In iOS, I’m Tweeting with Tweetings
iOS users are fortunate to have a number of choices for Twitter that work quite well. There’s no shortage of Twitter apps, including Twitter’s own official app, that let you read others’ tweets and compose your own.
The Twitter client for iOS that has best met my needs appears to be no longer developed. I’ve been searching for a replacement for some time, because Twitter’s API has continued to evolve. We’re not at the point yet where Tweetlist, my long-time favourite Twitter client, has stopped working, but it may well do so at some point. We are already at the point where Twitter’s API includes some handy new features that aren’t available in Tweetlist.
I’ve hung onto Tweetlist for so long, because it best copes with the way I use Twitter. I enjoy checking into my full Twitter timeline and hanging out from time to time. It’s kind of like coming in and out of a never-ending conversation. But often, reading all my tweets has to be a lower priority than stuff that has to get done. That’s why I make use of Twitter lists. I have a number of them, but the most important is a list called “Priority Tweets”, which contains those followers who tweets I never want to miss. So good list support is a must for me.
The second function I look for in a Twitter client is the ability to return to my place. Some people get around the problems blind people have had in reliably finding the first unread tweet by reading their tweets in newest-to-oldest order. I follow a lot of breaking news sources and accounts from political journalists. Part of the power of Twitter for me is watching a story evolve. I don’t want to do that in reverse chronological order.
Tweetlist does a superb job at returning you to your place, whether you’re looking at your Timeline, mentions or lists.
If it’s necessary for more tweets to be loaded because I haven’t looked at Twitter for a while, I want to be able to load additional tweets and know that VoiceOver focus will be in a place that lets me continue reading chronologically. It’s amazing and frustrating how many Twitter clients have trouble with this in iOS.
Finally, easy shortcuts to do common tasks is a nice feature to have, and Tweetlist is full of handy shortcuts.
Tweetlist hasn’t been perfect. In particular, it’s push notifications only poll Twitter at a pre-set interval, so if you’re reliant on Tweetlist to push you a DM or a mention, it may not be until some minutes after someone sent you a tweet that you get a notification about it.
So whenever a new version of a Twitter client is released that’s known to be accessible, I check it out to see if I would feel comfortable discarding my trusty Tweetlist. Finally, I think I’ve found a worthy replacement.
I first became aware of Tweetings when writing my book, “Tweeting Blind”. A number of Android users spoke positively of its accessibility under Android, and how responsive the developer was to user feedback. I decided to purchase the iOS version and see how it developed.
For various reasons, I felt that like a number of clients I’d tried, Tweetings for iOS had some attractive features, but there was always some little thing that prevented me from making the switch.
Recently, I took yet another look at Tweetings, and if your definition of a good Twitter client is similar to mine, you may consider it worthy of a look yourself.
Tweetings has a conventional looking interface, with five tabs at the bottom of the screen. They are “Home”, “Mentions”, “Messages”, “Search”, and “More”.
Under the “More” tab, you can access your settings, view lists, check out what’s trending, read your favourites and more. An “Edit” button at the top of the “More” screen lets you drag an item to the bottom bar of the app. In my case, I replaced “Search” with my Priority Tweets list. I love having such ready access to it from such a prominent place within the app.
At the moment, this process doesn’t appear to be accessible. When you double-tap and hold an icon that’s movable, VoiceOver normally provides excellent feedback about where the icon is being moved in relation to other icons. VoiceOver gave no such feedback on this screen, and I had to resort to sighted assistance to move my list to a more visible place.
When in the “Home”, “Mentions”, or “Messages” tabs, you can double-tap and hold the tab control at the bottom of the screen to access a shortcut menu. This allows you to mark all tweets as read, scroll to the top, go to the first unread tweet, or scroll to a marker that you may have set with a service like Tweetmarker. This is very well done and seems to work as it should. I can consistently return to the last tweet I read, and continue on.
When reading tweets, Tweetings makes brilliant use of VoiceOver’s action rotor. Swiping down lets you choose from relevant options such as reply, retweet, and a “More” option. There is a range of options in the More screen, including the all-important sharing options, which are now using the standard iOS 8 share sheet. So if you have Instapaper or Pocket installed, sending an article to read later is easy.
I’m particularly pleased with the way the Reply function is implemented. If you’re the only person mentioned in the tweet to which you’re replying, double-tapping reply will open the compose window. If multiple people are mentioned in the tweet, you have the ability to choose to reply to the tweet’s author, or to everyone. The really nice thing is that this extends to retweets as well. So if you are reading a retweet, replying gives you the chance to reply to the person who sent the original tweet, plus the person who retweeted it.
When viewing a tweet, you can see all kinds of data, including how many times the tweet was retweeted, and who did the retweeting. You can also view a Twitter conversation, and a very cool feature lets you merge the timelines of two users. Imagine what fun you could have with that if you’re following two competing candidates on an election day.
When composing a tweet, you have the ability to tweet the music you’re currently listening to. You can geo-tag your tweet, and if you’re concerned about giving out the address from which you’re tweeting, there’s a setting that determines how precise the geo-tag should be. Tweetings offers optional Facebook integration. Once set up, you can choose to post all tweets to Facebook automatically, or post only those tweets you elect to send to Facebook. You can do this from the Compose screen, or by simply adding the #FB hashtag.
You can even schedule a post to be sent later, and in fact Tweetings offers full integration with the Buffer service, which staggers the posting of tweets for you.
Tweetings offers full support for the new Twitter retweet function, which gives you a full 140 characters to comment on a tweet you’re retweeting. This is handled well by VoiceOver when reading tweets.
If you’re the kind of person who loves tweaking, you’ll be in heaven with the Tweetings Settings screen. I’ve never seen a mobile Twitter client with so many configuration options.
You may find that it’s easier to flick through your tweets if you turn off “Timeline separators” in the “Look and Feel” section of Settings. When this is enabled, VoiceOver sees an unlabelled button after every tweet you flick through. It’s superfluous and distracting, but easily taken care of.
Also by default, Tweetings will speak both the full name and the screen name of the person tweeting. I personally find this too verbose, so changed it just to display the user’s full name.
There have been many complaints of late regarding how much space Facebook can consume when certain conditions are met. If you want to make sure Tweetings isn’t keeping things lying around and taking up valuable space, there’s a bunch of cache settings you can look at, which will clear various caches and let you manage them.
A very nice feature of Tweetings is the ability to add a footer to your tweets. It’s good Twitter etiquette to use a hashtag if you’re going to be sending a lot of tweets about the same topic, for example if you run or participate in feedback for an Internet radio show. On The Mosen Explosion, I use the #MosenOnAir hashtag. Tweetings will let you set up this hashtag so it’s appended to the end of every tweet you send. This might also be useful in a business context, where it’s become common for a company employee to sign a tweet with their initials.
If you wish, you can enable Twitter streaming on Wi-Fi only, or both Wi-Fi and cellular connections. This is a feature Tweetlist didn’t implement, and it means your tweets are being updated in real time. Twitter’s API doesn’t support streaming in lists, but you can use the three-finger pull-down refresh gesture in those cases where you’re not using Twitter streaming.
Tweetings offers a full range of filters. From the Settings screen, you can mute hashtags. That’s particularly good if there’s a lot of chatter about a radio or TV show that doesn’t interest you, or a news event where a consistent hashtag is used. You can also mute individual strings or clients. Muting appears to use the new Twitter API mute function. A weakness of muting people on Twitter has been that the rules have been client-specific. Now that Twitter has implemented an official mute function, any muting you do on Tweetings will be respected by the Twitter website and official app, as well as any other Twitter client using the API.
When I first reinstalled Tweetings, push notifications didn’t work for me, despite the test notification behaving correctly. Others reported a similar problem. Yet within about 12 hours of enabling the notifications, they started to work, and have worked well ever since. They seem to be fast. My only criticism with the notifications is that while you appear to be able to reply to a mention from the notification itself, you do not at this point seem to be able to reply to a direct message in the same way.
I’ve also found a few accessibility issues with the profile screen, including following and unfollwoing. I feel confident given how far this client has come, and how frequently it’s being updated, that the issues will be addressed.
A free version of Tweetings, Tweetings Lite, is available, so you can put the app through its paces at no cost. The lite version lacks some features found in the paid version of Tweetings, including support for multiple accounts, lists, and those all-important push notifications.
In short, I’m thrilled with Tweetings. Not only have I found a workable replacement for Tweetlist that meets my usage patterns, it offers some welcome features I didn’t have before.
I look forward to seeing how this client evolves, and congratulate the developer on the good accessibility implementation.