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Tweetdeck vs Twhirl: It’s a very hard call

As Twitter continues to boom, so to does the market for 3rd party Twitter desktop clients. The once champ of the desktop Twitteriffic was replaced by Twhirl at the top of the popular list last year, but new comer Tweetdeck is now getting a lot of attention, and according to some reports in now the most popular Twitter desktop client.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Tweetdeck when it first launched, primarily due to its emphasis on a wide format. Tweetdeck is great if you’ve got a spare monitor to show it on, but was limited in its earlier versions by that constraint, vs Twhirl which sits neatly down the side of a monitor.

Given the recently flurry on interest in Tweetdeck, and a range of new features, I’ve taken a new look. Here’s a breakdown on each one compared. The use scenario is obviously my own, but the points will apply to others.

Layout/ Screen presence

As mentioned above, Tweetdeck is unique in offering a wide view of Twitter with dedicated columns for tweets, replies, direct messages and even more content like specific search terms.

Twhirl offers a single column layout that allows users to navigate by button, but replaces the view each time, so you can’t break them out.

The newer versions of Tweetdeck have improved view options, so you can now easily select a single column view, and scroll across to the other views.

Call: hard to split. If you’ve got the screen real estate and like seeing everything in front of you, Tweetdeck hands down. Twhirl is more compact though, so maybe slightly ahead if you’re constrained with viewing space.

Looks/ Aesthetics
Twhirl has always been an ugly application, and has only marginally improved with new releases. There is a degree of customization based on set theme, but the end result is brilliant to look at.

Tweetdeck is good looking out of the box, and head to head is easier to read and tweet. Customization includes the ability to set various colors, although unlike Twhirl is doesn’t allow for the font to be changed. If I had any criticism, it’s that the font in Tweetdeck is a little big, along with Tweet spacing, so you don’t get as many tweets in the same view as you’d get in Twhirl

Call: Tweetdeck. Visually pleasing, easier to read.

Supported features (Twitter)

Both Twhirl and Tweetdeck are now neck and neck on the supported Twitter features list after Twhirl added a range of extras in January.

Both share the ability to search Twitter and keep that search term in a list, although obviously Tweetdeck can offer it on screen next to regular tweets. Twhirl’s interface is cumbersome in comparison, with users have to go into search itself then click on the previously save search term/ list.

Both offer support for TwitPic, although Tweetdeck offers it more clearly as part of a Tweet (nice big button). Same for shortening URL’s, both offer it, but Tweetdeck presents a space where the URL requiring shortening can be placed, Twhirl requires yet another button for a pop up to obtain the same result.

Tweetdeck offers three additional Twitter related features not supported by Twhirl: a service call Tweetshrink, that allows a Tweet to be automatically shortened so it fits better, a translation button and the ability to recall recent hash tags. All are strong features and great selling points.

Tweetdeck though doesn’t support multiple Twitter account. Not a huge issue for most people, but if you run more than one account and use Twhirl to monitor them, you’ll miss the feature in Tweetdeck.

Call: Tweetdeck, but mostly because the features on Tweetdeck are easier to get at. I didn’t even realize Twhirl had Twitpic support until I went looking for it after noticing it on Tweetdeck.

Supported services (not Twitter related)

With its wide canvas offering plenty of space, you’d expect Tweetdeck to excel in external service support, but it doesn’t. Twhirl offers support for Identi.ca, Laconi.ca, FriendFeed and Seesmic, be it with a separate open window required for each. By comparison, TweetDeck offers support for 12seconds, although does offer both StockTwits and TwitScoop feeds (primarily one way Twitter data.)

Twhirl also has built in support for Ping.fm. A small feature perhaps, but one that allows users to broadcast their Tweets to a range of other services not supported directly by Twhirl itself.

Call: Twhirl hands down.

Miscellaneous

Tweetdeck doesn’t have an archive button that I can see, so there’s no easy one button to hit to bring up the previous tweets you’ve made. If you use Twitter a fair bit, sometimes you do need to see what you’ve sent when people reply at different times; for example, it’s not uncommon to see someone replying to a Tweet I’ve sent hours after I’ve sent it.

Tweetdeck doesn’t have built in throttling for a Twitter API, and even while writing this post, I was quickly running out of API requests (Tweetdeck actually displays how many you have left, and when your next reset is due). The default settings were also fairly high on Tweetdeck, so it can catch you out.

Tweetdeck also has an all or nothing on audio alerts, where as Twhirl can be set up to only play audio when you receive an @reply or DM. Having the audio on in Tweetdeck is annoying (it plays every refresh) and yet having it for DMs and @replies for me is a vital function, because I’m not constantly looking at the client, and will often only look when something comes in.

Overall
I’ve been running Tweetdeck on my laptop for a week, and Twhirl as usual on my desktop so I could fairly compare the two.

I love Twhirl (despite its looks), have all the time in the world for Loic Lemeur and Seesmic (Twhirl’s owners), but on the balance I’d say that today Tweetdeck is the better Twitter client.

The emphasis is key: If you’re looking for a client that allows you to follow and interact with multiple services, or even multiple Twitter accounts, Twhirl wins hands down. If you’re looking for a pure Twitter client that’s easy to read, use, and gives you a better view of a single Twitter account, it’s Tweetdeck.

I’m torn between switching though. I don’t use FriendFeed and Seesmic on Twhirl, and yet I do have more than one Twitter account. I love having Ping.fm support in Twhirl as it allows me to publish Tweets on Facebook, Plurk and other services, which often results in new conversations there. The audio on Tweetdeck isn’t good, and yet it’s so easy to read, easy to use. I might try switching for a short while and see how I go, and in the mean time try another way of getting Tweets onto Facebook (there is an app that does this for memory).

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