HOWTO: Use Keyboard Commands & Shortcuts To Improve Your Experience

Twitter has made some changes to the home page lately and I’ll be looking at those in more detail in the days to come. Meantime, I’ve been having a read of the updated Twitter support portal and I’ve found a few interesting things that are quite useful.

Example of the output from the WHOIS command on

Readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of TweetDeck. Probably 99.99% of my at-home Twitter usage is via this client. On the road I use Dabr. Indeed, the only times I really use at all is to make modifications to my profile.

However, while TweetDeck will continue to be my client of your choice, that usage percentage may well drop a little. Why? Because of Twitter’s command-line functions and tools which, as of now, don’t all work in TweetDeck (or, I’m guessing, anywhere else).

The Official Twitter Commands

When you visit the experience is, being quite frank, a bit underwhelming. You only have basic control and functionality and certainly when compared to TweetDeck and lots of other external applications it’s extremely limited.

However, for various reasons you might have to use Maybe you’re at work and that’s all that’s authorised, or you’re using a low-powered computer or have only a basic web browser on your mobile device. By utilising these Twitter commands you can not only improve your experience with the network, but also have a convenient way to access information and statistics.

Commands are entered within the box that you normally type your tweets. Don’t worry – they don’t show up to your followers. Only you will see the results (if any), although be mindful about making a typo as this could then well enter the Twitter stream.

We’re all probably quite familiar with the two most basic commands you can use on Twitter: replies and direct messages.

Replies provides you with an icon to reply to a user but you can easily do this in the textbox, too.

@username message

Direct Messages

To send a direct message to a user on you need to visit a user’s profile and and click on the ‘message’ link. You can also do this by using the D command before their username.

D username message

(Note the space after the D. If you exclude this, the message will show up as a tweet).


You can easily find the profile information for any user on Twitter (whether you’re following them or not) by using the WHOIS command.

WHOIS username

An information box will appear above your Twitter feed containing the text in the requested user’s bio.


The GET command retrieves the most recent tweet of the user requested.

GET username

Again, it appears in an information box above the feed.


The NUDGE command operates in a slightly similar way to ‘poke’ on Facebook. Essentially, you would use it when you’re prompting somebody for a response.

NUDGE username

I’m not really sure I see much use for it, to be honest, and I think it’s disappeared as a clickable link on user’s profiles.


FAV inserts a user’s last tweet into your ‘favourites’ folder.

FAV username

(Incidentally, everybody’s favourite folder is publically readable. It can be quite insightful to read the favourited tweets of celebrities and the most influential Twitterers. Simply visit a profile and click on ‘Favorites’.)


If you’re on, your following and followers counts are always displayed in the pane to the right of the screen. However, in a mobile interface they are not always available. You can get an update at any time using the STATS command.


Note: commands are not case-sensitive; they can be in lower or upper-case, but otherwise must be entered exactly as described.

Conclusion needs a bit of a revamp and I think by the end of 2009 the home page will have significantly more functionality than it does now. However, if you’re limited to only being able to use at home or on your mobile handset mastering these commands and keyboard shortcuts will definitely improve your experience.

Other Twitter commands that are useful for device notifications on mobile handsets are available. Check them out at Twitter’s support portal.