Review: Seesmic Desktop. The TweetDeck Killer?

There’s a bit of a buzz today about Seesmic Desktop, a new*, Adobe AIR-powered desktop application that some are suggesting might have enough va-va-voom to see off TweetDeck.

* Seesmic purchased Twhirl in April of 2008. Seesmic Desktop is essentially the new version of Twhirl.
It’s a free download that requires Adobe AIR and works with both PCs and Macs. You need to register with Seesmic first, and you can do this here.
In this review I will look at the PC version, using my Samsung NC10 netbook.


Installation is a breeze. Add and authorise your Twitter account and away you go. It also supports multiple Twitter accounts, a feature currently lacking in TweetDeck.
Like TweetDeck, Seesmic Desktop supports multiple columns, groups and search panes, as well has lots of other cool features, including drag and drop and a built-in webcam picture grabber. It has a very Mac-look to it and is pretty easy on the eye.
In the configuration settings you can do cool things like select how you want your re-tweets to be displayed: either as the standard RT, or by the full ‘retweet’, the ‘via’ method or ‘as said’ (but no ‘by…’ which to me seems far more prevalent than the latter).
Notifications that prompt you when you receive certain kinds of tweets can be received either with a sound or visual pop-up (or both, or neither).
Like TweetDeck, you can control how much of that precious API you tap into each hour. Twitter limits the maximum external application calls for everybody to one hundred, but Seesmic Desktop has a limit of eighty. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not. It certainly means if it gets popular then the Seesmic Desktop collective won’t be draining all of Twitter’s API, but you might find that you run out of API a lot quicker than you do using TweetDeck. Moreover, the software doesn’t display how much API usage you have left, which means that if and when you do run out, you probably won’t realise it has happened for a little while.


The software defaults to a one-column display using the ‘home’ pane. This is your entire Twitter stream – everybody you follow. If you click on your username under ‘Accounts’ in the sidebar, the home pane gets some extra tabs: replies, direct messages, archives (messages sent by you) and a very handy ‘lookup’ feature, which lets you do a quick search on any Twitter account.
Open a replies pane and it works like’s mentions – at least, how they’re meant to work in theory, not lagging hours behind and ignoring most re-tweets. They actually do work on Seesmic Desktop – any mention of your @username in any tweet will make it to your reply pane, whether it’s at the beginning, middle or end (and this includes re-tweets).
All tweets also show both the user and real name of the tweeter. This is a nice touch, and makes everything that little bit more personable.
Avatar’s are used in a similar way to TweetDeck – scroll your mouse over and four options will pop-up, allowing you to easily reply, re-tweet or direct message a user, with an extra button for additional functionality (like adding to groups).
Seesmic Desktop supports groups – called ‘userlists’ – and they work roughly the same as TweetDeck. One major difference is that you have to add all users manually, one by one. In TweetDeck any new group presents you with a list of all your contacts which you can select using checkboxes and add at once. This is missing in Seesmic Desktop, and while not the end of the world it does mean setting up any large groups can take a while.