Scratching my head over Twitter clients

A couple of months ago when I decided to give Twitter a serious try, I figured I'd want a desktop client. From what I'd heard, the two best were Twitterrific and the official Twitter client.

I chose Twitterrific for three reasons:

  • It has one-click access to my lists, which mattered because I expected I'd want to view tweets grouped by areas of interest.
  • I much prefer its standard-looking window, with a standard toolbar and hideable sidebar, to Twitter's heavy black sidebar, which is non-hideable but has a "translucent" option that makes practically no visible difference.
  • I love the ding-chirp alert sound.

After several weeks of using the app the only thing I've changed my mind about is the one-click access to lists. I still appreciate that it's there, but it turns out I don't mind viewing everybody's tweets mixed together. The vast majority of the people I follow are in my "apple-people" list anyway.

So I do like Twitterrific, and I should note that IconFactory and its lead developer, Craig Hockenberry, have been greatly admired in the Mac community for a long time. Heck, they just made a huge open-source contribution to the developer community.

All of which has me puzzled by things about Twitterrific that are distinctly un-Maclike:

  • Command-C. I can't copy text in tweets with Command-C. I have to use a contextual menu.
  • Command-F. If there's a way to filter my timeline by searching for text, I can't find it. In other Twitter clients this is done with Command-F. In Twitterrific, Command-F brings up the standard Find panel when you're in the tweet editor, which by definition is limited to 140 characters, which means the Find panel is almost never useful.
  • Shorten Links. There's no menu item, toolbar item, or keyboard shortcut for Shorten Links. There's a pulldown menu, and I hoped assigning an Application Shortcut in System Preferences would work, but it doesn't. This strikes me as weird, because it seems to me Shorten Links would be a pretty frequent operation and a keyboard shortcut should be a must-have.
  • Can't drag links. I can't drag a link from a tweet to, say, a browser window or an email message. I have to copy it using a contextual menu and paste it where I want it.
  • No File menu. Extremely non-standard top-level menu bar items (Timeline, Tweet, Edit instead of File, Edit, Tweet), with no compensation in the form of increased usability.

I rarely use the menu bar, so I can live with the deviant menu and chalk it up to artistic license. But the handling of keyboard shortcuts (or their absence) is not only un-Maclike, it reduces usability. I don't get it.

I was about to switch to and just live with the heavy black sidebar, but I noticed odd things about it too. There's no URL shortening (much less a shortcut to do it), there are no font options, and it inexplicably limits the width of the window.

(Twitterrific at least allows Smaller, Normal, and Larger fonts. Other apps give more flexibility, and I'm not sure "Normal" is the right word, but at least they give options.)

I looked around a bit and for now I'm going with a free client called YoruFukurou, which is Japanese for "night owl". It has lots of features, including:

  • Command-F not only brings up a text field for filtering my timeline, it also dismisses that text field. I like Command-F being a toggle rather than using Escape to dismiss. For one thing, it's easier to reach. For another, it doesn't rely on the text field having keyboard focus.
  • Command-S shortens URLs, and the same shortcut also unshortens, which I like. While editing my tweet I might change my mind and prefer to show the full URL if it will fit. [Update: It looks like I was mistaken about Command-S unshortening. Use Undo to unshorten URLs.]
  • You can set the font size for composing tweets.
  • You can change the font size of the timeline by zooming in and out using the standard keys. For some reason I like this better than using a preference.
  • The app has a cute owl icon.

One difference from other apps is that YoruFukurou can't cancel a tweet or even hide the tweet editor. Command-N selects everything in the tweet editor, so you can easily delete it all and start a new tweet if you want. This seems fine to me. It does mean you can't edit multiple tweets at once like you can in, but Twitterrific has this limitation too and it never bothered me, though it's true I tweet very little.

Maybe I will use YoruFukurou as my main client and leave Twitterrific running for the ding-chirp alerts.

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