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Kiwi: The best Mac Twitter client yet

As you’ll know if you follow me or this blog on Twitter, I’me a voracious Twitterer. I also can’t stand Adobe Air applications, which means that my options for Twitter applications are somewhat limited.

There’s a few around, of course. Tweetie is good, but hasn’t been developed for a little while and lacks support for “modern” Twitter features like lists and native retweet. Echofon has a lot going for it, but its support for multiple accounts is limited and, I find, a bit frustrating. And Socialite frustrates me, as it often seems to make my Mac show the beach ball of doom.

Looks matter

Given this, I’m quite surprised that Kiwi managed to evade me for so long. In its default state, Kiwi looks lovely – and you can skin it to make it look like pretty-much anything you like, too. Themes are created using HTML and CSS, so even non-coders like me can create something unique if they so wish.

Kiwi timeline

Kiwi timeline view

But Kiwi is a lot more than a theme-able simple Twitter client. At its core is a concept that will be confusing at first, as it’s called “Accounts”. But Kiwi accounts don’t simply mirror Twitter accounts: Each one in Kiwi can contain multiple Twitter accounts which then appear in the same timeline.

What’s the point of this? First, if you have multiple accounts for home and work, it allows you to keep them separate without having to have numerous columns dominating the screen. For example, I have both ianbetteridge and technoviablog (personal Twitter accounts for me and my blog), and accounts which I have access to for work purposes. Kiwi allows me to keep them apart easily.

The power of accounts and rules

If that was all Kiwi could do, I’d have stumped up the $9.99 in an instant. But Kiwi accounts are more powerful than this, because each account can also contain Twitter searches on any keyword, plus the timeline of specific Twitter accounts. For example, I have set up a Kiwi account which lists all mentions of “#gtd” and “omnifocus”, as well as listing all the tweets from and to GTD founder David Allen.

Screen shot 2010-02-08 at 21.44.54.png

Kiwi Accounts Window

Accounts are displayed in a little floating window, which you can set to sit on top of all other windows on your Mac if you want. The window shows whether you have unread items in each account, and you can set how you’re notified of new tweets on a per-account basis. So, for example, I have the account which includes my personal Twitter streams set to show me new replies and direct messages, while other accounts just display a little red dot next to the account in the floating window. This flexibility means you’re never interrupted by things which aren’t important to you.

Kiwi accounts thus give you a fantastically powerful tool for following specific topics on Twitter. But it also means some of your Accounts – particularly ones which include searches for common keywords – could get very busy indeed.

Thankfully, Kiwi has an answer to this: Rules. Set in the preferences, rules let you use regular expressions to filter tweets, either highlighting them with colours, marking them as read automatically, or – most powerful of all – hiding them. For example, if I want to search for every mention of “iPhone” but want to avoid tweets comparing it to Android, I can set up an Account which includes a search for “iPhone”, followed by a rule which hides all tweets mentioning “android”. Job done!

There is, however, a small but important limitation to this: Rules are applied to every account. This means, in my example above, tweets in all my Accounts which mention Android would get hidden, rather than just my iPhone search account. Hopefully this is something that will be expanded on in the future.

What’s missing?

What doesn’t Kiwi have? At the moment, the biggest missing item is support for lists, something that will be included a little further down the development line. There’s also little in the way of account management capabilities: You can follow someone who appears in your timeline that you’re not following, but you can’t unfollow from the timeline.

Although there’s support for Bitly URL shortening, at present you can’t link this to a specific Bit.ly account, so you don’t get the benefit of full tracking of stats either.

With most clients, for me, this would be a deal-breaker. But the power of the accounts and rules features, coupled with complete control over notifications and an interface that just works exactly how I’ve dreamed a Twitter client would make Kiwi a winner. If you want a powerful Twitter client and aren’t keen on Air, it’s well worth the low price.

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