Review: Osfoora for Mac

Osfoora Default Timeline.png

Osfoora Default Timeline.png

I have been a heavy user of Twitter for Mac since it was first released over a year ago. While certainly not perfect, for me, it is the gold standard of desktop Twitter apps. As such, it is impossible for me to be objective when reviewing a new client, as I will inevitably end up comparing it to Twitter for Mac (hereafter Twitter.app), so I’m telling you here and now that I didn’t even try to do otherwise. As a result, much of this review consists of comparisons between Osfoora and Twitter.app, and the best I can hope for is that other long-time Twitter.app users find it useful. So let’s get into it.

UI

Scrolling and animations seem as smooth as Twitter.app, which is no small accomplishment. Switching sections with the keyboard is just as fast as it is in Twitter.app, and the similar sliding drawer animations helped me to feel right at home.

When switching sections, Osfoora does not automatically scroll you to the top. Instead, it keeps your last viewed position intact until you scroll up or down yourself. The exception is if you have “Keep Scrolled to Top (If already at the top)” turned on in the Settings and leave a section with its most recent tweets displayed. I find this better than Twitter.app in some instances (like checking a conversation in Mentions, jumping back to your timeline to view the latest tweets, then jumping back to Mentions without losing your place) and worse in others (when you want to scroll up to the most recent tweets without touching the mouse or hammering on the page up/page down keys).1

Osfoora Keyboard Shortcuts

Osfoora Keyboard Shortcuts

(courtesy of Said Marouf, Osfoora's developer)

Osfoora carries over some of Twitter.app’s most useful keyboard controls, like hitting ⌘1 to go to your timeline, ⌘2 to go to mentions, ⌘3 for DMs, and so on for all the major sections. Similarly, hitting the right arrow key on a highlighted tweet will show you the conversation (if it’s a reply to another tweet) or the user’s profile (if it’s a self-contained tweet). Other controls, like the one for viewing images, are different (right arrow in Twitter.app, Return in Osfoora). Some are not here at all, like the ability to hold down Option and hit the right arrow key while highlighting a tweet to bring up a context menu allowing you to jump to any links, users, or hashtags contained in the tweet. And there is one glaring omission: the ability to open links with a keystroke. Opening links is one of the most frequent things I do with Twitter, and as a heavy keyboard user being forced to take my hands off it to use the mouse to click a link is painful.

General Settings

General Settings

Speaking of things that are painful, I can’t get around the lack of a livestream. I’ve become very accustomed to seeing new tweets and replies instantly appear when using Twitter on my Mac, so having to refresh manually or wait for the auto refresh to kick in feels like a huge step backwards.

Where Twitter.app allows for multiple keys to accomplish the same tasks, Osfoora limits you to one. You can’t use any of the arrow keys to close an image, only Escape. When viewing a conversation, you can’t use Escape to go back to your timeline, only the left arrow. One of Twitter.app’s great accomplishments is how it provides multiple intuitive methods to perform the same actions, and unfortunately Osfoora feels limited in comparison.

Profile  Said Marouf

Profile Said Marouf

Profiles

Unlike Twitter.app, Osfoora does not currently have a way to directly look up user profiles. The only way I have found to find a particular user was to use the Search section, which is messy and indirect as you have to look over a wide swath of tweets and then click (again, no keyboard controls) on the name you want to view.

Upon loading up a user’s profile, I found myself wishing there were Twitter-like keyboard controls to move between different profile sections. As of now, the only way in Osfoora to switch between a user’s tweets, mentions and faves is to use the mouse. On top of that, you have to go back to the user's profile to view a different section, whereas you can switch between them freely in Twitter.app. I also wish that a user’s profile loaded up their tweets underneath by default instead of having to explicitly click on them, the way Tweetbot for iPad and, you guessed it, Twitter.app does.

Two things I do like about Osfoora’s profile views: I like that, unlike Twitter.app, you can see a user’s followers and followees without going to Twitter’s site. And I like that when you look at their mentions, you can view conversations the same way you would on the timeline, so it’s easy to see which mention is replying to which tweet.

Random Quibbles

  • No pull to refresh. A small omission, but one I miss, especially as I have to reload Osfoora manually far more often than I do the live-stream supporting Twitter.app.
  • No gap detection whatsoever.
  • Can’t click on the name of the user who RTed a tweet to view their profile, only the profile of the user who made the tweet.
  • Lacks Twitter.app's ability to collect all related tweets in a conversation, only showing you a chain of one-to-one replies.
  • I wish I could customize the menu bar icon to only glow blue when I have unread mentions or DMs. As of now it also glows whenever new tweets are loaded on your timeline, and there’s no way to change that.
Reply

Reply

  • I don’t like how the default reply action is to only respond to the author of a tweet, and that it requires a separate, more cumbersome shortcut (⌥⌘R as opposed to ⌘R) to reply to all the users mentioned in a tweet. I do like that the tweet you are replying to is displayed directly underneath your reply; that is something I would welcome in Twitter.app.
  • If you click on a user’s profile from a DM conversation, the button to mark all DMs read is visible in their profile, where it can be clicked but does not perform a function.
  • Speaking of DMs, there's no Twitter.app equivalent of ⌘D to DM a user straight from your timeline either. You can only DM another user from your DM section or the user's profile. You also can't hit ⌘R while viewing a DM conversation to send another DM in reply either.
  • Can't drag and drop an image from your computer to a tweet. You have to click the camera button and use the Open File dialogue.
  • Why is there a subscribe button on your own lists (which you are subscribed to by default) that does nothing when clicked?

Things I Liked

  • Tweet Marker support. Works as advertised, and is great for keeping progress in sync with Tweetbot and other Tweet Marker-supporting clients.
  • Instapaper and Read it Later support. Saving links to read later is also something I do a lot of when using Twitter, so having it built-in instead of opening an article and saving it in Safari is a welcome feature. That said, I do wish there were a keyboard shortcut for it.
Inline Image

Inline Image

  • In-line, full size images, including avatars and Instagram. Now that I’ve become accustomed to in-line image previews in Tweetbot, having them in Osfoora felt natural.
  • Quick access to a user’s Favstar page via the gearbox menu on their profile.
  • Pulling down more of my DM history than any other client I’ve seen.
  • Support for muting users (for people you want to follow but whose tweets you may not want to see) and marking users (for people whose tweets you always want to see).
  • Adjustable sidebar. Perfect for Tweetbot for iPad users whether you like to use TweetBot in portrait or landscape orientation (I’m a portrait fan myself).
  • No “Are you sure you wish to discard this tweet?” dialogue when you press Escape on an empty New Tweet window, but still providing one when text has been entered. A small but thoughtful touch.

Bottom Line

Touch navigation is fine on iOS apps because that’s all they have, but the same is not true for the mouse and a good Mac app. Good Mac apps should not only be equally navigable via both the mouse and the keyboard, they should be optimized for the latter. And as you may have noticed from all my complaints about keyboard controls, Osfoora still has a long way to go in that area.

As many developers have lamented, building a new Twitter client is not easy. There are tons of different users with different tastes, a long list of “must have” features, new and evolving services to incorporate, and no end of existing competition. I don’t envy any client-maker their task, nor do I want to unfairly disparage their efforts. But the fact remains that, as Osfoora stands right now, it doesn’t offer enough to provide a worthwhile experience for Twitter.app users to switch, especially when the latter is free.

Osfoora for Mac costs $4.99 and can be found on the Mac App Store.


  1. Unlike Twitter.app, Osfoora currently only supports Page Up and Page Down, so you can’t use ⌘Up or ⌘Down to instantly scroll to the top or bottom of a view.