This week, Tapbots released a public alpha of Tweetbot for Mac, the newest verison of the company’s popular iOS Twitter client. Within a few hours, the usual suspects issued the usual plaudits. I have been anxiously awaiting the Mac version of my favorite Twitter app, so I quickly downloaded and fired it up.
Tweetbot for Mac takes most of its visual cues from its iPad counterpart, a fact which, for me, is where the problems start.1 The layout is pracitcally identical, with a stack of fat buttons running down the left side of your timeline. Up top are standard OS X traffic light controls and buttons for accessing lists and composing new tweets. Everything, right down to the number of clicks it takes to perform basic actions, feels built for a touchscreen.
Most early reactions I have read compare Tweetbot against Twitter’s withering official Mac app, which hasn’t been updated since June 1st of last year. If you’re switching from an app that hasn’t even had a bug fix, let alone an update that brings it in line with Twitter’s own overhauls, in 408 days and counting, then of course you’re going to notice vast improvements. I’ve been using Twitterrific for Mac, though, which in my opinion is not only one of the best Twitter apps around but one of the best Mac apps period.
Over the years I have noticed a theme in my app choices on the Mac. Assuming two apps have similar feature sets and run relatively bug free, I always choose the app that feels most at home in OS X, the app that takes the most advantage of the design elements that Apple provides.
A classic example occurred back when I chose between OmniFocus and Things. It’s a common trope (on forums where these sorts of things are discussed) that Things is the better designed of the two apps for its unique flourishes, that it is the GTD app for creative types and OmniFocus is more for the corporate set. For me, OmniFocus naturally fit into my workflow, in part because it felt at home on my Mac.2 I get that some people see plainness when they look at it, but I see the best of what makes a Mac a Mac, laid out in a way that makes it simple for me to quickly and efficiently use it.
Given Tapbots’ track record of elegant apps that take advantage of a given unique interface, I was expecting a Mac app tailored to mouse and keyboard use, hopefully more for the keyboard since I’m happiest when I don’t have to take my hands off of it.
Tweetbot packs an excellent feature set, including their class leading Mute functionality, which makes it simple to turn off users, hashtags and pretty much anything else on Twitter for a set amount of time. I rarely use muting unless a specific topic or event is flooding my stream.3 Even then I often don’t feel like taking the time to set up a hashtag mute. I’m quicker to unfollow an annoying user than mute them. So that’s not a selling point for me, but I get why many people are thankful for it.
What I want from a Mac-based Twitter Client is the ability to easily write new tweets, send replies, move through my timeline quickly and open links from my keyboard. As it is right now, Tweetbot for Mac is built on touch gestures, and even those have a limited use. Let’s take a look at some.
- Swipe Down: Refresh
- Swipe Right on a Tweet: Conversation View
- Swipe Left on a Tweet: Detail View
- Swipe Down in Detail View: Reveal Conversation View
Careful swiping once you’re in conversation view. It feels like swiping left should take you back to your timeline, but remember, swiping left pulls you into detail view. If you play with this for a bit, you’ll see that you start diving deep into the same series of tweets trying to swipe your way out of it. Which is fine, I prefer using the keyboard anyway. So let’s look at the keyboard shortcuts.
- ⌘1: Go to Timeline
- ⌘2: Go to Mentions
- …just click on “Window” in the Menubar to see all of these. Moving on…
- ⌘N: New Tweet
- ⇧⌘R: Refresh Timeline
- ⌘R: Reply to Selected Tweet
- ↓: Navigate Down 1 Tweet
- ↑: Navigate up 1 Tweet
- →: Go to Detail View of Selected Tweet
- ←: Exit Detail View, Back to Timeline (No Function on Timeline)
- ⌘↓: Scroll to Bottom
- ⌘↑: Scroll to Top
- F: Favorite Tweet
- ⌘K: Mark All As Read
There aren’t (preset) shortcuts for retweet, rewtweet with comment, enter conversation view or open links. In Twitterrific typing → on a tweet that contains a link will open it in your default browser. I use that feature all day long.
Perhaps the thing that stops me in my tracks more than anything is that the Page Up and Page Down keys do nothing in Tweetbot. I like flying through my timeline one “page” but with Tweetbot the only way to move by more than one tweet a time is with the mouse. Scrolling through the timeline then puts the onus on me to go slowly enough that I’m seeing only new tweets with each scroll without shuttling past any. Instead of hitting one button on my keyboard.
Tweetbot for Mac is alpha software so we should expect that it is still half baked. Many of the niggles I describe here are likely to get fixed, but I think Tapbots is showing us how they think a Mac app should look, feel and function. For now, that’s not in line with how I prefer to use Twitter, or my Mac for that matter.
I get that this is alhpa software and that the final Mac App Store version may be wildly different from what it we see today, but if others can heap praise on it then I don’t feel too bad picking apart what Tapbots has shared with us.↩
If you must know, the “killer feature” that sold me on OmniFocus was the way you create a new task simply by hitting return.↩
You’re on thin ice, though, #SDCC.↩
Need another reason? Twitterrific is the only app I know of that consolidates mentions and direct messages on your timeline. It’s incredible, but I bring it up as a footnote because I don’t expect any app to ape this functionality (though they should) so I don’t need to hold it up as a Tweetbot deficiency.↩