Although Linux systems can, of course, handle the same browser-based Twitter clients as other operating systems, some users may prefer desktop clients.
There are a number of reasons for this: Local clients integrate with your system to provide a better notification experience, it's easier to access an application in the system tray compared to the one sandwiched between browser tabs and you have more control over your application environment.
Linux users who prefer local clients have a number of applications to choose from -- including a few that are new. In this article, I examine five free Twitter applications for Linux: Birdie, Choqok, Polly, Turpial and TTYtter.
I tested each on a desktop computer equipped with an AMD Sempron 145 processor and 1.7GB RAM, using 32-bit Ubuntu version 13.10.
Each client has its strengths and weaknesses: Some offer a great selection of features, others have a fine user interface. Is there a one that strikes just the right balance? Read on.
First released in March 2013 and developed by Ivo and Vasco Nunes, Birdie is a comparative newcomer. It is an open-source application built using GTK+ and GLib, and is licensed under version 3 of the GNU General Public License (GPLv3).
You can download and install Birdie using the instructions provided on its official website. While Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, elementary OS and Arch Linux users can directly download premade packages, other users can download the source code and install the app accordingly.
The last update -- version 1.1 -- was a maintenance release that, according to its developers, fixed a few bugs, updated language translations and added better thumbnail support. Developers are working on a new and significant upgrade for version 2.0, but they don't yet have a specific date for its release.
What's good about it
Birdie has a nice, uncluttered user interface that focuses solely on tweets. Like Choqok, the client also has icon-based timeline tabs, but places them at the top of the window. It supports multiple accounts, image uploading, auto-completion for user names and hashtags, direct (private) messaging and Twitter user lists.
A click on a Twitter handle displays the complete profile related to that account. Because the profile looks like a webpage, it makes it easy for you to unfollow, add or block the Twitter account.
You can easily retweet, reply or mark a tweet as favorite, using corresponding icons that appear when you hover the mouse pointer over the timestamp displayed on the right corner of each tweet block. The client also has the ability to display inline images.
At present, Birdie has several limitations -- although none of them are showstoppers. For example, the tweet compose box does not include an option to change accounts, and it pops up as a separate window. Imgur is the only image uploading service supported. There is no built-in URL shortener or auto spell checker. Also, the client isn't very configurable -- for example, it doesn't provide options to choose a custom browser or configure the update frequency interval.
The application has a smooth user interface but lacks advanced features and customization options, especially when compared to clients like Choqok. The fact that it has become popular despite being so new is impressive, but the reality is that in its current form, the client is average at best.