TweetGrid: A Twitter app alternative to TweetDeck

Previously, here, I blogged about TweetDeck, a Twitter app which remains one handy way to embrace this “Twitter” stuff that all the kids are playing with these days.

There are, however, a couple of drawbacks to TweetDeck.

One is the limit of 100 API calls per hour imposed by Twitter. This means that if, in addition to receiving the regular updates of your friends, you look at people’s profiles in TweetDeck or you create some extra searches, well then you run the risk of being shut out from Twitter until that hour is over.

Another problem is the way TweetDeck handles memory. I don’t know all the geeky details. I just know that if you leave TweetDeck running for an extended length of time, it seems to gradually gum up your computer’s reflexes with warm tar. When you finally try to quit it, the wait can cause you to miss important life milestones.

So I was intrigued when I came across an entry in FriendFeed and read a comment there suggesting using TweetGrid with Prism.

I had seen TweetGrid briefly before that, but didn’t really understand its power until Wayne Sutton’s comment made me revisit it. Basically, it gives you multiple running copies of Twitter Search in a grid layout. Cool, but not as slick and groovy as TweetDeck, right?

But look further. First of all, to more closely replicate the TweetDeck interface, you can select a 1 x 10 grid layout that scrolls left or right on your screen. In each of those ten columns, you can set up a running search for whatever you want to follow.

Let’s say I want to track all tweets to and from myself, plus all mentions of a few nearby localities, plus a few other topics:

TweetGrid: A Twitter app alternative to TweetDeck (screen capture)

See this example.

Pretty neat, eh? Now see that empty first column? Click the “Settings” tab there, then click “Friends” and enter your Twitter username and password, and that’s how you can see all the people you’re following through your Twitter account. Or your several Twitter accounts at once, if you have them. Or your Direct Messages (DMs). Whatever.

Except for this account information, your whole TweetGrid setup can be expressed in URL form, using the “Full Address” or “Create Short URL” sharing links at the top of the TweetGrid page. That means you can bookmark it in your browser or email it to a friend or tweet it to the world.

So far, so good — and now for the Prism part. I had never heard of Prism until Wayne Sutton mentioned it, but it’s a project from Mozilla Labs, the same good people who bring you the outstanding Firefox browser.

Long story short, Prism allows you to run an application that exists on the Web — an application like TweetGrid, for example — as if it were a standalone application, separate from your Web browser. This way, you don’t have to worry about keeping the TweetGrid window open as you click around doing everything else you do on the Web.

You just take the fancy custom URL for the custom setup you have prepared in TweetGrid, enter it into Prism, and save it as an application. After that, it’s there to run whenever you want it. There’s no big memory problem, and as long as you keep your API calls under 100, you will never hit a wall there either.

(Set your account to update every 1 minute, and that equals 60 API calls per hour. If you add your DMs or another account in a second column, then you’d better set one column to every 2 minutes for a total of 90 per hour. But since Twitter emails DMs to me anyway, I don’t bother with that. The cool thing is that my 9 other search columns use no additional API calls.)

Thanks to Wayne Sutton for this ingenious tip, and thanks to TweetGrid and Mozilla for their very cool tools.