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Twitter iPad App Review: Multi-Panels and Multi-Functions

Twitter for iPad
The new official Twitter client for the iPad just landed this week, and it's offering some of the most interesting mobile app design ideas we've seen this year. The iPad offers more screen space than cellphones, and the Twitter team fortunately didn't simply port over a bigger version of the wildly popular (and well-made) official app for the iPhone. We spent some time with the app, so head after the break to see if it holds up to its iPhone predecessor.

Twitter for iPad


The app comes with the full range of modern Twitter features, ranging from list support, URL shrinking, image and video attachments, location and multiple accounts (rare in most free Twitter iPad apps). Tweeting is as simple as clicking the Compose Tweet button in the bottom left corner, and the app comes with full support for drafts. Plus, you'll find Instapaper support, which is much-appreciated for saving articles you find to read later.

Most apps treat all tweets the same. Apps like Flipboard, and now the official Twitter app, display tweets according to their context. So if you click on a friend's message that contains a shared link, it will open in a new pane and immediately load the contained webpage (complete with images, playable videos and pretty much everything -- except Flash). If you click on an @reply tweet, a new pane will open and reveal a reverse chronological history of the entire conversation; which is an enormous improvement over current implementations. Tweets with hashtags, then, reveal the latest messages containing the same hashtag. It's a really smart way to display content, and an experience we're not even seeing on the Web yet.
Multi-pane view
The classic forward and back Web browsing concept has been around for nearly two decades, and the Twitter app takes this idea and makes one very important change: It keeps all of those dots along the path instantly accessible and visible, opening up the ability to swipe left and right allowing you to move anywhere along your "browsing" history. In other words, you can dive deep through lists, users, more lists, @replies and links, and be able to easily slide along every part of this path. It sounds complicated, but we found ourselves wishing it was implemented in other apps as well. Swiping back through your Web browsing history without having to tap the back button is quite an improvement over the current mix of text-laden menus and back buttons.

The Twitter app has a couple problems. If you open up a webpage into fullscreen view, you immediately lose all browser options and actions, meaning you can't navigate back, share or reload without returning to the multi-pane view. You can open and close profile panes by pinching individual tweets, but it's not an intuitive gesture. Similarly, a two finger drag down on a post containing an @reply will load the entire conversation -- again, not that obvious.

In general, Twitter is best used in tandem with other apps. Because the iPad still doesn't have multitasking, the process of moving to the iPad app to share something you grabbed from Safari is far clunkier than it should be. While the app is gorgeously designed and smooth enough to keep you entertained for days -- we spent a good half hour just playing with the movable panes -- it should be a significantly better experience once Apple releases OS 4.2 in November. That said, Twitter has launched one of the best Twitter clients for the 'Pad, and, in the process, implemented some immensely usable and innovative touch-based mobile design ideas.

Tags: apps, features, ios, ipad, justtellmewhattoget, reviews, twitter, twitter for ipad, TwitterForIpad