As a result, many power Twitter users clung to the original version of TweetDeck, powered by Adobe AIR, despite the fact that it was no longer being updated. Like a vintage automobile, it had it’s dings and quirks, but when you sit in the well-worn seat, it felt like home.
We knew the day would come that TweetDeck AIR would finally meet its demise, but that didn’t soften the blow when Twitter made the official announcement earlier this week that they are discontinuing TweetDeck AIR as well as their mobile apps for iPhone and Android. [UPDATE: TweetDeck AIR will go dark on May 7.]
Immediately loyal TweetDeck AIR holdouts like myself began looking for desktop twitter client alternatives that could come close to the “old” TweetDeck experience. I test drove three of them for the past week — TweetDeck by Twitter, HootSuite for Chrome and MetroTwit — and here are my thoughts on each. [UPDATE: Added Janetter as a fourth option.]
TweetDeck by Twitter (Desktop version)
- More functionality than when it was first introduced–definitely worth a new look if you haven’t tried it since then.
- Excellent search feature.
- Easy to navigate columns and change their order using the columns selector on the left sidebar. Just drag and drop to reorder.
- [UPDATE: DMs and other alerts such as new followers and RT notifications seem to come in faster than on other 3rd party applications.]
- Since it’s owned by Twitter, it’s likely to stick around for a while and get continuous updates.
- Real estate is generous – 4 columns visible with a peek at a 5th, but individual tweets take up a lot of space. [UPDATE: Up to five full columns are now visible with recent redesigns, and settings allow you to adjust font and column size to your liking. The screenshot above has font set to “small” and column width set to “medium” on my widescreen laptop.]
- Too many clicks! Authoring a new tweet requires a button click vs. being permanently open on the interface, tweeting requires a click vs. pressing the enter key, and other common functions require multiple clicks (for example, RT with comment). [UPDATE: A TweetDeck developer read this post and alerted me to keyboard shortcuts – a lifesaver! Now I simply press N to author a new tweet. Press shift-? for the full list.]
- Pressing enter does not send your tweet (because Twitter supports line breaks now). Still drives me nuts. Press control- or command- enter to send your tweet, or click the button.
- Tweet feed can be a little choppy [UPDATE: I’m finding it smoother now. However I still miss a refresh button because it can hang up occasionally.]
- Outgoing DMs show avatars for the message recipients rather than the sender (you) which can be confusing.
- A click on someone’s username shows their profile but not their recent tweets.
- Supports Twitter only (TweetDeck discontinued Facebook integration)
HootSuite for Chrome (Chrome App Bookmarked to Desktop)
- Compact interface allows you to view more tweets on your desktop at once than the other two options, but only 4 columns are visible.
- Author new tweet box permanently open at the top of the interface.
- Supports Twitter, Facebook and many other social accounts, including Google +, LinkedIn and Foursquare.
- Powerful analytics features.
- Tweet feed is choppy and pauses frequently. If you minimize the app and then return, the feed has stopped where you left off and you need to manually scroll up the feed with a click. (Hootsuite calls them “unread messages”.)
- Large numbers of missed tweets are skipped and compacted together (can be expanded with a click).
- Although billed as a desktop version of Hootsuite, it’s merely a bookmarked Chrome app.
MetroTwit (Desktop, Windows only)
- A true desktop app with a clean, modern feel
- Runs very smoothly (I’m running it on Windows 7) [UPDATE: Still runs smoothly, when it runs, but it’s been buggy. See below.]
- Author new tweet box permanently open at the bottom of the interface, however the oversized character countdown ticker can be distracting.
- Clicking username opens a large window displaying the user’s profile and recent tweets – helpful when deciding who to follow. A click anywhere on the background screen closes the window.
- Twitter commands appear when hovering over avatars, similar to TD AIR
- Windows OS only (UPDATE: A new Windows 8 app was just released but does not match the desktop version’s feature set)
- For Twitter only (does not support Facebook or other social accounts)
- Free version is limited to one account and is ad supported (ad looks like a sponsored tweet, you can choose which column it appears in, as long as that column is visible) Pro version allows multiple accounts and gets rid of ads for a single payment of 14.95 AUS, which is just over 15 US dollars.
- Some wasted real estate on the left hand side forces narrower columns
- UPDATE: Unfortunately, over the past month I’ve noticed that MetroTwit is rather buggy. My @mentions column wouldn’t load on more than one occasion. My DMs don’t always come in right away. And my notifications are almost never accurate. For example, “Activities” is supposed to show new followers. It indicates I’ve had 4 new followers in the past two weeks, but that number is actually around 80.
[UPDATE: I’m adding Janetter to this post. It was recommended in the comments so I gave it a test drive as a fourth option.]
Janetter (Desktop for Windows or Mac)
- Comes closest to TweetDeck AIR’s feature set and overall experience.
- Supports multiple Twitter accounts.
- Author new tweet box permanently open at the top of the interface (can switch it to the bottom in settings).
- Navigate multiple columns with ease via the buttons at the bottom (no need to scroll across), and move/reorganize columns by dragging and dropping the buttons – Janetter is great for those who like to use lots of columns.
- Interface very customizable, lots of settings (maybe too many?)
- Multiple themes that you can apply to change the look of the application (vs. just “light” and “dark” as most others offer).
- Tweets show image previews and conversation threads (which can be overwhelming, see below).
- Interface is very busy, to nearly an overwhelming degree – Janetter crams so much information into each individual tweet in such tiny print you really need to play with the settings to make it somewhat tolerable.
- Clicking on usernames shows profile, but you need to click another tab to see recent tweets.
- Does not support Facebook or other social networks.
- As with any third party app, I hope it sticks around and keeps getting updates.
Which gets my top recommendation? I wish there was a clear winner. For me, it comes down to what features are most important to me, and what my dealbreakers are. For example, the pausing Hootsuite tweet stream is a dealbreaker. (Am I missing a setting somewhere? [UPDATE: Nope. A live stream has been a requested feature on Hootsuite since 2010, but Hootsuite has not added it.]) For me, missed tweets are not “unread messages” as Hootsuite calls them – I’m following over 1,000 people and have neither the time or the desire to read my whole feed. Which is too bad because Hootsuite is so feature-rich and well designed.
So right now, for me, it’s a tie between “new” TweetDeck and MetroTwit. Clearly if you don’t have a Windows machine, MetroTwit isn’t going to be an option. But I do, and I like the interface and smooth operation. Surprisingly, the ad (there’s only one) doesn’t really bother me and I only use my Twitter client for my single Twitter account, so MetroTwit is a real contender. However, TweetDeck does a better job with real estate (more tweets are visible), runs smooth enough for me and no ads. I can add another account if I want. But the extra clicks for common activities and the fact that the window to write a new tweet isn’t always open drives me a little nutty. So I’ll be bouncing back and forth between the two over the next few weeks to see what I prefer. [UPDATE: 6 weeks later, I’m now tied between new TweetDeck and Janetter. MetroTwit has a less crowded interface that I prefer, but it’s been very buggy. I’ve warmed up to new TweetDeck since discovering the keyboard shortcuts.]
If you were a happy TweetDeck AIR user, what have you chosen as a replacement?