Ticker for Twitter hands-on

An interactive slideshow with your Twitter timeline

Much of the experience using Twitter goes into scrolling. You scroll your timeline, tweets with a hashtag, replies as conversations and your own lists. For once, there's a way to read those tweets one a time without the urge to move to the next one.

For the last week I've been playing with the beta of TwitterTicker, now officially called Ticker for Twitter. Developed by Amsterdam-based Ivan Vasic, the app is a reinterpretation of the way you should consume the microblogging service. Ever thought of having a screensaver refreshing with the most recent tweets? TwitterTicker wants to cover that need.

Designed for iOS devices being used as a second screen while you work on your computer or watch TV, Ticker is a "passive client". This means it doesn't require any input from the user as the app is already set to display the latest tweets automatically. It's like a screensaver that gracefully changes every ten seconds — you can change this in the settings.

Despite its passive nature, there are still some elements of interaction. Horizontal swipes will take you to the last or the next tweet. A tap reveals three buttons with the option to favourite, retweet or view. Tapping the eye icon — the one used in Mac OS X for Quick View — will immediately launch Tweetbot to show you the tweet in question. This is useful for conversation threads and replies.

There's an in-app browser that allows you to open website links without leaving Ticker, as well as an image viewer and the ability to playback videos on YouTube's web view. Tapping on any hashtag or username mentioned in a tweet opens the Twitter website rather than pulling the content and rendering it in the visual language of the app. It's a shame this isn't done natively, or at least, launch the Tweetbot section for that hashtag or Twitter user.

It doubles as clock stand

The core of the app is presented as a a dark-themed slideshow. You can choose your orientation as it works either in portrait or landscape mode. The theme is very Apple-esque with the use of the white and grey Myriad Pro font and faded black background. It almost gives the impression you're seeing slides of an Apple keynote.

Along with the user's profile photo at the bottom you also get the current time and date on the right bottom corner. This can be a bit disorientating at first, thinking you're reading fresh tweets and not seeing the small "11m ago" under the user account name. I like it and I see it as a nice extra bonus.

Just to give you an idea, I'm using it as I type this post. The app is running on the iPhone on my left, updating me with the latest comments as I try to describe its features. This is rather distracting, specially when I have the urge to expand some conversation or reply. It might be a good idea to keep the refresh rate down to thirty seconds instead of ten!

During the my time with the beta there was only one theme available. Given the visual nature of TwitterTicker, this app is screaming for more. I'm not saying I don't like the Apple-keynote type, I just think it would be nice to offer more themes than the default or event the option to design your own.

Another little thing I'd like to see there is the inclusion of Instapaper. You already get some sharing options but I'd like to see some button or bookmark on the web view to save the content to read later. Saving to Instapaper is one of the most common things I do on other clients such as Tweetbot and Osfoora. I'm not saying Ticker is going to replace this, it's just that I'd like to know I can save something when I see it before I forget about it.

Ticker for Twitter is an great desk app for those moments when your iPhone or, specially, iPad are idle. Coupled with Airplay mirroring, there are some interesting uses you can think of. I'm imagining using this on a TV behind the reception desk at the office for example. That would be cool. You can also do this in your living room, I guess.

If you want to play with the idea, go and get the app and install the screensaver for your Mac for free.

Editor's note: I've taken the picture and video at a breakfast cafe. This by no means implies you should be using Ticker for Twitter when you're having a coffee with someone!