Every time I venture out of my home office cave and into the real world, I'm forced to confront the ways in which other people go about their days. This takes many forms, some aggravating--the horrific driving techniques of Boston-area commuters, for example--some entertaining, and some informative. On recent back-to-back business trips to Las Vegas, for MIX'11 and then Mobile Connections, I stumbled upon the latter type of experience, noting that virtually every single one of my peers--fellow reporters, bloggers, and industry speakers--spent a surprising amount of their day glued to Twitter, or more specifically, to a third party Twitter client.

This behavior has always amazed me. Done badly, Twitter can be like cable TV, with far too much content, most of it crap. But the difference between Twitter and cable TV is that, with cable TV, you can at least focus on one thing at a time. If you're not careful, Twitter is all noise, as if every "channel" were on simultaneously. It can be overwhelming.

Too, my time is at a premium. I work long hours, seven days a week, and even when I'm supposedly relaxing--watching movies, playing video games, reading, or whatever--I'm still working, sort of, with email, calendar, and at least one in-progress article or blog post at the ready. (This behavior is inarguably unhealthy and I've always strived for a better life balance. But that's another story.)

I joined Twitter years ago, immediately didn't get it, and then was chastised into using it more correctly, or perhaps in a way that was at least thought to be correct.  Turns out, I was still blowing it, and as my lists of followers and those I follow grew, Twitter became unmanageable. And as you may imagine, my Twitter usage simply dropped off.

For the past couple of weeks, then, I've been reacquainting myself with Twitter, because I feel it's a valuable way to interact with people who care about the same technology issues that I do. And because, as I strive to whittle my list of those I follow down to a more manageable and meaningful list of people who really matter, it will be a great way to keep up on emerging tech trends as they happen. This, of course, is how much of the rest of the world uses Twitter--within their own interest circles of course--and maybe it bears further discussion.

For now, however, I'd like to focus on Twitter apps for various platforms. And within the context of the Windows 7, Windows Phone, and mobile app picks I've been doing lately, I'd like to offer up some Twitter client picks for each. These, of course, are a moving target, and if you're going to start using Twitter you can and should experiment with any number of clients before picking the one that makes the most sense for you.

Here are the ones I really like and can recommend.

Windows 7 app pick: MetroTwit Beta

App type: Twitter client
Publisher:  MetroTwit
Price: Free
Download MetroTwit Beta

Inspired by the Zune PC software, Long Zheng, David Golden and Winston Pang have created a similarly styled Twitter client called MetroTwit, which features a nice multi-column design, a handy Conversation view (my favorite feature), Windows 7 taskbar integration, and more. If you like the Zune look and feel, MetroTwit is for you. But even if you don't, give it a shot, because some of its easily found extra features are priceless.

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MetroTwit Beta


Windows 7 app pick: DestroyTwitter

App type: Twitter client
Publisher:  DestroyTwitter
Price: Free
Download DestroyTwitter

While a lot of Twitter users prefer the complex and busy TweetDeck UI (discussed below), I prefer simplicity and speed. The oddly named DestroyTwitter takes these design goals to an extreme, and while the many tiny configuration changes you can make are sometimes hard to find, the result is a Twitter client that works the way I want. And it may be just right for you, so check it out. Just be sure to give it some time. Some of its better features--like a Conversation View-like Dialogue view--aren't intuitive. But after a few ah-hah moments, you may find yourself as taken with this simple and elegant solution as I am.

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DestroyTwitter


Windows Phone 7 app pick: Twitter

App type: Social
Publisher:  Twitter, Inc.
Release date: October 21, 2010
Price: FREE
Phone features used: Location services, media library, data connection
Download Twitter for Windows Phone

It doesn't get great reviews on Windows Phone Marketplace for some reason, but the official Twitter app for Windows Phone 7 does the job for me. It features support for multiple accounts, works with multiple Twitter photo services, and features a dark theme for those a bit put off by the default light blue on white (which is crazy bad). And the multi-column nature of desktop Twitter clients works nicely within Windows Phone's Metro UI. No surprise there.

Windows Phone 7 app pick: Rowi and Rowi Lite

App type: Social
Publisher:  Hidden Pineapple, LLC
Release date: April 15, 2011
Price: FREE for lite version, $2.99 for full version
Phone features used: Owner identity, location services, media library, web browser, data connection, push notifications
Download Rowi Lite or Rowi for Windows Phone

Rowi bills itself as the app for "serious" Twitter users, and it's easy to see why: It too features a nice, multi-column Metro UI, but it seems to perform a lot faster than the official client, even after the NoDo update. But the big deal here, I think, is Rowi's ability to customize which columns you see in the UI. So you can add and remove any number of columns, including dynamic views based on tweet searches, another user's timeline, or a public timeline. That's sweet, and if you want no ads and push notifications, the paid version is just $2.99.

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Rowi for Windows Phone 7


Mobile app pick: TweetDeck

App type: Twitter client
Platform(s): Windows, Mac, Linux; iPhone, iPod touch, Android, Google Chrome
Publisher: TweetDeck
Price: FREE
Download TweetDeck for Windows, Mac, and Linux; iPhone and iPod touch; Android, Google Chrome

TweetDeck is kind of the grand dame of Twitter clients, and certainly the client I see most out in the real world. Used by both newbies and Twitter experts, TweetDeck has a fairly complex UI in my opinion, and it's lacking some features (or they're well hidden). But it has some important advantages, not the least of which is its promiscuity: In addition to all of the platforms listed above, TweetDeck promises native iPad and Windows Phone ports, as well as a general web client that will work in all major browsers. TweetDeck also works with other social networking services such as Facebook, MySpace, and Foursquare, and that may be advantageous to you as well. But if you're looking for a Twitter client with similar functionality on a variety of platforms, TweetDeck is the obvious choice.

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TweetDeck for Chrome