In our world of Social Networking, Twitter has emerged as one of the most-used and most useful points of connection to our world. Whether you use Twitter as a news source, celebrity gossip engine, or for just keeping tabs on your friends, having a dedicated app on your Mac can take your experience to a new level.
In this in-depth showdown, we’re going to take a look at a few of the most popular Twitter apps out there, analyse their features, and compare them against one another.
Read on past the break to see how the contenders stacked up.
Our Comparison Criteria
In comparing each of these Twitter apps, time was spent examining them for their unique and respective features. We’ll obviously evaluate the user interface, but each one also needed to compete in 4 main categories:
People love posting pictures to Twitter, and a good Twitter app needs to be great at handling, posting, and displaying these.
A lot of what happens on Twitter are replies and mentions, making Twitter not just a constant feed, but a place to converse. A great Twitter client needs to make it easy to see an entire conversation thread, without searching the Twitter-universe trying to find where a discussion started.
Twitter has evolved from being simply a personal social network. Today, Twitter is a viable means to broadcast news and information about one’s business and community. Many users have more than one Twitter account, so a good Twitter app needs to be able to handle these with ease.
People don’t love their Macs because of how complicated, complex, or difficult it is to use. We love them because they are easy, elegant, and simple. So a great Twitter app needs to be the same.
With these 4 major qualities in mind, we also kept our eyes open for each app’s unique features. We’ll be sure to tell you what each app does well, as well as what each app offers that is completely unique. Here are the five clients we’re looking at, so you can jump to them as needed:
After establishing itself as a wildly popular Twitter app for iPhone, Echofon has evolved into a robust, multi-faceted networking platform. But its capability is complimented by its simplicity.
With a small, concise interface, Echofon keeps little hidden from view. Tabs along the top of the window let you switch between your timeline, replies, direct messages, lists, and searches with ease. A nice clean entry field along the bottom will get you posting to Twitter in seconds, and the paperclip in the entry field lets you add a variety of attachments.
Echofon adds thumbnails for any attached media in your timeline. Clicking the thumbnail pops out a separate window with a large image. Quick and easy is how we like it, and having thumbnails inline is a great feature.
Tweets that are part of a conversation display a small speech bubble, and clicking the bubble will slide out a conversation view, letting you scroll through every related post. You can also use the arrows in the conversation view to move between the various conversations happening in your timeline. Conversations in Echofon are simple and complete.
Setting up multiple accounts requires a simple visit to Echofon’s preferences, and is just like setting up accounts in Apple Mail. You can then switch accounts by clicking your profile picture down in the entry field. A very clean, simple solution for handling accounts.
Echofon is a very clean, very easy to use app. Users new to Twitter will have no trouble diving in and figuring things out, while experienced users will appreciate the unique features Echofon has to offer. If you’re looking for simple, look no further than Echofon
Echofon gets bonus points for a couple of neat features. To start, Echofon is available for Mac, iPhone, and iPad. To make the experience complete, Echofon’s own servers will sync the read/unread status of your tweets across all of your devices. This is a great way to make sure you’re always up-to-date.
Echofon also gives some great options for attaching more than just pictures to your tweets. With a single click you can add a link to your current Safari page, add your currently playing iTunes track, or even attach a screenshot. All without leaving Echofon. These may not be huge wins for most users, but we found them to be great inclusions in Echofon.
We applaud Echofon for it’s simple interface, ease of use, excellent media handling, and optional iOS sync. There is very little missing from this app, and it’s a very solid 9/10
Echofon is available from the Mac App Store, and has both a free ad-supported version, and a full version for $19.99.
Tweetings is another simple, clean Twitter app for Mac, iPhone, and iPad. While Tweetings doesn’t sync across your platforms, it’s still a nice solution for the Mac. The interface is similar to Echofon, with tabs along the top of the window to take you between your Timeline, Replies, Direct Messages, and Searches.
Tweetings’ media handling was a standout in this lineup. Tweetings provides you with extra-large thumbnails, giving you a great view of images before opening them in full view.
Like Echofon, conversations are denoted by a small speech bubble at the bottom of a Tweet, and a single click will open up the entire conversation for you. However, instead of opening them in an attached drawer or popover, Tweetings opens conversations in a separate window.
This led to a sense of clutter, ruining the clean appeal of the app. The multi-window approach was close, but no cigar for Tweetings.
Handling accounts was easy in Tweetings. Simply clicking on the Accounts button at the top of your timeline lets you manage, add, or switch between accounts. This was the easiest app reviewed for adding new accounts, and it makes the process a breeze – especially for less savvy users.
Using Tweetings is a cinch. Users will have no trouble getting in, getting started, and getting connected. However, some of the multi-window functions of Tweetings cause unnecessary clutter. Also, navigating through Tweetings preferences and menus was surprisingly unfriendly. This app was almost there as far as a perfectly simple interface goes.
One added bonus was Tweetings’ option of interface themes. Users can opt for a classic light theme, or the stylish dark theme. This may not seem like a deal-breaker, but the option will be a welcome addition for many users.
A solid app with a fairly simple interface and only a few shortcomings. Most users will be at ease, but there are still certain elements that will make life a little harder for less experienced users. But for the price, it’s hard to beat.
Tweetings gains a solid 8/10, and can be purchased for $2.99 from the Mac App Store
The Iconfactory has been developing Twitter apps since before the first days of the App Store, and has made Twitterrific better with each release. The current iteration, Twitterrific 4, borrows heavily from the design of Twitterrific for iPad, and couldn’t be more enjoyable to use.
Twitterrific uses, in perfect iPad form, charming popover menus to show you media. While we were disappointed by the lack of thumbnails in Twitterrific, clicking any embedded image link opens a great popover to display the image. Clicking away from the image returns you to your timeline. Clean and simple.
Conversations in Twitterrific are brilliant. Simply click on the “in reply to” text in a tweet, and prepare yourself for window-free popover happiness. This is really a great approach to conversation view, and was by far the best of all the apps we tried out.
While Twitterrific does an exceptional job handling multiple accounts, it does so only in the paid version of the app. This may be a definite deal-breaker for many users, especially when all of the other apps we tried supported multiple accounts without any charge. Changing accounts is as simple as clicking the profile picture on top of the window, but paying $10 to do so may not be something most users are willing to do.
Being so heavily influenced by Twitterrific for iPad makes Twitterrific for Mac astonishingly simple, easy to use, and beautiful. The app looks great and functions better than any of the apps we reviewed for this showdown. In terms of simplicity, Twitterrific takes the cake.
Twitterrific wins bonus points for having a customizable toolbar. Users can add the buttons they’ll use most to the Twitterrific window, while removing what they don’t need. In today’s world, customization is often king, and Twitterrific wins in this area hands-down.
Twitterrific could have been a shoe-in 10/10. It’s beautiful, simple, powerful, and truly a joy to use. But without being able to add multiple accounts in the free version, we just can’t quite give it the perfect score it deserves. The free version receives 9/10, but the $9.99 version is a perfect 10/10.
While most Twitter apps aim to be simple and minimalistic, TweetDeck takes a unique approach. The aim of TweetDeck is instead to give you as much of Twitter as you can possibly handle. The interface is divided by a set of user-defined columns, which can display anything from Timelines and Replies to lists of Twitter users. The result is an app which is powerful, feature-rich, but fairly overwhelming.
TweetDeck seems to follow a function-over-form philosophy of design. There are no thumbnails for images, and the app displays links to embedded images in the same way as normal web links.
This can make finding tweets with pictures a tad difficult. Images do open in-application as long as they’re uploaded with yFrog, TwitPic, or another commonly-used photo sharing service (sorry Instagram users, no built-in support.)
Clicking the small “in reply to” text in a tweet does open the entire conversation thread. However, it does so by opening a new column at the end of the TweetDeck window.
While the idea of keeping the conversation open and updating is sound in concept, it would only take a very short time before you find yourself with dozens of columns open. Each one has to be manually closed once you’re finished reading the conversation.
This may not seem like a deal-breaker to some, but after spending time with TweetDeck, this process of conversation handling felt very cumbersome.
For handling multiple accounts, TweetDeck is the clear champion. While the columns were cumbersome for conversations, they are the best way to handle multiple accounts.
Simply add your accounts in TweetDeck preferences. Once the account is verified, then you can create columns specifically to display timelines, replies, DMs and more for each account.
Instead of switching between accounts, you can just scroll the appropriate column. TweetDeck stole the show when it came time to handle more than one account.
TweetDeck is far from simple. At first glance the interface can appear extremely complex, and many inexperienced users will find themselves unsure of where to go or what to do. TweetDeck is extremely powerful and robust, but requires a lot of confidence and commitment to get things running the way you want them. TweetDeck is not for the faint.
TweetDeck is not just for Twitter! When you go to add new accounts in the preferences, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many social networks can be brought under one roof. TweetDeck supports Twitter, FaceBook, Google Buzz (RIP), Foursquare, and LinkedIn at the time of this writing.
More will likely be added in the months ahead. For people looking for a powerful “command-center” over all things social, TweetDeck is the go-to app.
Power users need look no further than TweetDeck. Users wanting a fast, simple Twitter experience however may want to keep shopping. Despite it’s list of great features, using TweetDeck was surprisingly difficult. Even advanced users will have to spend some time making the app work for them, and it also suffers on account of being an Adobe Air app.
We’re giving TweetDeck a 7/10, and it can be downloaded from Tweetdeck.com.
5. Twitter for Mac
It would seem silly to talk about Twitter clients for the Mac without spending quality time with the only official client available. What started as a great indie app called Tweetie, has now become a robust, beautiful application. Twitter for Mac is easy, elegant, and an all-around great Twitter client.
Twitter doesn’t put in any thumbnails, but clicking an embedded image link will open a nice window with the full picture. Clicking away closes the image. The result is clean, simple, and elegant. We miss the thumbnails of Echofon and Tweetings, but Twitter still does a good job.
When you find a tweet that is part of a conversation, double-clicking will slide out a drawer with the full thread. This felt simple and intuitive, and didn’t add any clutter to the Twitter interface.
A quick visit to Twitter preferences will step you through adding more accounts. Switching accounts is as easy as clicking the respective profile picture in the left hand side of Twitter. Again, this is a simple feature handled extremely well in Twitter for Mac.
Twitter for Mac is incredibly simple to setup and easy to use. It looks great, and works great. You’ll need only a few minutes to get everything working the way you’d like.
Users may find that Twitter doesn’t go as in-depth or offer as many features as apps like TweetDeck, but if you need quick, easy, and beautiful, Twitter is the way to go.
Twitter for Mac is available for free on the Mac App Store, and is a solid 9/10.
The Big Conclusion
|Mac App Store|
|Conversations||Same Window||Separate Window||Same Window||New Column||Same Window|
|Multiple Accounts||Paid Only|
|Cost||Free / $19.99||$2.99||Free / $9.99||Free||Free|
Hopefully you’ve found this breakdown of Twitter clients insightful enough to go download some new apps, and maybe even make a purchase to support the developers working hard to make the Mac such an exciting platform.
We refrained from naming who we thought was the “winner” in the Twitter client showdown, because much of it depends upon what you’re specifically looking for. Twitterrific took our highest rating, but an application such as TweetDeck might be perfect if you’re a Twitter power-user.
Of course, there are lots more applications available than those covered here today. It wouldn’t be useful to cover every single client on the market in one huge post, so we’ve just picked a handful that we particularly enjoyed using.
Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments!