After not quite officially confirming its existence, Tapbots have released an alpha build of Tweetbot for Mac. I talked about Tweetbot for Mac last week and how it would be awesome, so I now have a chance to actually test it.
Firstly, don’t let the ‘alpha’ tag put you off. It’s not a finished product, and there are some bugs (the Tweet Marker support doesn’t seem to work), but in my view it’s ‘beta’ quality at worst. This is from someone who has done a lot of beta testing in my time, and who also spent part of the week battling some paid-for software that acted like a beta product – but more on that another time.
Secondly, apart from being still in the testing stage, feature-wise Tweetbot isn’t finished. There’s not yet any support for synchronising your Tweetbot settings between your Mac and your iOS device, as this requires use of iCloud and is therefore only available to apps from the Mac App Store that Apple has vetted. This will be in the final release but not in any public test versions. Tapbots also intend for it to support Notification Centre on Mountain Lion, which, as well as being another Mac App Store-only feature, is also not available to test because only a few select developers have copies of Mountain Lion at present.
It’s also worth pointing out that, whilst this alpha build is free to test, there’s no support; furthermore, the final product will cost money, as with the iPad and iPhone apps.
So, with those caveats pointed out, what it’s actually like to use?
Well, it works pretty much like any other Mac OS X Twitter client, to be honest. The main difference between the iOS app and the Mac desktop is that, whereas on iOS, tapping a tweet brings up a bar with buttons to retweet, reply and favourite, these now appear when you hover over a tweet with the mouse. But you’ll be pleased to know that the swiping gestures from the iOS app made it to the dekstop, so swiping from left to right shows the tweet details, and from right to left shows the tweet in a conversation view with its replies.
‘Streaming’ support, where new tweets are automatically loaded as they are posted, is enabled as standard. Along the left column, all of the various views are shown, like on the iPad app, so there’s easy access to your profile, lists, retweets and saved searches. And this desktop version of Tweetbot retains its formidable support for third-party services, so there’s integration with Pocket, Instapaper, Readability, Pinboard and bit.ly as a ‘read later’ service (most other apps just offer the first two and Readability if you’re lucky), plenty of third-party image hosting services (but not a custom one yet) and a choice of URL shorteners. And curiously for a desktop client, you can add a location to your tweets.
The other great thing, for me, about Tweetbot is its mute feature to hide tweets that don’t interest you, and this feature is also present on the desktop. So far, in this alpha, you can only mute specific Twitter clients, like Twittascope, RunKeeper, Waze, GetGlue or any other services which auto-tweet things that don’t really interest me, but eventually you will be able to mute specific hashtags or keywords, or put some users on mute – this is great when you follow someone who live-tweets a conference and would otherwise dominate your timeline. The mute settings will also be synchronised between clients when iCloud sync is enabled in the final release.
All in all, in my opinion Tweetbot as it is now – even in its alpha state – is still better than the official Twitter client for the Mac, and just beats out Osfoora which was my previous favourite (I reviewed it back in March). If you use Twitter on a Mac, and have Lion installed, give it a try whilst its free, and, if you like it, buy the final release when it comes out. I don’t think you’ll regret it.