Twitter has grown far beyond its initial roots as a no-more-than-140-characters-per-tweet microblogging service. These days, a tweet may consist of as many as 280 characters, or it could contain a GIF, a video (up to 140 seconds long) or up to four images. You may share a live video stream on Twitter or host a live audio-only conversation with Twitter Spaces. And Twitter continues to test new functionality, such as Twitter Communities and tweaks to TweetDeck.
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But even with all of Twitter’s changes, I continue to rely on third-party tools for a few features. I use each of the five apps highlighted below. A couple of them, including Flocknet and Favourites.io, I’ve used for several years as a paying customer. If you’re an avid user of Twitter, each of these apps is worth exploring. (All of the apps work with Chrome and on a Chromebook.)
Emphasize image accessibility on Twitter
When you share an image with Twitter, make sure to add a description—also known as alt (short for alternative) text—so that people who may not be able to view the image may still understand what the image contains. The alt text for images may be accessed by screen readers, but there’s no Twitter setting to display alt text as of September 2021.
The free Social visual alt text Chrome extension by Nick DeNardis displays the alt text for images as you browser Twitter.com. The alt text displays in white text at the bottom of images (Figure A, left). Images that lack alt text show with a red bar at the bottom (Figure A, right).
Search and surface contact information on Twitter
Flocknet gathers Twitter profile information, such as bio, location and links, for both your followers and the people you are following. You may then search your Twitter network: Do I know anyone in Portland? (Figure B) Who of my followers has Microsoft in their bio?
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Flocknet highlights recent Twitter profile edits (Figure B), which lets you easily identify when someone changed roles, moved or edited their bio to emphasize different interests. Flocknet similarly surfaces location changes. You can set alerts to be notified when a term is added to a profile name, bio or location. And Flocknet Flows give you a way to group contacts in various ways, such that Flocknet can serve as a streamlined contact management system built on Twitter.
Flocknet charges based on the total number of contacts (accounts followed plus following) in the system. For a total of up to 5,000 contacts, the price is $5 per month. A limited free offering provides limited search features along with daily following and weekly follower syncs.
Filter and sort tweets
TweetShelf lets you filter and sort your Twitter timeline and lists, which makes it a useful tool to discover content of interest to your contacts. Select a stream (e.g., Home for accounts you are following or any of the Twitter Lists you follow) to display “Stories” shared to that list (Figure C). Adjust the display to narrow the stories shown by content type mentioned (e.g., article, websites, books, podcasts, videos), by time (e.g., today, last two hours, last four hours), or by number of friends (e.g., 1, 2, 3) sharing a story. Additionally, you can sort by most shared first, latest shared first or latest published first.
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TweetShelf offers iOS and Android apps, as well as a web version. The free version lets you sort and filter your timeline and curated lists, receive a daily email digest and store 25 recent items. The premium version, priced at just under $6 per month or $54 per year, adds access to lists you follow, support for multiple accounts, additional date filters, access to an RSS feed and more.
Save, search and group likes on Twitter
Favourites.io is a web app that makes it simple to search tweets you’ve liked—or, as the action used to be called, favorited. (And, yes, the app is from an Irish developer, so make sure to add the “u” if you default to American English.) For example, I often Like tweets that mention studies, reports and new articles. I use Favourites.io to search for keywords (e.g., “Google” as shown in Figure D) and find these liked tweets quickly, sometimes years later. Favourites.io costs €29 per year (a little less than $34 per year).
Get context, history and streamlined search on Twitter
Twemex (@TwemexApp) replaces the Twitter sidebar on the web (where What’s Happening, Who to Follow and a search bar otherwise display) with access to enhanced search as well as additional context and history for accounts. For example, when you’re on a Twitter profile page, Twemex displays that account’s most liked Tweets (Figure E). Or, when browsing a timeline, you might choose from Random Highlights, On This Day, Recent Highlights or Intentionally Blank. At the top of the sidebar, there’s a search box that displays several search tip commands when selected: /me, /follows, /user, /list, /from:
What Twitter tools do you use?
In addition to the above, I continue to use both the Omnibox Twitter and Twitter account detector Chrome extensions (as covered in my earlier article, 7 Chrome extensions that will make you more productive on Twitter). And I continue to monitor other tools, such as dewey.co and Chirr App. Do you use any of the above apps? What do you think of them? Are there other third-party tools or extensions you rely on to make the most of Twitter? Let me know what third-party Twitter apps you find helpful, either with a comment below or, of course, on Twitter (@awolber).