An Overview of Twitter Clients for Linux

Micro-blogging sites are everywhere these days. There's Jaiku, FriendFeed, Pownce, Tumblr, and Identi.ca, to name a few. For many, though, the original micro-blogging site is the best: Twitter. It certainly has the biggest userbase, if nothing else. If you don't know what micro-blogging is and how it is different from regular blogging, check out one of the many online Twitter introductions.

One thing that has helped Twitter become as popular as it has is the Twitter API. For users of Twitter, this ability for nearly any developer to create applications that work with the service means that in addition to posting via a browser or my cell phone, I can post from a score of different Desktop applications.

Here are some of the Twitter applications for Linux. They fall into three groups: native Linux applications, Firefox Extensions, and AIR applications.

Native Applications

Twitux

Twitux is a native Gnome client for twitter. The version that is in the Ubuntu 8.04 repositories is out of date and partially broken, and it may be that way in the application repositories for your distribution, so be sure to check the Twitux home page for the latest version. To install the source, first install required libraries, and then perform the standard "./configure; make; make install" steps. On my Ubuntu 8.04 box this meant doing the following:

sudo
apt-get build-dep twitux
sudo apt-get install libsoup2.4-dev
wget http://downloads.sourceforge.net/twitux/twitux-0.62.tar.bz2
tar -jxvf twitux-0.62.tar.bz2
cd twitux-0.62/
./configure
make
sudo make install

After installation completed there was an entry for Twitux under Applications > Internet. The program can also be launched from the command line with 'twitux'.

Twitux

The user interface for Twitux is spartan yet functional. The various timelines are available under the View menu. The application preferences and account settings can be accessed from the Settings menu. The Twitter menu has options for creating new tweets, sending direct tweets to friends, following someone, and refreshing. As far as I could see, there aren't any options for marking tweets as favorites or re-tweeting a old tweet. To reply to a tweet, you simply double-click it in the timeline.

gTwitter

gTwitter is a Twitter client built using the Mono libraries. If it is not in your distribution's application repository, then it can be downloaded as either source, or a Mono binary from the project website. In order to run or compile gTwitter, you need to have the mono libraries installed. Refer to your distribution's documentation for how to do this. On Ubuntu, installing the needed libraries was automatic as part of the 'apt-get install gtwitter' process. On systems that use Yum, the process should be similarly automated.

gTwitter

gTwitter is even more minimal than Twitux. This is partly due to the application being in beta. But some of the minimalism is on purpose. It eschews a menu bar altogether and forces you to right-click on its notification area icon to get to the Preferences window, for example. Some planned features, such as sending direct messages, are not yet implemented as of this writing. There also does not seem to be a way to reply to tweets at this time. You can do it manually from the chat-like entry box at the bottom of the main window, but a shortcut button of some kind would be nice.

Firefox Extensions

TwitKit, TwitterFox, and TwitterBar

These three extensions let you interact with Twitter right from Firefox. They can all be installed from the Firefox Add-Ons site. TwitKit and TwitterFox offer similar functionality, but in different ways. TwitKit loads as a sidebar. TwitterFox, on the other hand, installs itself as a "t" icon in the right corner of the Firefox status bar. The main window is opened and closed by clicking on the icon. When new tweets arrive, TwitterFox displays them as pop-up messages similar to the pop-up message that appears when a file finishes downloading. Of the two, TwitKit is more fully featured with more timeline views and shortcuts for replying to tweets and marking tweets as favorites.

A trio of Twitter extensions for Firefox.

TwitterBar is an extension that works well alongside any Twitter client. Instead of being a client to read Twitter posts, it provides a simple way to post what website you are currently viewing to your Twitter timeline. What it does is add a small dot to your Firefox location bar. When you hover your mouse over the dot it turns into a plus button. Click on it and you are prompted to enter in your Twitter login information. The URL is then posted to your timeline with "Currently Browsing:" tacked on before the link. For good measure it runs the URL through the TinyURL URL shortening service beforehand so that you don't have to worry about really long URLs getting chopped off due to the 140 character limit of Twitter.

AIR Applications

The rest of the applications I'll be covering are built using Adobe's cross-platform AIR environment. For more on AIR, and how to install it, see "An Introduction to AIR". For whatever reason, AIR seems to be the environment of choice for developing Twitter applications, and the most advanced Twitter applications are found here. They are all installed via the Adobe AIR Application Installer, and all of them work with the Linux Alpha version of AIR.

twitterAIR

twitterAIR is one of the first Twitter applications released using AIR. This is a serviceable app, but somewhat lacking in features when compared to other Twitter clients. With the exception of TweetDeck, it also has the largest screen footprint of any of the Twitter apps I've seen, which may be a good or bad thing depending on your preferences.

twitterAIR

Snitter

This attractive Twitter application is nice looking and has good features, but it is a bit buggy, and crashed on me several times during testing, so I can't recommend it. The instability is likely due to the alpha nature of AIR for Linux, so as new versions of AIR are released, the issues should go away.

Snitter

Tweetr

This is one of the few AIR applications to use native window borders, and the only Twitter AIR client I came across that does so. As such, it will fit in better with native Linux applications. It also has a good mix of features including shortcuts to reply to tweets, and send direct messages. You can also specify in which corner of the screen the pop-up notifications of new tweets appears.

Tweetr

TweetDeck

TweetDeck is a Twitter client for addicts. Instead of viewing a single timeline at a time, this AIR application lets you view them side by side in multiple columns. You can also create custom columns for different people you're following. For example you could create a "Family" group that will just display tweets from family members, an "Office" group that just displays tweets from co-workers, and a "Linux" group that just displays Tweets from Linux-related sites and people who regularly tweet about Linux. 

TweetDeck

TweetDeck is easily the largest Twitter client, screen-real-estate-wise. But it is also one of the most full-featured clients out there. If you are becoming overwhelmed by the number of tweets you're receiving and need some way to make sense of the chatter, TweetDeck is the tool you'll want to use.

twhirl

This is one of my favorite Twitter applications. It is not only one of the most full featured Twitter clients out there, it is also stable and easy to use. Twhirl can also connect to Pownce, Jaiku, Identi.ca, and FriendFeed. It can also connect to your Seesmic account but you can't post videos to it directly from Twhirl.

twhirl

Twhirl includes shortcuts for marking favorite tweets, replying, direct messaging, searching for users, and much more. This is the application to beat and the one I used as the yardstick to compare all of the others.

Posty

Posty is similar to TwitterBar in that it is not designed as a regular Twitter client. Instead it is a program that you use to post to Twitter. It goes a lot further than TwitterBar though. Posty's main trick is that it lets you post to Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, Tumblr, Identi.ca, and FriendFeed simultaneously. This is very useful for those of us who have accounts on two (or more) of these services. You can post to one or all of them by simply checking and unchecking the various services.

Posty

The only downside that Posty currently has is that it forgets my login information when it closes and I have to re-enter it every time I launch it. To be fair, this is not the fault of Posty, but rather an issue with the Linux alpha version of AIR. Specifically, the Linux alpha doesn't support secure local storage, the feature Posty uses for storing passwords properly. Once that feature is added to AIR for Linux I will probably use posty more than I do (and my various micro-blogs will be updated more often as a result). In fact, with the exception of Tweetr, all of the AIR applications mentioned here forget login credentials (username and password, or just the password) when they are closed because they use this missing feature. I guess the real question is, if Tweetr is not saving my password securely the 'standard' way, how is it saving it?

Other Clients

There is something about Twitter that has captured the hearts of developers world-wide. It seems like there is a new Twitter client released or "works-with-Twitter" website or service introduced every other week. Even though I would have liked to include them, there are other Twitter applications out there that for one reason or another could not be in this article. The biggest no-show is Spaz. This open-source AIR application utilizes features of AIR that are not yet supported in the Linux version of the AIR runtime. Because of this, you get the following error message when you try to install it:

Spaz installation error message

The .air file is not actually damaged, it's just that AIR for Linux doesn't know what to do with some of what it sees in the package. This error will go away once the Linux version of AIR reaches feature parity with AIR for Windows and MacOS X. Adobe's time line for this is sometime towards the end of 2008. From what I saw when I tried Spaz for a few minutes on a friend's iMac, it is a very nice Twitter client, as good as Twhirl in nearly all respects.

The Winner?

It's hard to pick a clear winner here.

Of the two native applications, I like Twitux best. It's simple, but it works well. The two Firefox extension clients are OK, but I'm not the type of person who always has Firefox open and in view, so using them regularly is probably not going to happen.

As far as the AIR clients are concerned, my favorite is Twhirl. It has the most advanced set of features of any of the clients and it works with other micro-blogs to boot. I do like TweetDeck, but I'm not enough of a Twitter addict to really make use of all of its features, as fancy as they are.

The two non-clients — TwitterBar and Posty — are both keepers. They work alongside the various Twitter clients instead of directly competing with them. Posty's trick of simulataneously posting to all of my micro-blogs is a real plus.

Give the various clients a try and see which ones you prefer. There's no shortage out there, so you're sure to find something that you like.

______________________

Comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Pino is nice. ;)

Anonymous's picture

Pino is nice. ;)

New Twitter client for Linux

Ben Kevin's picture

There is a new Twitter client which is written in Java, so works in all platforms. Try out TweetTwain, it is free for personal use. There are many interesting features like branding, keyword monitoring, statistics, multiple accounts support, twitter chat etc.

I thank th' writer matey fer

jonline's picture

I thank the writer friend for his writings on your site. I read all of it and i need to read new writings anymore. For the time being, i watched this type of topic on facebook and i liked it so much. In addition, it's one of the rare topics on the site.

See you at a new topic...

I thank th' writer matey fer

jonlinej's picture

I thank the writer friend for his writings on your site. I read all of it and i need to read new writings anymore. For the time being, i watched this type of topic on facebook and i liked it so much. In addition, it's one of the rare topics on the site.

See you at a new topic...

twitter cli client!

vyvyan's picture

http://mike.verdone.ca/twitter/
It's a commandline twitter client. Pretty handy! I use this once in a while 'coz I tweet only when I'm wasting time and then I just open browser and waste my time on many sites including twitter :)

What about security/privacy?

Morgg's picture

There is one aspect about Twitter clients that is not taken care about almost anywhere, and that is security. Most of the Twitter clients I've tested (KDETwitter plasmoid, Twitux, Twitbin, gTwitter...) use plain text communications with Twitter API, sending username+password in cleartext on EVERY UPDATE.

Twitter clearly recommends using SSL for any client, but sadly it seems speed of development and functionality still beats security in today's world.

Do you know of any Twitter clients that use SSL connections? I just found one: Qwit

thanksssssssssss alot i was

darkmist's picture

thanksssssssssss alot i was googling for twitter app for half an hour ... glad i found this

Spaz, No Show?

FredR's picture

Hey Dan,

I'm new to AIR and Twitter but I just installed Spaz with no issues on my Debian Lenny Netbook...

It's good to see it's matured since last August!

-- FLR or flrichar is a superfan of Linux Journal, and goofs around in the LJ IRC Channel

hi

Diyet's picture

It's a bash script that tweets via the command line or via a zenity dialog. It does URL shrinking, too!

chat

Anonymous's picture

For example, if you are tweeting the status of your email server (yes, I have seen it done) and you need to watch that traffic while watching your own personal traffic, then you could have two up (or, in my case, if I have to update a status on a generic account). Does it make it better? Keeps me from having to log in to multiple accounts throughout the day. Your frustration and password tracking levels may very.

Best client I've found so

sagliksorunlari's picture

Best client I've found so far is Gwibber, it supports Jaiku, Facebook, identi.

I prefer

Misafir's picture

I prefer to use RSS feeds in combination with twitter-gx.

Elementler - Kursun

tuba büyüküstün's picture

thanks dirorum bu guzellik icin

Why?

Dwayne's picture

I use twitter quite a bit, however I fail to see the advantage of these applications over going straight to twitter. Did I just miss the features that make these worthwhile?

Advantages

David Lane's picture

One advantage to the non-browser plug-ins is if you don't keep a browser open. A second advantage is if you have multiple accounts you are monitoring or posting to. For example, if you are tweeting the status of your email server (yes, I have seen it done) and you need to watch that traffic while watching your own personal traffic, then you could have two up (or, in my case, if I have to update a status on a generic account). Does it make it better? Keeps me from having to log in to multiple accounts throughout the day. Your frustration and password tracking levels may very.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

Simpletwitter

postlude's picture

I personally like the simpletwitter screenlet. It's, well... very simple, which is a Good Thing IMO:

What about Gwibber?

Martin Garibaldi's picture

Best client I've found so far is Gwibber, it supports Jaiku, Facebook, identi.ca and others alongside Twitter.

I prefer mitter

Anonymous's picture

I prefer mitter

KDEtwitter is missing

Andrej Novak's picture

My favourite one is missing: the KDEtwitter Plasma applet for KDE 4.

twitter-gx

Colin Dean's picture

Most of these are hardcore twitter applications which sit in the background, consuming memory.

I prefer to use RSS feeds in combination with twitter-gx.

It's a bash script that tweets via the command line or via a zenity dialog. It does URL shrinking, too!

White Paper
Linux Management with Red Hat Satellite: Measuring Business Impact and ROI

Linux has become a key foundation for supporting today's rapidly growing IT environments. Linux is being used to deploy business applications and databases, trading on its reputation as a low-cost operating environment. For many IT organizations, Linux is a mainstay for deploying Web servers and has evolved from handling basic file, print, and utility workloads to running mission-critical applications and databases, physically, virtually, and in the cloud. As Linux grows in importance in terms of value to the business, managing Linux environments to high standards of service quality — availability, security, and performance — becomes an essential requirement for business success.

Learn More

Sponsored by Red Hat

White Paper
Private PaaS for the Agile Enterprise

If you already use virtualized infrastructure, you are well on your way to leveraging the power of the cloud. Virtualization offers the promise of limitless resources, but how do you manage that scalability when your DevOps team doesn’t scale? In today’s hypercompetitive markets, fast results can make a difference between leading the pack vs. obsolescence. Organizations need more benefits from cloud computing than just raw resources. They need agility, flexibility, convenience, ROI, and control.

Stackato private Platform-as-a-Service technology from ActiveState extends your private cloud infrastructure by creating a private PaaS to provide on-demand availability, flexibility, control, and ultimately, faster time-to-market for your enterprise.

Learn More

Sponsored by ActiveState