Review: 8 free Twitter clients for better tweeting

Get a lot more functionality out of Twitter with one of these tools.

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TwitScoop

TwitScoop is where you go when you want to see what everybody else is talking about -- it keeps a constant eye on the Twitter zeitgeist and keeps you appraised of what the top topics are through a dynamic, constantly shifting map.

What does it do? You start by giving it access to your Twitter account. My first impression was that it's a glorified version of Twitter's page -- a straightforward friend feed on the left side of the page updates every minute or so. But it's what's on the right side that's important: a constantly shifting text cloud of what Twitizens are talking about.

What's cool about it? Curious about what a trend's about? Hover your cursor over one of the floating phrases in the text map, and you get a pop-up with the last few tweets that use that phrase. Want to follow the trend? Click on it and you're now following it in the feed on the left. Want to follow more than one trend? Click on the others, and you now have tabbed pages on the left, each following a different trend.

Or just sit and watch the text cloud change -- words grow and shrink in size, depending on their popularity in the Twitterverse. One word can dominate the field for hours (for example, when Twitter went down on the morning of August 6, the words hacked and hacker were the big winners until midafternoon). Others can appear, grow and then disappear in a matter of moments (usually indicating spam). For wandering Twitizens, an iPhone version is available.

What needs to be fixed? Not much, as long as you take TwitScoop for what it is -- a view of the moment's Twitter trends.

TwitScoop

TwitScoop

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Final verdict: TwitScoop is a great place to catch trends and news. If that's why you're on Twitter, this is where you need to be.

Twitterfall

Twitterfall was my first Twitter client, and so I have a fond feeling about it. It is a good "first" to have -- it gives you a real sense of how Twitter works and lets you read all those tweets as they hit the ether. It's also an excellent way to monitor current Twitter trends.

What does it do? The aptly named Twitterfall Web site drops each tweet from the top of the screen; as the next tweet comes, it pushes the one before it down. All this gives you the impression of a continuing drip, drip, drip of people sending out their tweets.

Twitterfall's main purpose is to help you keep track of trends; the latest ones are listed on the right side of the screen, and you can check as many you want to watch (or all of them, if you're a glutton for punishment). You can also create your own search and/or include the Twitter accounts you are personally following. The tweets can be color-coded so that you can easily find your personal tweets among the others; for example, you can make the trends gray, your personal search brown, and your followed accounts green.

A Settings box on the right side of the window lets you change the speed, type of animation, number of tweets and other features. A version is available for the iPhone.

Twitterfall

Twitterfall

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What's cool about it? Watching each tweet drop from the heavens and make its way down to the bottom is almost hypnotic.

What needs to be fixed? In the end, while Twitterfall is cool, it's really is more of a stunt than a practical way to follow your tweets. Even with the color coding, mixing the tweets from different sources/searches isn't really a practical way to view them.

Final verdict: Twitterfall is a fun Web app and worth playing with, especially if you want to watch today's hot topics flash before your eyes, but if you use Twitter as a more practical social networking tool, this isn't for you.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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