Third-party clients bring horsepower and rich features to the Twitter experience, so you can manage the tsunami of information flowing through the streams you follow and make the most of every 140-character opportunity. Here, InformationWeek lifts the hoods of five leading clients and breaks down the pros and cons of each.
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Slideshow: Top 5 Twitter Clients Revealed
Twitter seems to be here to stay. And while the default interface, Twitter's own website, is good enough for a new user, it's easy to quickly outgrow it -- which is why a slew of third-party clients for Twitter have sprung up and commanded an audience.
Desktop Twitter clients provide a few advantages over their browser-based compatriots. You're not limited to the range of controls and UT metaphors found in the browser, and there's less chance of being bitten by something like one of the web-based exploits that buzzed out recently. In addition, browser-based third-party clients, such as HootSuite and Slipstre.am, hint at different ways Twitter can be consumed.
When looking at these applications, I considered four basic criteria: ease of use, number of services supported, interfaces to additional services (e.g., URL shortening) and filtering/management. It's the last category that still poses some of the biggest practical difficulties for Twitter. While filtering for Twitter has grown incrementally more practical -- for instance, through the use of lists -- it's still easy to get swamped.
TweetDeck was the first third-party-on-the-desktop Twitter client I used, and it remains my favorite. It's not perfect, but it has the most comfortable presentation of its feature mix that I've encountered yet for a program like this one.
TweetDeck is a free Adobe Air application, meaning it runs on almost every platform you might find yourself tweeting from: Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as Android, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Aside from being a Twitter client, it posts updates to many other widely used social networks: Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Buzz and Foursquare.
You can use TweetDeck as is or sign up for an account with TweetDeck's services that lets you add your own Twitter account(s) to the TweetDeck Directory (a faster way to have your tweets noticed), or to sync your settings between different installations of TweetDeck.
Each feed consumed through TweetDeck is represented as a column in the program’s UI, which can get unwieldy if you have more than five feeds; you have to scroll left and right a lot. Your best bet is to keep the most commonly used feeds on-screen and perhaps to use the pop-up notification system to warn you when messages arrive off-screen.
When you tap out an update on TweetDeck, you choose which services to send it out on, and get appropriate interface feedback for each one. If your post is being echoed to Twitter, for instance, you get a character counter; if you're just posting to Facebook, the character counter vanishes. URLs can be automatically shortened as you type, through your choice of URL-shortening service. The program's also aware of many common site-specific shorteners (e.g., fb.me for Facebook) and will use them when appropriate.
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