While the general trend with Twitter clients is to add support for more and more services, there are some programs that emphasize simplicity. MetroTwit is one such client, focused on delivering a streamlined Twitter experience with a stunning visual interface.
A Bold Visual Style
That visual quality is immediately striking. Based on Microsoft’s Metro design language, MetroTwit uses a minimal style with bold, clear lines. There are two themes available: the default uses black text on a white background, while the dark theme features light text on a black background.
Both are highly readable, and sleeker in appearance than most desktop Twitter clients. MetroTwit also allows you to customize the accent color for the bar at the top of the display, and uses distinct colors for usernames, hashtags, and links.
Beyond the obvious visual surface, MetroTwit offers numerous other customization features. You can control whether the program automatically scrolls to the top of columns or stays at the last read tweet until moved, whether usernames or real names (or both) are displayed with tweets, and how times are shown.
Flawed Pop-Up Notifications
The pop-up notifications exhibit a similar minimalism, displaying just the username and the tweet. Unfortunately, this is one area where the programmers carried this aesthetic too far: there are no options for replying or retweeting from within the pop-ups. You always have to return to the main program for those options.
Another major flaw in the notifications is that there’s no way to page through multiple tweets. The program automatically cycles through them, and while you can adjust the length of time they display, there’s no way to go forward or back. This is a major deficiency that needs to be addressed.
Flexible Tweet Interaction Options
But within the program itself, MetroTwit is as flexible as any of the big-name Twitter clients. Mousing over a user’s display picture in a tweet brings up three main options: reply to all, retweet, and direct message. The retweet button allows you to select between Twitter’s native retweets and old-style retweets by default.
Right-clicking brings up a menu of additional options. You have to go to this menu for a single-user reply, and you can also copy a tweet, translate it if it’s in a different language, or favorite it (there’s also a star in the corner, just as on Twitter itself, for the last option).
Columns and Pop-Up Displays
By default, MetroTwit displays three columns: your timeline, replies, and direct messages. As with other Twitter clients, you can add columns to this initial lineup, including searches, user profiles, favorites, your own tweets, your retweets, and the public timeline.
There’s a button at the bottom of the program to the left of the tweet entry window for adding columns, but it isn’t the only method. If you click on a username, their profile displays in a pop-up window that can be turned into a column by way of a pin icon in the upper right corner. The same applies to Twitter lists.
MetroTwit also has a pop-up display for trending topics, though for some reason these can’t be added as a permanent column. It uses the same descriptions from What the Trend as TweetDeck, and clicking on a topic name brings up search results for that trend.
Limited Media Options
MetroTwit supports picture uploading through TwitPic or YFrog, but doesn’t display media previews in the stream or offer any video uploading options. Link shortening support is set to Bit.ly by default, but several other options are available, and Bit.ly account holders can link their account to MetroTwit.
While MetroTwit doesn’t offer real-time updating of the sort found in TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop 2, its API management is efficient enough that updates still feel fast- the pace is about the same as on the Twitter web site. The program does a good job of automatically managing API usage, but also allows for user customization in this area.
A Lack of Power User Features
In its current state, MetroTwit is lacking a number of power user features. It only supports one Twitter account at a time, and it only provides limited options for managing your follower list- you can unfollow from user profiles, but you don’t get notifications of new followers as in TweetDeck or Seesmic.
It also hides the block and report spam options- both are available by right-clicking on user profiles, but you have to find that out through experimentation. Again, the program’s minimalism works against it here- it wouldn’t be too hard to add buttons for these features that would fit with the overall MetroTwit look.
MetroTwit allows you to post tweets longer than 140 characters through TwitLonger, but the feature isn’t as smooth as TweetDeck’s Deck.ly, which allows long tweets to be viewed directly in that client with no external links.
The short URL preview feature in MetroTwit also falls short. It works fine with standard Bit.ly and Ow.ly links, but doesn’t work with custom short URL’s (even ones shortened with Bit.ly) or even Twitter’s t.co links.
But since MetroTwit is still in beta (the current version is 0.6.1.0), it’s hard to be overly critical of what it lacks. As it stands, it’s remarkably polished for a beta, and its aesthetic approach is appealing. It just needs a few additional features to be a real competitor for the major Twitter clients.