Microblogging and More with Gwibber

Tired of slogging through Facebook's interface? Sick of seeing the Fail Whale? Cut through the cruft and simplify your social services with Gwibber -- a microblogging client for Linux that supports Identi.ca, Facebook, Twitter, and more.

It’s easy to get sucked into using social media, but hard to keep up when you start using two, three, or more social media sites. Looking to untangle the Web? Try out Gwibber, a microblogging client that supports a bucketload of social media services.

You’ll find plenty of microblogging applications that support Twitter and Facebook, but Gwibber is the only tool that I’ve found that reliably supports Identi.ca as well and has most of the features that I look for. It’s also good for multiple accounts, saving searches, and much more. Let’s take a look at it and see what Gwibber can do.

Getting Started with Gwibber

Gwibber is developed on Launchpad. You’ll find stable and trunk Personal Package Archives (PPAs) for Ubuntu on Launchpad, and links to other install instructions on the main page. Ubuntu 10.04 ships with the most recent stable version of Gwibber, so if you’re on Ubuntu you don’t need to do anything at all to get it installed. It’s listed as the “Gwibber Social Client” under the Internet menu on Ubuntu. Not sure whether “social client” is a name that’s going to catch on.

Gwibber 2.30 should also ship with openSUSE 11.3 GNOME, and is available in the repositories for Fedora 13 when that ships, but not installed by default.

Gwibber Displaying Search for Ubuntu
Gwibber Displaying Search for Ubuntu

On first launch, Gwibber will display the accounts dialog and let you set up your accounts with social sites. Right now it supports Twitter, Identi.ca, Facebook, Flickr, Digg, Qaiku, and FriendFeed. You’ll also find support for other StatusNet sites, so if you’re running your own StatusNet site Gwibber will support that as well.

After you’ve added one or more accounts, Gwibber will display each in the left-hand side of the display. You’ll see a home icon that displays all incoming messages, a replies icon, private messages, etc. Each account will also have its own set of folders for messages, DMs, replies, and so forth.

The default view is OK if you only want to see the normal stream, or switch back and forth between replies, private messages, and different services. But Gwibber will let you set up “streams,” so you can view multiple services at one time.

Click the Gwibber menu and select “New Stream.” This will create a second (or third, fourth, etc.) pane with another view of your accounts. On the top of the stream, you’ll see a drop-down menu. Here you can select from all possible sources. I use this to set up a view of all of my contacts, and then a view of all replies, and a view of all direct messages. I also keep Facebook messages in a separate stream, so I don’t actually have to visit the site very often.

Multiple Streams in Gwibber
Multiple Streams in Gwibber

You can also create custom searches and view those in separate streams as well. This is really handy if you follow a topic on Twitter. And, unfortunately, only Twitter. For some reason, Gwibber only supports search on Twitter right now.

You’ll notice that Gwibber makes life a bit simpler, and shows some images directly in the update stream. If you paste a URL into the stream, Gwibber will automatically shorten it if you have it set in the Preferences. Go to Edit -> Preferences and select the Messages tab.

While you’re in preferences, you might as well set everything. Check the Notification preferences under the Options tab. By default, Gwibber will display notifications of replies when it pulls updates. The refresh rate is every five minutes out of the box. I crank this down to 30 minutes, and turn off notifications because I find it distracting to be writing or working on something and see a bunch of flashy updates in the corner of the screen.

What Gwibber is Missing

Gwibber is almost perfect. I say almost because it’s missing one major feature that would be really useful, and has one flaw that needs to be addressed.

The missing feature is the ability to create groups or follow lists on Twitter. If you’re like me, you probably care more about updates from some people than others. For instance, I follow the NASA account on Twitter, but really don’t care if I miss an occasional update. But I’d like to see all the updates from some of my friends across the country.

The flaw? Gwibber’s help doesn’t go to documentation at all. When you click on “Get Help Online” from the Help menu, you’re redirected to answers.launchpad.net, and a bunch of questions about Gwibber &emdash; some resolved, some not. That’s not really “help,” that’s a forum. If the Ubuntu LTS succeeds in getting any mainstream traction, I suspect a lot of users are going to be put off by being shoved into a forum instead of seeing any documentation.

One minor nit: I do wish Gwibber offered Bit.ly as a URL shortening option. If you’re tracking clicks, Bit.ly offers info pages that other URL shortening services do not. That’s a minor gripe, though.

I expect that the lists and groups will be along soon. Gwibber development has moved pretty fast. It’s grown up a lot in the last year, and I suspect that trend will continue. It is very easy to use, stable, and If you’re looking for a desktop microblogging client, you should give Gwibber a spin.

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