Well-Nigh Twitter

I still haven’t seen a Twitter client that has everything I want. The current list:

#1: Stylishness. Can’t describe it exactly, but I’ll know it when I see it. Spareness over busy-ness, minimal color palette over lots of colors, clear visual flow over chaos.
Winners: Birdfeed (R.I.P.), Itsy, Hibari
Losers: Twitterific (I was surprised at how bad it looked to me), Echofon, Twitter for iPhone

#2: Inline, Full-Sized, Pre-Fetched Images. I love this about Itsy, but nobody else has it. Pre-fetched means I can cache my tweets at home and take my iPod touch out and read them later and still see the images, but since no iOS client has this yet, so far it’s a moot point.
Winners: Itsy
Losers: Everyone else, that I know of. Hibari has inline images, but only thumbnails, which is not a useful compromise for me.

#3: No Command Line. Any client where I have to type “d” in the same field I would normally type a regular message in order to do a Direct Message has let me down, in my opinion. If I wanted a command line, I’d use a command line! Apps are supposed to help me. I don’t want to accidentally send a direct message to everyone because my client has decided it’s My Problem.
Winners: Twitter website, especially for giving me a dedicated UI and a dropdown.
Losers: Everyone else. Even Birdfeed failed at this by requiring me to type in the username, with no type-ahead. Typing the exact username with the clunky iPhone keyboard? That’s My Problem, apparently.

#4: Seamless Link Following. Is it a hassle to open a link? This is entirely an iOS problem, since switching between apps is expected and trivial on Mac OS X, and so any link better send me to Safari.
And yes, basically embedding a full-scale browsing experience in my Twitter app sort of contradicts the minimalism of #1, but there you go: this is important enough to do so.
Winners: Of the apps I’ve tried, Echofon and Twitter for iPad do this the best. I can follow links within the web pages without leaving the app, thus preserving my twitter stream context.
Losers: Of the apps I tried, Birdfeed: loading web pages in-app was slow and often cumbersome, and following links within the page I believe sent me to Mobile Safari.

Twitter for iPad is an interesting exception. It’s certainly not spare, but it does retain enough of a style sense to barely fulfill #1. No inline images, so it fails #2, but having a roomy enough UI, with enough context-saving, so that it’s easy to return to the twitter stream after seeing the image, is almost a satisfactory workaround. Regarding #3, you might be able to use “d” in the standard input field to send a DM, but it’s not documented in the regular UI, and otherwise you need to look at someone’s profile to find UI to initiate a DM to that person. That’s bad, but at least then it’s custom UI! And it fulfills #4 completely.

More generally, the larger UI, and the emphasis on a kind of breadcrumbs-based workflow, really appeals to me. I have my annoyances with it, but if I had to choose, I’d choose its flamboyance over the minimalism of Itsy, which is otherwise my favorite Twitter client.

I’m looking forward to the new Twitter website UI.