Since Twitter decided to stop actively developing what once was a lovely Twitter client for OS X, I started to look elsewhere for a suitable replacement. I have tried many alternatives since last year, but they have all fallen short of my expectations for what I believe should be the ideal Twitter client.
Before delving into my current favourite choice of Twitter client, here’s a list of apps I’ve previously tried which left me disappointed:
What I look for in a great Mac Twitter client
My criteria for what makes a great Twitter client may differ from some, however I know these will fall in line with what many look for.
Like any other good Mac nerd, the first thing that I require is that any app I use on OS X must behave like a proper, native Cocoa app. I don’t necessarily mean the app has to conform 100% with Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines — even Apple doesn’t follow those rules — yet I do ask that the app for the most part fit in with other native apps. This means using respecting Apple’s APIs like Core Animation, Core Data, and Core Audio.
With respect to features and functionality in a Twitter client, here’s a compiled list of things that I look for, separated by core service functionality and features:
- Inclusion of Twitter’s streaming API
- Username autocompletion
- Easy spam/block functionality
- Ability to easily follow/unfollow
- Conversation threading
- Ability to edit your own profile (i.e., update avatar, change of bio)
- Gmail-style keyboard shortcuts for navigating the timeline
- URL shortening using Twitter’s native service
- Inline image support for Instagram, Flickr, Twitpic etc.
- Saved searches
- Ability to view, edit, and manage lists
- Support for showing verified accounts
Additional required features:
These features are not part of Twitter’s native service, but many of them are widely implemented in third-party client apps.
- Support for Multiple accounts
- Keyboard shortcuts to navigate between conversation threads and go directly to a users profile
- Tweet Marker support (who wants to lose their place in the timeline on multiple devices?)
- Instapaper, Readability, Read It Later support
- Font-size customization
- Third party URL shortening services: bitly, Cloudapp etc.
- Native support for Lion’s default behaviour of invisible scroll bars.
- Smooth scrolling and use of Core Animation when switching accounts, conversation threads, and timelines (Also when composing anew Tweet)
- Ability to mute users by time period or indefinitely
- Mute Tweets by keyword (allow for comma separated lists)
These are all of the things that I look for that I can think of. If I miss anything, I’ll update this post if need be.
Osfoora first started its life as an iOS app (first iPhone, and then later iPad). While I admit to never trying the iOS counterparts, the Mac client so far has been exceedingly pleasant to use. In fact, it really fills the gapping hole that was left by Twitter since they appear to have abandoned their own Mac client.
Priced at a paltry $4.99, Osfoora for Mac will hardly break the bank. After installing the app and authenticating the few Twitter accounts I had (done via oAuth), the initial presentation really pleased me and set the bar high straight of the gate. This is a good thing, since you have about five minutes to convince me this app is worth my time. That may seem a bit harsh, but first impressions really count. The apps 3D looking cube icon seems a bit stark and industrial in design, but I kind of like it. I love how the speech bubble is inset into the cube, which gives it a nice sense of depth.
For developers, striking that near perfect balance between shipping a 1.0 product that meets most users demands is a herculean task, and it’s not for the faint of heart. All of your time spent polishing your app and making sure it’s as close to pixel perfect as possible will help make that initial “first run” experience that much better to the user. I’m confident in saying that Osfoora met and exceeded my expectations on first run. This is a tall order, and while it’s not exactly perfect and is still missing a few things, it’s by far the best and most feature complete Twitter client I have used thus far on the Mac.
Meeting the basic requirements for a Twitter app
When building your Twitter client, of course you should aim to include all of the core functionality that users get just by using the web app or official Twitter app. With the exception of the streaming API, Osfoora meets those basic requirements. I’m hoping a future update will include support for the streaming API, as pushing rather than pulling data from your timeline is preferred.
Delving into Osfoora
Examining Osfoora’s preference pane, you won’t be overwhelmed with a glut of options, however, I think they did a good job with striking a balance between simplicity and providing just enough for power users.
In this section, you get font size options from 11 all the way up to a massive 20, although the app defaults to 13. I found the default font size perfectly readable, although I applaud them for including more options for those with poor vision (something some developers forget about).
You can also choose to display real names, as opposed to the default behaviour of displaying username handles in your timeline. Other things you can change are the default auto refresh intervals, as well as turning on Tweet Marker support (I set this to “Scrolls To Marker”).
In the aforementioned additional feature requirements section, I listed multiple account support. I don’t know any power users who don’t have at least two Twitter accounts. This is a deal breaker for me if a Twitter client lacks this functionality. In this section, you can add as many Twitter accounts as you have, however, you can also mute users so their Tweets never show up in your timeline again. This is a good way to hush certain users without having to unfollow them (if you’re worried about offending anyone that is). There is also a section called “Marked Usernames,” however it wasn’t exactly clear what this feature was supposed to do. I tried adding a username to the list, but it didn’t seem to make any visual change in my timeline. Perhaps this is just a bug, but I’d love to find out what this is supposed to do.
I spent more time in this area then in others. Here you can tweak your image, video, URL, and bookmarking services. The way I configured mine is with Twitter’s default image/URL service, but I use CloudApp for video and Instapaper for bookmarking links I want to read later.
If you have Growl installed on Lion, you can have Osfoora send notifications to Growl for Mentions, Messages, and Tweets. Additionally you will find options for opening links in the background, displaying mentions from everyone, send Tweets on command + return, show menu bar icon, customize a window hotkey, and show Dock icon badge. A lot of this stuff is fairly standard in third party clients.
There are a few things missing features which seem peculiarly missing, such as Gmail-style keyboard shortcuts for moving up and down the timeline and muting Tweets based on keywords. On the more annoying end of things, you can’t use the right arrow key to open links that are in Tweets, nor is there a keyboard shortcut for blocking or reporting a spam account — something you could do in the official Twitter Mac client. Another niggling bit is the scroll bars in Osfoora don’t disappear when you stop scrolling in Lion, which is odd. Lastly, I tend to use lists a lot. Yes, I know not everyone uses them, but it would be nice to be able to manage lists, i.e., add or remove users to and from them. I’m hopeful that all of this will get corrected in a future update.
Osfoora is a lovely Twitter Mac client, which I’m sure many will immediately fall in love with. While it’s definitely my personal favourite choice thus far, it’s not without a few quirks. Keep in mind this is a 1.0 product. The app is being developed at a swift pace, and the developer has already announced a new update that has been submitted to the App Store review team that will squash a few bugs. I wholeheartedly recommend Osfoora to any Mac user who needs a feature rich and robust Twitter client, which also just happens to strike an excellent balance between simplicity and usability.
You can grab Osfoora today in the [Mac App Store for just $4.99].