Review: Tweetie, A Sweet Twitter Client For Mac

An alternative to the clutter of desktop Twitter apps such as TweetDeck, Tweetie packs a lot of power beneath its sublimely simple, cheerful interface.

Mitch Wagner, California Bureau Chief, Light Reading

April 23, 2009

4 Min Read

Tweetie, atebit's Twitter client for Mac (click for larger image)

This story was updated April 24, 2009 at 8:57 AM.

I wasn't looking for a new Twitter desktop client. I was happy with TweetDeck. But then came Tweetie, a Mac version of the popular Twitter client for the iPhone. It won me over with simplicity and a clean design.

With Tweetie, I'm trading in the desktop-hogging multi-column TweetDeck for a cheerful, cartoonish view of Twitter that does a lot without cluttering up the screen.

Apple blogger John Gruber, writing at Daring Fireball, nails it: Tweetie is "visually quiet. Most of the new desktop Twitter clients I’ve checked out try to show more at once. Twitter by its nature is inherently distracting; I want a client that doesn’t exacerbate it."

Tweetie for the Mac, from vendor atebits LLC, does a lot, but it stays out of the way when you don't want it. Rather than TweetDeck's multiple columns, Tweetie has a single-column view of Twitter, with multiple tabs to access the main Twitter stream, @mentions, direct messages, and Twitter searches.

Tweetie notifies you of unread messages in each view by adding a blue dot to the appropriate tab (see image).

It also lets you access multiple accounts -- in theory. In fact, I found it difficult to configure a second Twitter account, and have been unable to configure a third and fourth; I keep getting authentication errors, even after checking and confirming the logins and passwords. I don't know if this is a problem with Tweetie or with the Twitter service.

(Yes, I know -- four Twitter accounts. And those are only the ones I manage; I've actually set up at least nine. There is something seriously wrong with me.)

Features, Shortcuts

Tweetie has a variety of features and keyboard shortcuts to make tweeting easy and fast.

Double-click on any tweet to display the conversation it's a part of.

Right-click on any tweet to choose options, including retweeting, replying, or sending a direct message to the user. You can also configure a universal keyboard shortcut to start a tweet from any application, even when Tweetie is running in the background. I'm using Cmd-Shift-T for that. Another universal keyboard shortcut will show and hide Tweetie -- handy if you're using a laptop with a small display.

And you get your choice of link-shortening and image posting services. Dragging an image to Tweetie automatically posts it to your image-posting service of choice, and adds a tweet with a link.

It does have some shortcomings, however, in addition to the multiple-account problem I noted earlier.

No Groups; No Tag Clouds

While you can search Twitter from Tweetie, you can't save searches between sessions.

I don't like the way it handles retweets -- it automatically appends "(Via @sender)" to the message, rather than the more Twitter-standard way of starting a re-tweet with "RT @Sender."

Tweetie doesn't support groups. TweetDeck and other Twitter clients let you create separate groups for real-life friends, co-workers, people who live local to you, or any other way you care to organize the people you follow. I don't use groups all that much, but I know other people find them important, and those people will find TweetDeck disappointing.

The thing I miss the most from TweetDeck: Its tag-cloud, showing the most popular topics on Twitter at the moment. It's an at-a-glance way to see what the top breaking news stories are around the world and in the tech industry. With Tweetie, you can see trending topics by clicking the search tab, then clicking on a drop-down menu of searches; that's nowhere near as convenient as the TweetDeck tag cloud.

Also, while Tweetie's notifications are good enough, I'd really like to see Growl integration, so I get a little bubble pop up on my desktop whenever I get an @mention or a DM. (Does any Twitter client do that?)

Overall, A Tweet Deal
Despite its drawbacks, Tweetie is a terrific way of accessing Twitter; it's simple and powerful, and available in two flavors. There is the free, ad-supported version. And the ad-free version comes with an introductory price of $14.95 through May 4, $19.95 afterwards.

UPDATE:In an e-mail, Tweetie's developer responds: Difficulty registering multiple accounts is a known bug to be fixed soon. Until then, he suggests hitting the "return" key after entering the password, rather than clicking the button to add the account. I tried it out and it worked great. He says Growl notifications are coming soon, with even greater granularity than what I asked for in this review. Likewise, he says, using "RT" for retweets will be an option.

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About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

California Bureau Chief, Light Reading

Mitch Wagner is California bureau chief for Light Reading.

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