Desktop Twitter/FriendFeed Clients Reviewed

Desktop Twitter/FriendFeed Clients Reviewed

Since being persuaded by Louis Gray to give FriendFeed another shot Monday, I’ve been testing desktop clients that run both Twitter and FriendFeed.

The review doesn’t include every desktop app, only ones that run on a Mac (although I know of only one non-Mac desktop client). Strangely all three are Adobe AIR apps (no Cocoa or similar Mac only app) so all three offer cross platform support.

Twhirl

For: mature Twitter client, highly customizable, one click support for Twitter subpages
Against: renders FriendFeed and Twitter is seperate windows, ugly as sin

Twhirl was one of the first wave of Twitter AIR clients launched in 2007. The app has alway defined itself as providing extra support and when acquired by Loic LeMeur’s Seesmic in April it held the position of most popular Twitter client alongside Mac favorite Twitteriffic. Weeks later the service added support for FriendFeed.

I’d switched to Twhirl a couple of months back (from Twitteriffic) for use with Twitter, and I cant speak highly enough about the feature set, yet there are two aspects that were lacking when I tried to use it as a FriendFeed client as well. The biggest drawback is its insistence that the FriendFeed is rendered in a separate window; this may sound strange to some but even with my twin 22″ monitors, I don’t want more desktop clutter. The simple solution is for Twhirl to offer FriendFeed in tabs within the one window. The second issue is that Twhirl is simply ugly, and it doesn’t make for a appealing user experience. The looks can be customized (and I have), but I found it harder to look pass the ugliness with FriendFeed updates than I did with Twitter.

Alert Thingy

For: strong FriendFeed support, mergers Twitter + FriendFeed feeds and natively gets rid of duplicated tweets
Against: lacks avatar support, lacks depth of Twitter functionality

Alert Thingy was the first FriendFeed desktop app and has grown since. The service offers a combined Twitter/ FriendFeed feed that blocks duplicates so you’re not suffering the same Twitter messages twice.

This is a service that deserves love; it’s simple, clean and functional, even if it does lack many of the Twitter features provided by Twhirl. The big negative for a first time user: zero support for avatars. When I use Twitter I look at avatar pictures and I expect them to be there. They aren’t in Alert Thingy. The service also lacks any serious ability to customize how it works, aside from being able to change the color theme.

MySocial AIR

For: Simple, splits streams into tabs, supports video and picture viewing inline
Against: alpha release so occasionally buggy).

MySocial is the newest Twitter/FriendFeed desktop app on the block, although MySocial has previously released a Firefox sidebar addon that offers similar functionality.

Out of the box it’s clean and appealing. Unlike Alert Thingy it supports avatars and the rendering of threads on FriendFeed is visually the best of the three clients our of the box. The downside: like Alert Thingy it lacks many of the additional Twitter functions offered by Twhirl, and as it’s an alpha release it’s still occasionally buggy. It has never crashed for me, but every now and then it does strange things with avatar rendering.

Conclusion
I can see myself using any of these clients in the future, but for now I’ve decided on MySocial, despite the occasional bug. Looks may not be everything, but I don’t want to be straining to read a FriendFeed entry delivered by Twhirl in another window, or look at the blandness of the avatar free Alert Thingy. My bet is we will see better releases from all three in the coming months and I’ll have to revisit this review, but for now MySocial is sitting nicely on my desktop.

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