8 free Twitter clients for better tweeting

Get a lot more functionality out of Twitter with one of these tools.

Mixero v. 0.51.3

While most Twitter clients seem to be standardizing with an interface that uses columns to help users follow multiple feeds, Mixero is experimenting with something a bit different: a set of panels that let you quickly switch among your feeds and searches. This beta desktop client may not work for everyone, but with a bit more development from the Mixero team, it could be something really outstanding.

What does it do? Mixero's interface offers the user three panels. The left panel shows the specific feed you're watching. The right panel has two tabs. The first lets you browse through your list of contacts and send each a private message, follow their feeds, or assign them to groups. The second lists your "channels" -- feeds that you have saved, such as keyword searches, user groups, etc. You create a channel by generating a feed in the left panel and double-clicking on a "Create channel" icon; after you name it, specify how often it will refresh, and choose an icon for it, the feed becomes a channel.

This is where the center panel, which is called the ActiveList, comes in. By double-clicking on a channel, you put its icon in the ActiveList. After that, all you have to do is click on the icon, and the feed is visible in the left panel; click on another icon, and that feed is active instead. (You can monitor how many new tweets have appeared in each channel; the numbers appear next to each icon.)

You can hide either the left or right panels if you wish. Each tweet includes icons that allow you to retweet, reply, etc. You can filter each feed using keywords. Your own icon sits on top of the ActiveList; little icons clustered around it (that look like cartoon voice balloons) let you look at your replies or your direct messages.

Besides Windows PCs and Macs, Mixero also works with Linux-based computers, and according to the Web site, an iPhone version is in the works.

What's cool about it? This is an outstandingly slick interface, especially when you consider that it's still very much in beta. It's clean, easy to understand and attractive; while you can't follow several feeds simultaneously like you can in other clients, you can flip from one to another with ease. You can even create what Mixero calls a "context" -- a set of active channels. For example, you can have one context with all your business channels, and another with all your entertainment channels.

But the item that made me say "Hey, cool!" was Mixero's "Avatars mode," which you access by clicking on Mixero's symbol (which looks like an old-fashioned blade fan). Your Twitter avatar and the icons of any channels you're following immediately dart over to the right-hand side of your display, where they stay visible but out of the way; the rest of the application disappears. When a number appears on an icon indicating how many new tweets there are, you can hover over the number to see the tweets, or click on the icon to bring Mixero up again.

What needs to be fixed? While you can quickly switch from feed to feed, the fact that you can't view more than one simultaneously may be a problem for some users. (You can open one or more feeds in separate windows, but this felt awkward to me.) And as of yet, while you can follow multiple Twitter accounts, there is no way to follow a Facebook account.

Finally, Mixero is currently in invitational beta mode; if you become a Mixero follower, the company will send you an invitation. The system is a bit awkward -- I had to send for a second invitation because my version didn't want to update.

Final verdict: Mixero is very much a project in development, so expect new features and changes before it stabilizes. Right now, this has the potential to be an incredibly useful and innovative Twitter client -- if the creators can add the features it needs without weighing it down.

PeopleBrowsr Beta RC 1.19

PeopleBrowsr is a Web-based client that tries to be all things to all people; not only does it perform the usual tasks such as enabling delayed tweets and re-tweeting, but it offers a multitude of other features.

What does it do? Practically everything -- which can be a bit confusing if you don't need it to do practically everything. You can choose from three different modes. Lite is the simplest of the three but still lets you create a variety of different feeds organized into columns, which PeopleBrowsr calls PostStacks. A menu on the left side of your window (called a Quickstrip) offers the ability to click on several categories, including Followers or Searches.

Advanced mode is more feature-filled. Instead of the Quickstrip (which is still accessible if you want it), all your features are accessible by a multitude of icons that you can place at the top of your window, at the bottom or within your feeds. You can create and send to groups of users (PeopleBrowsr makes it relatively easy by offering you a checklist of all your followers); schedule your tweets and open re-tweet reports for any search. A box at the bottom of your main feed lets you sort it alphabetically or by number of followers, and more.

Business mode has a cleaner interface than Advanced mode; its standard interface shows you each tweet on a separate line, with each tweet no more than two lines. You can sort and filter by a variety of criteria -- for example, you can choose to see only tweets that include links or sort for the number of followers each user has. However, while it's easier to read, the two-line maximum means that each tweet stretches to fill your window, so if you have more than one PostStack, you have to mouse over to each, which can be inconvenient.

What's cool about it? It's nearly impossible to list all the features that PeopleBrowsr offers. Besides the features already mentioned, you can search within, and post to, a number of social networking services such as Facebook and FriendFeed. You can follow somebody simply by clicking an icon in their tweet. And you can use a "Helicopter View," which lets you watch the top tweet on each of your stacks simultaneously. You can open a pop-up that shows your own stream, your profiles for the services you belong to, and what tags you can be found under. You can even find out which tweets are within a certain area (for example, I was able to find out how many tweets about "e-book readers" originated within 300 miles of London).

The emphasis here is more or less on marketing, to the point that PeopleBrowsr offers to "make your group viral" by creating a hash tag using the group name, creating a message that asks people to retweet the message in order to join that group, and then automatically adding to that group all those who do actually retweet.

What needs to be fixed? Remember when people used to make jokes about amateur publishers who had just discovered desktop publishing software? Their documents would be so full of different typefaces, colors, sizes, what have you -- you know, the typical ransom-note style -- that you didn't know where to look first. That's PeopleBrowsr. Even at its simplest -- the Lite version -- the interface is pretty busy; when you get up to the Advanced mode, the crowd of colors and icons makes it difficult to concentrate on the tweets.

PeopleBrowsr tries to make things easy for you at the outset; when you first sign in, it asks you to mark off your various social networks and then guesses what topics you might be interested in. And yes, each icon has a rollover explanation. But all the noise makes it difficult to concentrate on what you're actually working on.

Final verdict: PeopleBrowsr offers a vast number of features (as I type this, I keep finding more) for those who are serious about their Twitter use. Many of these features are interesting and can be very useful for marketing workers and others who use Twitter for professional purposes. Its only drawback is that there's so much going on that it's difficult not to be overwhelmed.

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Barbara Krasnoff

Computerworld (US)
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