Saturday, 24 May 2008

After my TwitterBerry review (it’s only O.K.), a friend suggested trying TinyTwitter by…well…TinyTwitter it seems. You can get it for Windows Mobile Pocket PC, Windows Mobile Smartphone, as well as older and newer Java enabled smartphones (MIDP 1.0 and 2.0).

This one seems to have gotten almost everything right. The main screen is your friend timeline. It shows them in reverse chronological order (newest at the top) with their respective icons and it shows the whole tweet. Moving between messages is easy, just scroll down the list to work backwards in time — no selecting necessary. In fact, if you select the message, it will show you a details screen, but you’ll find that everything was right there on the main screen in the first place.

Sending a reply is easy too. Just highlight the message, pop up the menu (with either select or the menu key on my Blackberry Pearl), and choose reply. It automatically fills in the @username part and you’re good to go.

The entry screen is otherwise straightforward. What more do you need than a place to type your message and hit send? There are two things I would like to see and really they’re just minor changes:

  1. When replying to someone else’s tweet, put the cursor after their @username so you can just start typing. It’s annoying to have to scroll over first. One could argue that leaving the cursor at the start makes it easy to fill in an instruction (d for direct message, follow or nofollow to control your friends list, etc.), but 99% of the time I’m not doing that. Generally replies are intended not only for whom they are directed, but the “room” at large.
  2. Add a character counter. The first line on the update screen only says “What are you doing?” (the ever-present Twitter question); there’s plenty of space to add a character counter so you know how much space you have left. Or use some of the other screen real estate, it’s not like 140 characters is going to fill things up.

The settings are easy to access and fairly straightforward. I’m not sure why there isn’t one “settings” area with sub-sections like most Blackberry applications, but the full menu is only a tiny annoyance. In the UI Settings you can turn on/off images, tell TinyTwitter to play a sound when you get a new direct message, and disable the last tweet ticker at the bottom of the main screen.

Under Sync Settings, there are similarly few choices. Just how often you want TinyTwitter to fetch updates. Never, 4 (the programmer’s favorite), 15, 30, or 60 minutes. I’d like to see this become more flexible, allowing for any user-selectable time here.

Finally there’s a section for Font Settings where the choices are small, medium, and large. Not that this choice actually seems to do anything. I haven’t experimented enough to see if this is an artifact of my overall Blackberry settings (I tend to use a pretty small font) or just something goofy about TinyTwitter, but I can live with it.

The final weird thing is that direct messages don’t show up in your friend timeline, but rather you have to go to a special screen called “Inbox” to see them. The Inbox also shows any replies sent your way via the normal @username thing. Kind of strange, but I can live with it.

It may seem like I’m nit-picking TinyTwitter to death, and perhaps I am, but it comes from love. In just a few days I’ve grown to really like TinyTwitter and would highly recommend it. At least on my Blackberry it completely kicks Twitterberry’s butt. That whole IM and RSS reader combo thing I was doing before? What on earth was I thinking!