Tool review: Aeries for twitter


A bunch of years ago, I did some comparisons between popular twitter applications. My choice at the time was MetroTwit, which looked great and had lots of well-thought-out features. I eventually paid for the “Plus” version which removed all advertising and allowed you to deal with multiple twitter accounts.

But a few years ago, the guys who developed MetroTwit suddenly quit due to changes in Twitter’s policies on users. Luckily the app continued to work, but new features supported by twitter were not integrated into the application. So when Twitter started removing links and user account names from the 140 limit, MetroTwit tried to handle it as best it could but sometimes I had to go directly to the Twitter web site to see the full text of a tweet or continue a conversation. It would also notify me of mentions but sometimes I didn’t get notified of retweets. None of these problems was a big deal and I continued to use MetroTwit.

But recently, Twitter expanded the tweet length to 280 characters from 140, and now a much larger percentage of the tweets I see in MetroTwit are truncated with a link to the web site to see the rest. This has made the app basically unusable, so I need a replacement. Using the twitter web page directly isn’t as bad as it used to be, but being able to split the timeline into columns is invaluable so I really need an app.

After some googling, I came across one called Aeries, described simply as “the best Twitter client for Windows”. One of the first drawbacks of this app is the lack of any trial software, meaning that in order to see what it’s like you have to buy it. It’s $3 or something, so not a big deal, but it would have been nice to try it out first.

One of Aries’s features is the ability to customize how it looks – font size, image size, colours, stuff like that. But it seems to me that basic functionality was skipped while they worked on customization.

Pros

  • It does look great and the ability to customize font and image sizes and such is very nice. I just don’t think that should come at the expense of basic functionality.
  • When you leave the app running for a while, or minimize it, it keeps each column (roughly) where it was when you last looked, and updates the unread count for each one as new tweets arrive. You can then scroll up to see new stuff and the unread count drops as you see new stuff.

Cons

  • No autocomplete of twitter handles. This should be an absolute requirement of any twitter app.
  • The app crashes every time I switch users
  • Cannot re-order columns. There’s an up/down arrow icon in the setup page but clicking on it or grabbing and dragging it does nothing.
  • You can have a column containing all of your lists (with a small menu at the top for switching between them) but not just one column with a single list
  • You change the contents of columns and add and remove them, but you have to restart the app to see the changes
  • There’s a way to see all the tweets that I’ve liked but no way to be notified when someone likes my tweets
  • The columns are all the same width and cannot be resized
  • There are no tooltips on any buttons. Some are obvious but others aren’t and there’s no way to find out what one does without clicking on it
  • It doesn’t yet handle display or posting >140 character tweets. This is not a big deal (yet) since that ability is very new. But it better show up within a week or two (Update: two weeks later, still nothing.)
  • Clicking a link in a tweet does nothing
  • I have one column with all my lists. In the menu bar thing on the left, each list is shown with an unread count. But each list shows the unread count for the list being displayed, so they all have the same number.
  • Retweets may show up in two columns (i.e. “Home” and a list), but they sometimes look different. If the original tweet had an image, sometimes you see it, sometimes not, or they may be displayed differently.
  • No way I could find to check for updates to the app.
  • I tweeted a couple of questions to @AeriesWindows and got no response.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I originally downloaded Aeries and I have since gone back to the “unusable” MetroTwit. Long tweets are not directly supported, but they show up truncated with a link to twitter.com. Some of them I just ignore, but for others I click on the link and read it on the twitter web site. Other than one check this morning to see if it had updated with 280-character support (nope), I haven’t even launched the Aeries app in a week. Meanwhile the Aeries team has my money.

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