OS X Twitter App Quick Review

In the beginning, there was Tweetie. Tweetie was a Very Good Third-Party Twitter App. So good, in fact, that Twitter itself bought the app. And promptly let it lapse into shit and die, to the point that Twitter gave the app the mercy stroke a few days ago and announced that it is being discontinued and removed from availability in like a month.

Great job, Twitter. Please go back to amplifying white supremacists and let the indie market take care of your users' actual needs, as always.

Anywho... that leaves two other contenders for using Twitter on the Mac if you, like me, consider using the actual Twitter website to be the equivalent of splashing bleach right into the eyes: the venerable Tweetbot and the reborn-from-the-ashes Twitterrific. 

Both have been around forever and are not-coincidentally the only Twitter apps on iOS worth a shit as well. While Tweetbot has remained in basically continual development, now on its fourth major version on both platforms, Twitterrific for OSX was basically left to languish for years with a stale version that lacked many newer Twitter and OSX features (it couldn't even sync with the regularly-updated iOS version of itself unless you used the decidedly-mediocre Tweetmarker service) until a recent Kickstarted rebirth.

I'm glad both apps exist, and switch between them based on my mood. However, while both are very excellent, there are two areas in which I find a clear preference for how one or the other does things:

IMAGE HANDLING

On both iOS and OSX, I greatly prefer how Twitterrific does image handling. When in the main Timeline View, you get an indicator if a given tweet contains more than one image:

@smr1973 - Home 2018-02-19 21-46-31.png

When you click on any of the images in the Timeline, you get a pop-out image viewer with a clear indicator for how many images there are total and which one you're on at the moment:

Monosnap 2018-02-19 21-49-10.png

Clicking ANYWHERE outside of the image viewer closes it, and brings you back to the Timeline View.

Tweetbot handles this a little less-gracefully. There's no clear indicator in Timeline View that you're looking at a multiple-image tweet:

Main Window 2018-02-19 21-53-16.png

Worse, if you open any one of the images, the Image Viewer doesn't tell you where in the sequence you are (as most multi-image tweets, at least amongst the users I follow, use images as a way to tell a sequential story, this kind of matters). 

Worst, clicking outside of the viewer doesn't close it, it just brings whatever window you clicked on to the forefront. This gets messy, fast, if you're viewing a lot of images, particularly since they're not encapsulated in their own contained UI like in Twitterrific but with each image getting its own window:

Monosnap 2018-02-19 21-58-55.png

All of the extra clicks compared to Twitterrific's clean image-viewing workflow add up over a day, so it gets a strong nod from me over Tweetbot in this regard.

That said, there's one area where Tweetbot equally shines over Twitterrific for me, and that is in regards to:

SAVING THINGS TO READ LATER

I get a LOT of the other content I consume online from within Twitter; that said, I rarely stop to read it right when I see the Tweet it's posted in. Almost everything aside from images gets punted out to Instapaper for when I have time to dig into longer articles. Realizing that this isn't an unusual use-case for people who are willing to spring for a third-party Twitter client in the first place, Tweetbot has wonderfully baked this into their app itself; right-click any link or content in a Tweet, and right there is a Save to Instapaper option (you can choose some other services as well if Instapaper is not your jam).

Twitterrific, however, relies on the native OSX sharing services, which Instapaper does not currently hook into (generally only apps that have stand-alone OSX clients show up in that menu, rendering it mostly useless for a lot of things; iOS is surprisingly significantly more advanced in this regard). So, to get something into Instapaper from Twitterrific, I have to:

  • click the link to open it in Safari
  • switch focus from Twitterrific to Safari
  • use the Safari Instapaper extension to save the content

or:

  • copy the URL from the right-click menu in Twitterrific
  • switch focus from Twitterrific to Safari
  • use instapaper.com's "Add URL" feature to paste it in and save it.

Either way, it's a LOT more clicks than the Tweetbot method and requires you to lose focus from the app itself to complete the task of simply saving an article for later.

I asked Twitterrific's devs about this and got the following response:

@smr1973 - Mentions 2018-02-19 22-18-09.png

While I appreciate the honest and quick response, and they do have a bit of a point here, the bottom line is that this feature's been available in their primary competitor's app for years and has worked flawlessly throughout. That said, I've no idea how long it took Tweetbot to develop that capability nor how much time they spend updating it. As the end-user, though, it's a bit of a critical workflow feature that I miss when using the OSX version of Twitterrific. To be clear, this isn't a problem with their iOS app as both it and Tweetbot just use the native iOS share sheet to let you toss any given link into any app that has registered itself with iOS as a share target.


These are both really excellent apps; Twitterrific, I like the look and feel of quite a bit more as it's more spacious and clean-feeling to me when I use it. Every part of the UI and the Tweets themselves clearly separates itself from everything else, leading to a smooth consumption and workflow experience. And how it handles media is top-notch and quite a bit better than Tweetbot's method, for me.

Tweetbot has the killer integration with my read-later workflow, however, which is no small thing. 

Lastly, but critically, I want to point out that both feature robust if slightly-different muting/muffling features to allow you to quiet certain hashtags, users, etc., which is absolutely essential to a sane Twitter experience in this day and age. I'm not a power-user of these features, since I block people who result in me seeing content I don't want rather mercilessly and outright, but from what I have played around with, you can get some crazy good regex muffling with timed expiration going in Twitterrific in particular (I used a filter somebody posted to block all The Last Jedi spoilers from my timeline for the few days between when that movie came out and when I got to see it, for example; worked wonderfully). Tweetbot's seems a bit simpler as I don't believe it supports regex, just keyword or user muting with the option for a timed expiry, but in general you can clean up your timeline nicely with either app without having to resort to just brute-force blocking via Twitter itself.

So, in the end, I'd recommend either of them, honestly. I enjoy using either of them, it just depends on which one's quirks are bothering me more at the moment. I hope, though, that I've given anyone interested in a dedicated Twitter app an idea of some of the key differences I've found between the two; aside from these two points, they're both incredibly well-designed third-party Twitter apps that make using Twitter a hell of a lot more pleasant than using anything actually built by Twitter itself.

In Progress Review: The Imjin War: Japan's Sixteenth-Century Invasion of Korea and Attempt to Conquer China, by Samuel Hawley

23300153.jpg

This isn't a final review, since I'm still reading this book, but I read a line yesterday that was so damned good I want to get a recommendation out for this book now rather than later.

A scene where a Korean general has realized he is not going to survive, much less win, the battle at hand is described as:

“This is the place where I will die.” It was. And he did.

That's some fantastically concise and correct writing. 

This is a very good book so far, btw. Originally published in 2005, it's back in print as a new edition, and generally considered the best book available on the topic in English (not that there's many to begin with). As a war that's basically unknown in the West, it's fascinating. It's the story of the Japanese warlord/unifier Hideyoshi's attempt to not only conquer Korea, but also China, Vietnam, the other southeast Asian island kingdoms, Spanish Philippines, and, why not, India as well.

He was nothing if not ambitious, particularly since he began this undertaking before he had fully completed conquering all of Japan itself. 

It goes into great detail on how the societies and economies involved were structured at the time, as well as covering the actual military campaigns and events that took place (the naval stuff is particularly bonkers).

It's enjoyable written, fast-moving, and has the nice feature of doing short recaps of previously-covered events inline when the followup events are covered later, a tactic I suspect was purposely chosen by the author to cover the typical Western reader's lack of familiarity with the topic overall. Essentially, the reader needn't struggle to remember all of the important names and places on their own, as he will give you a brief reintroduction when they rejoin the action after their initial appearances. It's a thoughtful touch.

Anyways, it would have to fall off course rather hard for me to turn my current recommendation into a non-recommendation, and there's nothing to indicate that that's going to happen, so if you have any interest in east Asian history or military history but this massive war is somehow still foreign to you, pick this book up. It's intensely fascinating. 

Book Review: Babylon's Ashes by James S. A. Corey

Babylons_AshesA solid entry in the series, but starting to strain the suspension of disbelief that the same six-seven people are constantly at the center of these epochal, shattering moments for humanity. So, on that note, I'm glad that they're moving into the "final" trilogy of The Expanse with the following book, Persepolis Rising. As for THIS book, it brings a generally satisfactory conclusion to the story of Marcos Inaros and his Free Navy's rebellion against Earth/Mars/OPA. I'm basically just glad to see Marcos go away (spoiler, but c'mon, you knew it was coming) because he's a paper-thin caricature of an evil bad guy who was never really developed much beyond being a necessary plot agent. His background with Naomi was rather insubstantial, his relationship with their child almost Darth Vader-ian in its comical abuse... what he did to Earth is genuinely disturbing, and I almost wish they spent more time dealing with the effects of the attacks, but the background info we get via Avasarala does a pretty good job of conveying just how fucked things are.

That said, the fact that the 1300 new worlds and many new colonies that we know are out there spend this entire book basically out of sight entirely is distressing; I get that we have to settle our home solar system's story here, but Jesus Christ do I hope that the final trilogy takes place amongst these new worlds already (I know the first book is already out and thus I could already know if that's what's going on, but I'm saving the entire final trilogy to binge on once it's all released, inshallah).

So, while not quite as cool as the first trilogy (Marcos is no Miller in terms of being Holden's primary foil), Babylon's Ashes does a solid job of fulfilling the usually-difficult mission of wrapping up the middle act of a series. If you've enjoyed the series to this point, I doubt you'll not enjoy this entry as well.