August 28, 2008

Four Twitter clients for Linux

Author: Tina Gasperson

Twitter is a social networking platform that keeps you in conversation by allowing you and your friends to follow each others' updates. The service lets users post and read 140-character updates, called tweets. With Twitter, you can do social networking on the fly, from your mobile phone or at your desktop, from a Web browser or a Twitter client. Twitter clients make the service more usuable by automatically checking for updates from your friends and allowing you to easily post your own updates. I tested four Twitter clients for Linux on a desktop running Ubuntu Hardy Heron.


gTwitter 1.0 is nothing fancy, and that's a good thing. This lightweight, easy-to-install, and easy-to-use Twitter client for GNOME is as simple as it could be. It displays updates from your friends or from the public timeline, which is all Twitter users' updates, automatically, right in the gTwitter application. You can choose to see tweets themselves, or just view a summary of who has updated recently. You post your own updates from the status box at the bottom of the window.

The only thing that might make gTwitter too simple for some is its lack of an option for audible tweet notifications. For others, however, it might be nice to work without hearing a ding every few minutes that tempts you to stop what you're doing and see what's happening on Twitter. If you need to keep up with tweets and the lack of audible notifications is a problem, just set gTwitter to "always on top," instead of the default behavior, which hides the window whenever you click on another window.

Developers say the project, written in Mono/C# and licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2, is still in beta. Direct message viewing and the ability to log tweets are near the top of the development priority list.


Twitux 0.62 is another simple Twitter client for GNOME. It seems a bit quirky on first take; the client refuses to wrap tweets to conform to the size of the window. I had to scroll sideways the first time I ran Twitux. It looked better after a system restart, but it still cut off the right side of any tweets longer than one line.

Even worse, Twitux doesn't have a built-in posting window. Instead, you have to go into the menu options or press Ctrl-N to be able to post. Twitux also doesn't offer an easy way to reply to a tweet, instead forcing you to enter the username you're looking for manually. Most other clients automate the process of replying and sending direct messages.

Twitux does offer a popup notification when you receive new tweets. You can select how often you'd like Twitux to check for new updates, and you can have it check only your friends' updates or only the public timeline. Twitux also has a spellcheck feature that comes in handy if you're concerned about making sure your tweets are spelled correctly.

Twitux is currently buggy, but it will be worth taking another look at when it's no longer in beta.


TwitBin, which is a cross-platform Firefox add-on, sits as a sidebar in your browser, always visible while you're browsing but not getting in your way. TwitBin features a clickable @ by each user's avatar, making it easy to reply to a specific user. It also displays a clickable link to each user's Web site (if available). Like the other clients, you can decide whether to get updates from just your friends or the entire Twitter universe, and you can determine how often you'd like to receive the updates. TwitBin autowraps tweets and shortens links to keep everything nicely formatted in the sidebar. However, you can also enlarge TwitBin up to half the width of your browser window, narrow it to about one-fifth the width, or choose any size in between.

Twitter widget for Opera

For anyone who browses with Opera, the Twitter widget for Opera is the best of the bunch. To install, simply click the Launch button on the widget's page on Enter your login name and password, and you're set.

Opera's Twitter widget looks and works great. You can drag this widget anywhere; it's not confined to the sidebar. You can set it to remain "always on top" or to behave like a normal application window, and you can resize the widget to make it larger.

The Twitter widget for Opera doesn't come with many options, but you don't need many. It checks your friends' updates by default, keeps a record of your updates, and makes it easy to view and create replies and direct messages. Click on a Twitter user's avatar or username, and Opera opens the user's profile page on

The only thing missing from Opera's Twitter client is an automatic link shrinker. Also, you have to keep Opera open or the client will shut down. This one's a keeper, though, and is my Twitter client of choice.


Is there a single best of show among these clients? If you like using Opera, its Twitter widget is my top recommendation. If you're using Firefox, you can't go wrong with TwitBin. gTwitter is a good, general, easy-to-use client. For now, I recommend not using Twitux, but that may change as the application matures.


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