Last month, Twitter announced that it was ending support for its desktop Mac Twitter client today. The app had been abandoned for months (years?) before that, so it wasn’t exactly a huge loss, but it meant that I needed to migrate to a new app.
Believe it or not, I’ve used Twitter for Mac until the very end. Below is my roundup of the best Twitter client apps for Mac currently available: Tweetbot, Twitterrific and TweetDeck. Personal preference is a big factor here, so I separated out some individual impressions too …
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Twitter for Mac is no longer available to download and is officially unsupported as of today, March 16. Users are already noticing that they can no longer log in and use the Twitter for Mac app, and are seeing ‘could not authenticate you’ and ‘private account’ errors. So, what’s the best replacement?
Twitter clients are like weather apps. They all do the same basic thing, with some leeway for new approaches and design to set them apart.
With the official Twitter for Mac app now discontinued by Twitter, here’s a recap of the best available clients on macOS. All of these apps are available in the Mac App Store.
Best Twitter clients for Mac
Tweetbot’s look and feel is closest to Twitter for Mac. The general interface concept is the same; tabs on the left, scrollable portrait column on the right. You can just click on a tweet to push a detail view of information, with a simple left-right navigation hierarchy of content. If you have multiple accounts, you can switch by tapping on the profile photo in the top left. Twitter for Mac was a bit better in this regard; other account icons would always be visible in the sidebar and not hidden behind a two-step selection.
Tweetbot has a very rich array of mute filters; rules that you can set to never see tweets that meet certain conditions. For example, if a sports game is going on that you don’t care about, you can add a keyword mute that only lasts for a day. If a troll regularly sends abuse, you can make a mute filter for the user and set it to last forever.
Tweetbot has a nice ad-hoc columns option where you can snap windows together. It’s primarily designed as a one-column app but the flexibility to add a list or search term on the side as needed is welcomed. Feeding my vanity, Tweetbot for Mac includes an Activity view of mentions, likes and follow notifications.
For people coming from Tweetbot for iPhone, probably the most popular third-party iOS client, you can expect a familiar experience. It’s not 1:1, but you’ll feel right at home. Do not expect all features to be present though. The Mac version has historically lagged behind the iOS version in getting new features.
Still, Tweetbot users will be right at home here. And with cross-device sync of timeline position and mute filters, it’s probably the best choice for people who already use Tweetbot on iPhone and iPad, like me.
Twitterrific’s flagship feature is the unified timeline. This aggregates your main feed of tweets from people you follow, your direct messages, your mentions into a single home timeline. This means you don’t have to check multiple tabs to be a Twitter completionist; you can just scroll one feed from bottom to top. Tabs for things like mentions and DMs still exist if you want to focus in one particular category of content.
Twitterrific also uses a concept of ‘muffle’ rather than a strict mute. You can filter users, hashtags, particular words, web domain or advanced regex expressions. Instead of hiding the content entirely, a muffled tweet appears in the feed as a single line with most of its content hidden, unless revealed with a click. If you really just don’t want to see something, you can upgrade the muffle to a mute and hide it entirely.
Drilling down into a tweet launches a popover detail view, which makes it feel like a modern macOS piece of software. The popover dismisses itself automatically when you interact with another tweet. If you want something more permanent, you can drag the popover out and it turns into an actual window. Handy. Twitterrific also has a lot of appearance customization options although lacks some features like an Activity view that a more mature client would offer (Twitterrific was re-launched as a ground-up rewrite last year).
Whilst technically an app that you can download from the App Store, TweetDeck for Mac is a very thin wrapper around the web app. It is begrudgingly included in this list of the best Twitter apps because it is now the only official client for macOS, with Twitter for Mac dead. This means in general it will get access to the newest Twitter features first, although this isn’t always the case.
TweetDeck is the only client that can show polls in tweets for instance, as Twitter does not yet expose polls in the API available to third-party developers. As a first-party client, it also has a real Activity feed of likes, retweets and mentions. Third-party clients have to fake their own which aren’t as feature-rich — if you care about tracking engagement, TweetDeck might be your best bet.
The trademark feature of TweetDeck is its columns. You can set up many timelines of various views side-by-side in a single window all updating in real time. Columns for users, columns for search queries, columns for lists, columns for trending, and much more.
TweetDeck is a great fullscreen app if you just want to get absorbed in real time content; this is a big reason why social media managers depend on TweetDeck. It’s not for the casual person.
The above was a summary of the defining features and drawbacks of each of the clients. Below are some more subjective thoughts, if you are interested in my personal choices.
In testing Twitterrific, I noticed that the unified timeline design forces you to more liberally set up muffle rules. Because mentions are presented in the same view as anything else, there’s more of a need to do spring cleaning and minimize irrelevant tweets or users you don’t want to see. The unified timeline is a cool concept but I don’t think I could use it full-time.
My Twitter account is popular enough that a significant proportion of the timeline was mentions and too often it would show me garbage (like other people retweeting a post ‘via @bzamayo’) that I am not interested in seeing. There is definitely a convenience to seeing everything in one scrolling waterfall though and color-coded themes make it clear which type of tweet came from where.
As a purveyor of multiple Twitter accounts for various purposes, it seems a bit strange to me that the ‘unified timeline’ cannot coalesce tweets from multiple accounts into one window. One thing it does offer for multiple account users is the ability to quickly RT regardless of which user window you are in; just right-click on the retweet button and it pops up a drop-down of accounts to choose from. Tweetbot has this too but doesn’t include the avatar photos in the context menu, and somehow my brain finds it much harder to be confident that I clicked the right one if the picture isn’t there.
As someone with a job that at least partially depends on keeping up with current news, TweetDeck is appealing but I would never use it. It just reeks of being a web app. You can feel the HTML in the fabric of the app, with everything you click on. Even if it was a native app, TweetDeck is a case of information overload. There’s just so much stuff onscreen trying to steal your attention.
Tweetbot gives many of the benefits of TweetDeck’s column system in a more casual way. You can snap windows together and release them on the fly. For special events like WWDC keynote blogging, I can see myself setting up some columns for search filters and lists and setting Tweetbot as full screen, but day-to-day I’ll stick to the single feed. Oh, also the TweetDeck dock icon is ugly.
I like how Tweetbot looks the most, it is close to the design of Twitter of Mac after all. Something that I really miss though is persistently visible action buttons for each tweet. Tweetbot for Mac only shows retweet and like buttons when you hover over a row, and even then they are very tightly packed in the corner of the cell. I wish there was an option to make these buttons always visible in a dedicated bar below the tweet content.
Tweetbot is also the only client out of the three I tested to have decent scrolling performance. TweetDeck seems to load a very small number of tweets at a time so even if you can scroll fast, you constantly have to wait for it to load in more. Twitterrific was fast at scrolling until it wasn’t; after passing about a hundred tweets it becomes very choppy. Tweetbot maintains the smoothness from the top all the way down.
I am glad to report that all three apps are way more reliable than Twitter for Mac was in the last year; as Twitter stopped pushing out updates, Twitter for Mac would regularly hang and freeze up during normal usage.
Is rapidly scrolling my Twitter timeline something I do regularly? No, but I expect my apps to be able to perform like iOS apps, fast and responsive.
Twitterrific and Tweetbot are not cheaply priced. I think it’s reasonable to expect a minimum bar of quality and depth. Twitterrific is generally well made but it also feels a little unfinished, because it went through a ground-up revamp only a few months ago.
Ultimately for me, it makes sense to stick with the same client as I use on iPhone and iPad – and that’s Tweetbot. There isn’t enough of a difference between Tweetbot and Twitterrific, unless you come down strongly with a philosophical stance on the appeal of a unified timeline, to recommend people mix and match across platforms. My brain isn’t trained to use a unified timeline, but people who are probably already use Twitterrific on iPhone and should pick up Twitterrific 5 for Mac if they haven’t already.
I think the big recommendation is what to do if you use the first-party iOS client, Twitter for iPhone. Twitter would tell you to use their website of course. With no pre-existing client allegiances to worry about, I still think I’d favour Tweetbot. It’s ultimately simpler to grasp. It’s like Twitter without the noise of promoted tweets, ads or ‘in case you missed this’ nonsense.
It really sucks that both Tweetbot and Twitterrific lag behind official clients with things like polls or real activity feeds, but that’s not their fault. Twitter is the gatekeeper to that access. And there’s no way that I am recommending TweetDeck in its current non-native state.