In an earlier post, I talked about what Twitter was originally made for, and what has become of it. Since the recent Twitter boom has reached all corners of the globe, and on many levels, there have been many third-party products and services introduced to the market to facilitate and improve the tweeting experience. After all, when you are following 4,000+ people, it is almost impossible to keep up, and it consequently becomes a bit of a mess. One of the most commonly used tools by hardcore tweeters is TweetDeck, an application built on Adobe’s AIR providing the user with a much more efficient interface for accessing and participating in the Twitter globe.
TweetDeck could be seen as a dedicated browser, where there are different columns showing tweets, mentions, messages, etc. Therefore, from a single screen, you can view many tweets at the same time. After that, you have the ability to add your own groups, which is ideal for friends, family, or special interest groups. For example, as a web designer, you might want to place your favorite designers in a group to have their own dedicated column. This way you are sure not to miss their tweets, and can easily browse through them. In fact, there are many features that come into play, most notably:
- Tweeting directly from TweetDeck, you won’t need to visit Twitter.com in the browser, everything you need is in the application
- Easily reply and forward, simple as clicking on one of the buttons the replace the tweeter’s image when hovered (Twitter.com does not provide a direct way of RT, this saves a lot of time and effort)
- Aside from the main Group feature, you can have dedicated columns for searched items or hashed keywords. That is extremely useful when you want to stay updated about a certain topic, without following people who have discussed it at one point
- Built-in URL shortener, very conveniently placed underneath the tweeting input field. Allows you to go with service of choice
- Integrated photo-sharing service, also embedded in the tweeting field, allowing you to instantly share photos with a short URL directing to them
- Access to most popular tweets and tweeters, plus stats that reveal the popularity of each
- You can also access two different Twitter accounts at the same time, and integrate Facebook for status updates
It is obvious that there was a lot of work put into the application, it seems to offer everything a twitterer would need. However, as always, there are a couple of aspects that could use some improvement:
- As any AIR application, the interface is always strange and takes some getting used to. It seems that to be a Rich Internet Application, you need to have a navigation system that is completely different to what the entire world is used to. Moreover, the black background is not too appealing, and even though it is customizable, very few are willing to go through the trouble to change the colors to a more standard, adequate skin
- There doesn’t seem a way to add people to follow from the application itself, you have to visit the Twitter website from a browser
- You can customize notifications, so that you are alerted from someone from your custom groups has tweeted. However, you’re not given the choice of choosing which groups you are notified about, and which ones you are not
Overall, TweetDeck is a free application that runs on any operating system (since AIR can be installed on Windows, Mac OS or Linux, any AIR application will natively run on either one of them), and is an essential tool for anyone who takes Twitter seriously. After using it for a while, you will come to notice that without a tool of the same caliber, it is almost impossible to fully take advantage of the service. And as an application still in the beta phase, its future is very promising.
UPDATE: You can indeed follow or unfollow others easily via TweetDeck. If you hover on the person’s image and then click on the “other actions” icon > User, you can make the choice from the menu. Thanks to @idesignstudios for pointing it out. However, you’ll need to click on your own name from a tweet to see your profile/summary. Moreover, in order to find people by name (as oppose to by #keywords), or to see who’s following you, you’ll need to visit the Twitter website from the browser.