Twitterrific 4.0 for Mac: a brief review

Twitter’s popularity continues to grow, second only to Facebook in terms of the sheer number of users. The Twitter.com website offers a sophisticated interface, but there’s a healthy community of third-party developers providing apps that access Twitter’s features on the desktop and on mobile platforms.

TwitterrificThe Apple ecosystem has been blessed with a number of really solid Twitter clients for Mac OS X and iOS (iPhone/iPad/iPod touch), and one of the best — Twitterrific (which was featured among Macworld’s “10 best reading and productivity apps for 2010”) — has just released a major new version for Mac OS X.

Download Twitterrific 4.0 for Mac OS X:

Priced at $10 for the Mac, where the iPhone/iPad version is free for use with a single Twitter account, though you can purchase an in-app upgrade that unlocks advanced features, this price is not out-of-line considering the cost of competing apps and the value it provides.

As a regular user of many different Twitter clients (I’m not a fan of the Twitter website), something I value highly is having the same interface available across devices. Using Twitter’s iPhone app together with Twitterrific or Kiwi on the desktop is a recipe for confusion. Confusion that can result in sending what you thought was a private reply (a Direct Message) out to all of your followers on the public stream. Oops.

The main contenders offering Mac OS X and iOS clients are Twitter, Echofon and Twitterrific.

Twitter’s Native Apps

The Twitter app for Mac OS X (née Tweetie) was late to the game, and is very good. It’s also free, and has the competitive advantage of inside-knowledge of where Twitter’s feature-set is headed.

Despite that, the leap-frogging of iPad/iPhone/Mac versions of the client has resulted in a somewhat disjointed experience, with the iPad version in particular feeling a bit over-the-top in terms of interface conventions.

Twitter for iPad is also a bit buggy (direct messaging is a mess, frankly, with disappearing text and “send” buttons, inexplicably-inverted direct message timelines that lose position, etc.)

Echofon

Echofon costs $20 on the desktop, and has solid iPad and iPhone versions, and offers a compelling feature that I wish all Twitter apps would embrace: remembering what messages you’ve seen already — across devices. What Echofon lacks is an interesting interface. They’ve chosen a minimalist approach that many will love, but which doesn’t make it appealing to me.

Twitterrific

It’s hard to pin down what’s so good about Twitterrific. The cross-device consistency is a big part of it. It’s got an overall spit-and-polish that other platforms lack. Twitterrific’s colour-coding of your public stream, mentions and direct messages is one of my favourite features. It makes things easy to grasp at a glance and is very easy on the eyes.

Minor niggles

I only mention these because I like Twitterrific so much. Most people will never notice or care about these things, but I do.

  1. the page-up/page-down keys do nothing in Twitterrific 4 for Mac (this harkens back to Tweetie, which fixed this in Twitter for Mac. Please fix this! The Home button scrolls you to the top of the stream, but that’s little consolation…)
  2. when the timeline is scrolled to the top, there’s a gap at the top (the elevator/thumb/scrollbar doesn’t ever get to the top of the window), which makes it look as though there’s another message. The iPad version has this gap, but it’s much smaller.
  3. messages (e.g. “Connection error”, “Message posted”, etc.) show up at the bottom of the window. But your attention is at the top of the window, where new Tweets show up. On a 27″ or 30″ display, that makes them effectively non-existant
  4. Twitterrific 4.0 for Mac continues Twitterrific’s disjointed tweet-specific menu system. Right-clicking a tweet brings up one set of commands, while clicking the tweet’s arrow brings up another. Worse is that on iPad/iPhone, it’s hard to hit the arrow, which brings up the other menu, which is frustrating.
  5. Twitterrific’s Messages pane mixes all of your DM conversations together; Twitter shows you each person’s avatar and lets you view conversations separately, which is better in that you’re less likely to send a reply to the wrong person

One of the best things about Twitter as a service is that it’s easy to switch clients, just to try them out, and switch back. There’s a lot of great, innovative work being done in this space, so download some apps, try them out, and reward the developers with a few dollars. They’ve earned it!