Anyone who pays more than a passing interest in Twitter will have discovered the need for something that works better than the Twitter website itself, and will probably have tried one of the three main Twitter clients to have emerged as serious contenders.
The most popular Twitter client, TweetDeck introduces the idea of columns in order to manage one or multiple Twitter streams. The user can customise which columns are displayed (sent items, @replies, direct messages) and view a scrollable timeline of tweets. It looks smart, is a nice platform to use and has some good features such as the ability to retweet or quote a tweet (using the RT standard) and a nice notification feature where the user can choose for a pop-up box to display a simple notification message or the full detail of the tweet being received. For me, however, the white on black interface is hard on the eyes and is stylized to the expense of usability, and the column functionality is limited, especially when compared to that of Seesmic.
The Seesmic platform has come on hugely over the last six months and now has several variations dependent on the user’s preference. The mobile application in particular is by far and away the best mobile Twitter client around, but for this review I am concentrating on the desktop application. Allowing the user to organise one or multiple Twitter streams and Facebook feeds into columns in the same way as TweetDeck, Seesmic benefits from a clearer and more open user interface that enables the user to see more of the timeline in a clearer format, with around seven tweets displayed in each column compared to TweetDeck’s five.
Seesmic also cleverly runs in the background on the desktop, accessible via an icon in the Quick Launch section of the toolbar rather than a tab on the toolbar itself and keeping the desktop clean and uncluttered. It also allows the user to control column widths and, crucially, add as many columns as required for timelines, @replies, direct messages, sent items, lists and searches. The clean interface, background running and additional features, together with its constant software updates and enhancements (a newer, better version seems to be available every few weeks), give Seesmic the edge over TweetDeck for me.
Being entirely web-based, HootSuite has the advantage of being accessible from any computer (although Seesmic also has a web-based platform) but lacks the integration with the desktop that make both Seesmic and TweetDeck such good options. HootSuite does, however, have several additional features that make it an attractive option.
These three features should be enough to make HootSuite the defacto Twitter client of the moment. However, where it falls down is the user interface and notifications. The interface is cramped and, due to the additional functionality, overcrowded. The timeline displays only around four tweets, rather than the seven of Seesmic, and together with a poor update notification system due to the platform being web-based not desktop-based, HootSuite feels frustratingly lacking.
To summarise, HootSuite is best for those who need to manage several distinct accounts, and anyone who wants integrated statistical link reporting. It’s also very useful as a tweet scheduler in its own right due to the integrated URL shortening. Seesmic, on the other hand, is best for everyday management of Twitter accounts and engaging in conversations, making it easy to keep on top of timelines with its clear views and unobtrusive but effective notifications.
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