Tweetbot, the developer had to recode it from the ground up. In this alpha release, most of the app seems to be a boring old port that needs a lot of testing. But hey, that's why it's in alpha and not on the Mac App Store.
As previously stated, Tweetbot 0.6 is an alpha release, so there are bugs and lacking features. I’ve rounded them up for you in a tidy list below.
- The preferences (gears) button in the bottom right corner does nothing.
- Scrolling lurches a lot and sometimes causes the app to crash.
- There really need to be more shortcuts like CMD + D to send someone a direct message when browsing their profile. This makes things much faster than clicking.
- When scrolling down a timeline, you may get annoyed by the little actions bar following along. I know it’s a helpful feature, but it’s really annoying to have it follow you while scrolling down a timeline.
- Oh, and did I mention crashing? Yeah, it happens a lot.
- You can’t modify your profile at all, even though the “Edit” button is there.
- There’s no way to keep things scrolled to the top constantly, which I use all the time because I don’t like to keep scrolling up just to see what new Tweets are in.
- Streaming may occasional stop working.
- CMD + U does nothing. The only way to find users is go to the Search tab, type in their username, and click “Go to User @[username]“.
- Saved drafts cannot be retrieved, so please refrain from using this feature.
- Adding location doesn’t work.
- There’s no CMD + ] or [ shortcuts to change tabs quickly like in Twitter’s app. I found this disappointing, but maybe they'll add it in a future release.
- A shortcut or gesture to go back to the previous screen when in Conversation view doesn’t exist -- you have to click instead. I suggest using the Details view (two finger swipe to the left) instead since you can get back out by swiping to the right with two fingers.
- The preferences window keeps resetting its position to underlap OS X's status bar.
- There’s no way to open links in the background.
- Timelines may not always let you scroll all the way to the top. (You can see an example of this in the screenshot of @macappstorm's Twitter account above.)
It's An Alpha and Not Much More
Tweetbot will not support OS X 10.7 Lion once 10.8 Mountain Lion has released later this month.
Tweetbot isn’t the worst Twitter client that I’ve ever used, but there is really no reason for me to use it over Twitter’s official app. The few things that the app has going for it right now are its beautiful design, extra customization (uploading services, font size, and other display options), and support for Readability, Instapaper, Pocket, and other services that allow you to save content for perusing or viewing at a later time. Save for that, there’s nothing particularly exciting about this release and I had higher expectations.
Lastly, one of the biggest problems with any new Twitter clients from a third party is that the API may soon be shut down. There’s no word from Twitter on exactly what they’re planning, but their message has become even more clear lately: they don’t want users to have a third-party experience. Instead, Twitter wants to control the way you use its service. If the API does disappear soon, this app and other third-party clients out there will have no value at all.