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New TweetDeck for Mac a Breath of Fresh Air

In May 2011, when Twitter bought out the popular third-party TweetDeck client for more than $40 million, the software’s fans winced, wondering whether the powerful application would survive the change in ownership. Early in December, though, Twitter set everyone’s mind at ease by releasing new, native versions of TweetDeck for Mac and Windows, as well as a nearly identical Web client.

Since its release in 2008, the free TweetDeck had been developed as cross-platform software that relied on the Adobe AIR framework, an environment not unlike Java in that it enables software to be developed once for multiple operating systems. Separating it from virtually all other Twitter clients, TweetDeck enabled users to keep track of several Twitter accounts — and their various timelines, mentions, and direct messages — or even just a single account’s multiple lists and searches, all in a single, multi-column window. (Most multi-account Twitter clients let you look at only one account at a time.) At the same time, the TweetDeck folks developed separate iOS and Android apps with similar capabilities.

TweetDeck also helped to simplify handling multiple Twitter accounts by offering “TweetDeck accounts,” a single sign-on that would let users authorize each Twitter account once — and then never have to do so again for any TweetDeck client.

With the release of the new free TweetDeck for Mac (which points to the Mac App Store for downloads), TweetDeck leaves behind Adobe AIR with its sluggish performance and unusual user experience, and offers a sleek, functional replacement that looks much like the iOS version of TweetDeck. The columns can be readily customized, with mentions or a saved search, for example, or separate timeline columns for each Twitter account rather than the combined Home column that’s provided by default.

Even better for when you’re using someone else’s computer, there’s now a Web-based TweetDeck that gives you much of the same functionality in any browser. In fact, the Mac client is largely providing a view of the Web interface, much the way Apple’s App Store app does, but because Adobe AIR is left behind, TweetDeck can now do things like integrate with Growl for tweet notifications.

There are some glaring omissions, such as display of tweeted pictures and videos (from TwitPic, Yfrog, Flickr, and YouTube, for example) right within the application, keyboard shortcuts like Escape to dismiss pop-ups you’re done with or Return to send the tweet you’re composing, the capability to respond to (or otherwise act on) tweets when viewing a particular user’s timeline, and follower stats underneath profile pictures. Actions like seeing the whole conversation that led to a reply also take more clicks than they should. Columns cannot
be resized (and are wider, making it harder to see as many at once). This is version 1.0, though, and I’m optimistic that future versions will restore some of the missing functionality and clean up a few of the rough edges.

Having just myself gone on a fruitless quest to find a Twitter application for Mac OS that both ran briskly and supported multiple Twitter accounts in a single window, I welcome the new TweetDeck 1.0, and offer my thanks to Twitter for keeping this powerful alternative around and growing.

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