Two days ago, Twitter disabled outgoing SMS from the UK number. This means that if you’re not in the US, Canada or India, you won’t be able to receive your SMS updates (Direct Messages, status updates for people you follow and, if the Track feature would work, tweets about trackwords you’ve chosen) from Twitter. The Twitter team plans to have new numbers in different countries all around the world, making SMS a sustainable feature to offer. (According to the Twitter team, the weekly limit of 250 SMS messages could generate a cost of $1000 per international user, per year.) But who knows if your country will be included and how long it will take before a number is added for your country? And while http://m.twitter.com can fill your Twitter needs partly, it doesn’t give you access to your @replies and Direct Messages. (At least, not yet – @jack said that they plan to add DM’s and @replies). So you’ll need to find another way to have a complete Twitter experience on your Pocket PC or Smartphone (WM Standard, Classic and Professional). That’s where ceTwit 2.0 comes in. It has just been released so it couldn’t have come at a better time.
In this review I’ll be taking a look at ceTwit 2.0, assuming that you are familiar with Twitter. If you are not, you might want to check out the microblogging website/tool www.twitter.com or read about it here. (The only way to truly get to know it, though, is by actively getting involved). Reading a review about a Twitter client doesn’t really make sense if you’re not a Twitter user, so I’m assuming that people who read on after the break will be familiar with the terms “follow”, “@reply”, “direct message”, “favorite” and maybe even “retweet” and other services like Ping.fm and TwitPic. (The latter three will be briefly explained though).
I’m not going to bother with writing an entire section about downloading, installing and registering the application. ceTwit can be downloaded HERE, after which you’ll have to move the .cab file to your device. Install it, and start it. Since it’s free, there’s no need to register.
Getting Tweets, direct messages and @replies to your device
Directly after starting ceTwit, your screen might not be so interesting. In order to download your personal timeline (tweets, DM’s and @replies) onto your device, you’ll first have to enter your account details. Go to Menu > Settings > Account/Net, and fill out your username and password. From now on, ceTwit knows where to get your timeline from.
But there is more – ceTwit doesn’t just sit on your device waiting for you to refresh it. Well it can do that, if you want to keep control over how much data you use. However, you can also make sure that when you start ceTwit, it will immediately connect to your network and start downloading the 20 most recent tweets from the people you follow, along with the 20 most recent @replies directed to you and your 20 latest incoming Direct Messages. The next setting (Refresh Interval) can be set to determine how often ceTwit will try to update, but only if Auto Refresh is enabled (Menu > Settings > Auto Refresh). So in order to keep your data usage under control, just disable “Auto Refresh on start”, “Connect on Start” and “Auto Refresh”. If you’re not concerned with data usage and just want to always be able to read up on your timeline, enable these settings and specify your desired refresh interval.
So now you may have ceTwit set to constantly keep your timeline up to date. But if you need an instant refresh, just go to Menu > Refresh. Then wait while ceTwit requests your timeline, and voila, it will appear on the screen.
Displaying tweets in ceTwit and getting notified about new items
At the top of the screen, in the title, bar, you can see when ceTwit was last updated. If there has been an unsuccesfull attempt to update, the time will have an exlamation mark after it. This way you can always see if indeed the tweet at the top of the list is also really the latest tweet that you should be able to read.
Then below that, you’ll see the actual tweets. You can customize if you want to see avatars or not (disable them to reduce data usage) and also the height of each tweet can be tweaker. I like my tweets with a height of 53 because this makes 5 tweets exactly fit on the screen at once. There is a risk that comes with this though, and that is that a tweet is longer than the 4 lines that can be displayed in those 53 vertical pixels. To find out if this is the case, just press the center button of your D-Pad. This will zoom in to the selected tweet and display it in larger font, filling almost the entire screen. The entire message will fit now. And as a bonus you can press up/down to move through your timeline, so this zoomed view may be a good way to read up on Tweets if the normal view is too tiny and crowded for you!
Navigating in the regular view is even easier. The up/down buttons still work, and there is also a scrollbar at the side of the screen. However, pressing left or right will PageUp/PageDown the screen, moving through 5 tweets at the time (depending on how many tweets you show on one screen normally). And if you’ve read through all your tweets and find yourself at the bottom of your list, simply go to the Menu and select the second item “Jump to top” in order to go back to the top of your list. I guess the developer himself got tired of scrolling back up every time. :-) By the way, if you do scroll down to the total bottom, you’ll see that after the regular tweets, your 20 most recent @replies and direct messages are displayed in ceTwit as well. You can also limit your view to only show @replies or direct messages by going to Menu > Timeline and selecting what you want to see.
As said, you can enable/disable the avatars and change the height of the tweets. You can do this by going to Menu > Theme/Notification.
On the first tab you can change the colors for regular tweets (even and odd), @replies and direct messages. If you give @replies and direct messages colors that vary a lot from your regular tweets, you’ll be able to easily spot them and reply to them asap.
The second tab has the layout options, which I prefer to keep at the default settings. They speak for themselve I think: you can change the height of each tweet and the font size of the text in the regular view. Additionaly you can choose to enable or disable the display of timestamps. I keep them both enabled because avatars make me recognize the identity of the tweeter faster and timestamps give me a general idea of when someone posted something. (Of course timezone differences are a common problem at Twitter and ceTwit can’t do anything about this. If I post something at 23:00 before going to sleep, it will be morning in another place, and timestamps like “1 hour ago” don’t make that clear to people who read my tweets.)
Notifications allow you to be, well, notified when new items are received in your Twitter timeline. You can enable a vibration and a (custom) sound. If you only enable the vibration, your device can give you a silent notification on new tweets while keeping the screen off. Sounds will power on the screen so that you can immediately read the Tweets. Personally I would prefer integration with the built-in Notifications (in Start > Settings > Sounds and Notifications), because then I can also get a popup message on my screen and LED notifications. Another wish is to get notified only on new DM’s and @replies and during development the developer expressed his plans to implement this in the future.
Additional items from the Settings menu
Before moving on, I’d like to get the Settings menu over with. We’ve discussed the most important items (Auto Refresh, Account/Net and Theme/Notification), so only three are left, and you’ll hardly use them. “Last Comm” shows you the actual .xml ceTwit requests from Twitter and which is used to to fill your timeline.
The Rate Limit is something you might not even be aware of. Twitter allows external applications/services to send/request information to/from Twitter a limited amount of times each hour. Currently this is set to 100 (so almost every 30 seconds) but in the past Twitter has limited this to 20 when there was heavy pressure on the service. Twitter decided to reduce the load of 3rd party apps/services in order to keep Twitter running. In such cases, you can check the rate limit and see how many hits you’ve got left this hour. (Note that if you’ve also got a desktop application such as Thwirl running, that application will also count towards your rate limit. So updating ceTwit every 3 minutes (20 times in an hour) leaves 80 for other services/apps.)
Finally “About” shows you the version of ceTwit you are running and when it was released, along with some usage tips. Additionaly, you can download updates directly from your device through Menu > Check for upgrade.
Performing actions on tweets in your timeline
ceTwit has a popup menu with several actions that you can perform in relation to your tweets. This popup menu can be opened in three ways. First, you can tap-and-hold on a tweet with your stylus. Second, you can select the “Action” item from the Menu. And third, if you press the Right D-Pad button for a while (just a bit longer than you would to PageDown), the menu will open as well.
From top to bottom, you can:
Reply to the person who sent the tweet you selected when opening the popup menu.
Send that person a direct message.
If the tweet contains a link to a website you can open it.
You can mark the post as your favourite (or remove the favourite mark).
You can follow or unfollow a person (just enter the username in the dedicated textbox).
You can use Skweezer to view a mobile-friendly version of the mentioned website, view the profile of the user in your browser, or view the conversation on Quotably.
You can Retweet a tweet. This is when you want to share someone else’s tweet and basically just want to copy it to your own outgoing tweets. You do get control over the message before it is being sent so you can personalize it or add your comment.
You can copy the tweet to the clipboard so that you can past it in, for example, an e-mail or a word document.
And if you’ve selected a tweet of your own, you can even delete it. This has already helped me in a number of occasions, for example when I accidentaly pressed the “Update” softkey when I hadn’t finished writing my tweet yet.
Finally, Cancel will close the popup menu again, but pressing the Left D-Pad button will do that as well.
Sending tweets yourself, ping.fm and Twitpic support
It’s about time we get to send a tweet ourselves, isn’t it? Sending an update is a core part of using Twitter but there’s just so much to cover in ceTwit that we didn’t get a chance to look at this part of the application earlier. But now we do. In the “Status” menu (right softkey), there are three items: Twitter, TwitPic and Ping.fm. Let’s first get started with regular updates, over Twitter.
It’s quite easy actually. Just select Twitter from the Update menu in the regular view to be presented the Status Update screen. You simply get to type your message while seeing the character count getting closer to zero. When you’re done, press “Update”. ceTwit will then automatically send your update to Twitter and return to the regular timeline view where it will show your new tweet at the top of the list. That’s hard to beat, isn’t it?!
So ceTwit also supports TwitPic and Ping.fm. But what do these services actually do to improve my Twitter experience?
TwitPic is one of the services that allows you to attach an image to your Tweet. If you update through TwitPic, you can enter your Tweet and attach a photograph through Menu > Attach Pic (ceTwit will remember your most recently used folder). Your message will be followed by a link which leads to your image. Sign in to TwitPic.com with your Twitter username/password to have control over your images.
Ping.fm is descrived by the ceTwit developer in his ceTwit FAQ HERE. It says:
Ping.fm is a service that allows updating multiple social networks via one post. Setting up ping.fm in ceTwit for instance will allow you to post to plurk, twitter, facebook, jaiku etc…. all with one status update message. In order to get this working you’ll need to enter your ping.fm users key into ceTwit’s Accounts settings.
The easiest way to do this (because the key is ridiculously long) is to visit http://ping.fm/key from pocket internet explorer and select and copy the key from the page and then paste it into ceTwit’s Account settings screen.
So if you plan to use any of these services, ceTwit has you covered. I’ll show the screens of the TwitPic and Ping.fm update sections below, but they pretty much speak for themselves.
There’s no reason to hide it, I’m a fan of ceTwit. I was lucky enough to stumble on ceTwit 1.4 exactly when the developer was going to work on ceTwit 2.0. So I started to follow him on Twitter and tested the beta versions, sending him bug reports and suggestions along the way. Because of that, I was able to get a few of my wishes in ceTwit and discuss the implementation of other features. Some of them are still in the works. For example, a collaboration with the author of TwitToday is in the works which probably allow you to see the amount of unread tweets/@replies/dm’s on your today screen!
Because of how Twitter works I could also check out some of the other betatesters and learn how they thought about the beta development. However, the developer opened a Google Group for ceTwit feedback recently to allow for a more community-like discussion.
ceTwit offers a very complete Twitter experience on the Pocket PC. It’s free, so you only have to worry about charges from your carrier for your data usage. I’ve tried several other mobile Twitter applications but haven’t found one that could keep me away from ceTwit. And frankly, I have no reason to look for an alternative anymore!