Since I started using Twitter on a regular basis, I felt overwhelmed by the endless stream of data generated by the people I was following.
The official Twitter page quickly became inadequate to manage my tweets, so I began to search for an alternative through the myriad of Twitter clients available out there, both web and desktop based. After trying out a few desktop clients, I decided to restrict the search to web clients only: between work and home, I may use up to 4 different computers and 3 different operating system, and I really didn’t fancy the idea of keeping the same client up-to-date everywhere — even if such client existed.
Over the past months I tried dozens of different web-based Twitter clients, and narrowed the list of must-have features to the following:
- The interface should be simple to use and not too cluttered.
- I should be able to categorize tweets in columns (à la TweetDeck).
- I should be able to know, when visiting the site, how many new tweets I have to go through.
- I should be able to mark tweets as read.
- It should display media files (at least pictures) inline with the tweets.
- The interface should provide all the most common twitter actions like reply, retweet, follow/unfollow, shorten url, upload pictures etc. etc.
The good news is that I found at least one web-based client able to do all this: JournoTwit.
JournoTwit was born – as many software projects – to scratch an itch:
Probably the last thing anyone was expecting me to do — even myself, was to create my own twitter client. However, I’ve been a little fed up with not having the features I wanted and running 5 or 6 accounts, I was getting annoyed at using several different applications just to have them logged in concurrently. […] In under 24 hours I put together a twitter client that functioned enough for me to call it my one and only. A few more days and I added in enough features that I felt it was good enough for public consumption. It is however, not perfect and I have plenty of improvements on my to do list for it.
JournoTwit’s introductory post by Andrew Spode Miller (@spode)
After months of public consumption, JournoTwit became a feature-packed Twitter client able to compete with a lot of mainstream alternatives – albeit remaining always relatively unknown to the masses. You can call it a niche Twitter client, able to satisfy a few basic needs:
- The ability to manage multiple Twitter accounts at once.
- The ability to categorize all incoming tweets automatically, according to the type of information within them.
- The ability to keep track of unread tweets.
These three features alone were enough to make JournoTwit my one and only Twitter client. And no, it’s not only for journalists and writers.
After logging in, JournoTwit looks like this:
Note: I am using the edge version of JournoTwit, a sort of development snapshot with the latest features.
At the top, some more-or-less intuitive icons allow you to perform all the most common global actions:
- Manual refresh
- Mark all columns as read
- Add new columns
- Quick search
- Edit settings
Next to this global toolbar, there’s a list of links, each corresponding to a column. Clicking a link toggles the visibility of the corresponding column.
In each column, tweets are displayed in different column according to their state:
You can select one tweet at a time by clicking the + icon. This toggles the tweet-specific actions:
- Send a direct message
- Save as favorite
Pretty intuitive and easy to use, so far.
When you login, you’ll notice that all your tweets are not presented in the traditional, disorganized single-column stream layout. Instead, they are sorted automatically into different columns, according to their type:
- My Feed
- All the tweets you sent. By default, this column is minimized.
- All tweets containing your username without the “@”, i.e. every time someone mentions you sneakily, without sending you a reply.
- All the direct messages you sent and received.
- All the tweets containing your twitter username (with “@”), such as replies to your tweets.
- All the tweets posted by people you follow that do not contain any link or cannot be categorized through other columns.
- All the tweets posted by people you follow containing links to articles or non-multimedia web pages.
- All the retweets posted by people you follow.
- All the tweets posted by people you follow containing links to pictures or videos. Where possible, media is displayed inside the tweet.
- Same as above, but for audio items.
- Attempts to collect all conversations involving you or people you follow.
Surprisingly, these default columns are enough to make your Twitter experience easier and more manageable, without configure a single setting. They’re obviously not perfect: some images are not resolved automatically, for example, but it works well otherwise.
Still this may not be enough for your needs or maybe simply not the right thing. No problem: JournoTwit is extremely flexible when it comes to organizing and sorting out your tweets.
Adding new columns
All columns except for Mentions and Messages can be modified as you see fit. These two columns cannot be modified simply because there’s nothing you need to modify it, if you think about it. But they can be deleted, of course (and re-created in a blink, if you delete them by mistake).
Let’s go through the slightly geeky process of creating a column.
When you click the Add New Columns icon on the top-left corner you’ll be prompted to further clarify whether you want to add a…
- Set of Columns: i.e. the default columns provided by journotwit or a single column containing all the tweets. Useful if you mess things up and you want to start over again.
- Preset Column: choose from many different columns according to your needs, from different tweet types to memes (#followfriday, #musicmonday, etc.).
- Custom Column: create your own personal column, according to your specific needs.
Because the overwhelming majority of my readers is composed by geeks, I’ll just describe how to create a custom column, so that you can fully understand the power of this tool, in the right hands.
Adding a custom column
The creation of a custom column doesn’t take long, but there are quite a few things you can configure. First off, you have to specify whether you want the column to collect local or global tweets: local means the people you follow, while global means everyone on the planet. Simple enough.
Then comes the juicy geeky part: search terms and tags. Simply type a valid Twitter Search query in the textbox, so something like this:
from:jonobacon OR #ubuntu -jaunty
…will hopefully fetch all tweets posted by @jonobacon or tweets about Ubuntu, but not related to the Jaunty Jackalope release. You can also add more text box and thus perform more search queries within the same column.
Then you can filter by tweet type, enabling or disabling Statuses, Visual, Links, Audio, ReTweets and Chatter. Useful to remove the noise (if you follow @brentspiner, make sure you disable ReTweets…).
Finally, you only have to configure a few more settings:
- Whether you want to be alerted with a beep when there are new tweets in this column.
- Whether you want the column to display tweets, a tag cloud or even an image slideshow.
- The name of the column.
That’s all. Simple enough. As a side note, the “No-Mention” column is nothing but a custom column in disguise: if you try to edit it, you’ll see it’s nothing but a search for “username -@username -from:username”.
Other features and advanced settings
For the tweakers, JournoTwit also exposes the a set of global settings you can modify to enhance your experience or disable annoying behaviors (depends how you look at it):
- Unhide column when new tweets arrive? (default: yes)
- Hide columns on Mark as Read? (default: yes)
- Play alert sounds? (default: yes)
- Animate when new items arrive? (default: yes)
- Default #hashtags and search bar to a local search? (default: no)
- Ignore Tag Coulds when marking all as read? (default: yes)
- Ignore Slide Shows when marking all as read? (default: yes)
- Warn when deleting columns? (default: yes)
- Automatically translate tweets using Google Translate? (default: no)
- Show “Did You Know?” messages on refresh? (default: yes)
- Slide show transition time(s) (default: 5)
If you are unsatisfied by JournoTwit’s default look and feel, you can change the fond size, the color theme (there are 18 possible choices) and even match the color of the icons with the current theme.
Straight from the contextual help:
“Here you globally black list a #hashtag, such as #microsoft, or a search phrase such as “Windows 7”. Remember to separate them with a space and that you can block on a per column basis too."
This is just what you need when you want to filter out pointless tweets. Use with care though!
Maybe it’s just me being a geek, but I think JournoTwit nailed it when it comes to making Twitter more productive: everything just works, and fast, unlike some of its more feature-boasting competitors. I have been using it on a daily basis for weeks, and I’ve never missed a single tweet since (unless I explicitly wanted to do so).
That being said, there are a few small features I’d like to see:
- I’d like to be able to mark single tweets, not entire columns, as read. In this way, when I go on vacation and come back, I can catch up with unread tweets more gradually, like I do with Google Reader.
- I’d like to use shortcut keys to navigate the interface, like with Google Reader.
- I’d like to configure tweets so that they only show up in one column, not in more than one (for example in Chatter, My Feed, and Mentions at the same time).
- Support for Twitter Lists…
I already told @spode about some of these, and he said he’ll look into it, we’ll see what happens. Anyhow, just give it a try, and see if you like it!