Timing is everything.
Just about at the same moment that the official iOS Twitter apps were updated with a new "Quick Bar," which was met with almost universal disdain, Handmark started shipping its new TweetCaster (US$4.99 Pro and ad-supported free versions available) Twitter app for iPhone. There's no "dickbar" in TweetCaster, and in fact, the app does everything it can to let you zip the lips of annoying tweeters or trends.
Yeah, we've all seen a lot of Twitter apps, but TweetCaster is a bit different, and that's what made it interesting enough to try. The official Twitter app recently added the annoying Quick Bar, designed to let you know what was trending in Twitter, which means that lately it's been filled with the phrases "Classic Tattoo Fail," "Breakout Kings" (which appears to be a paid promotion for the new cable TV series), "thataintwinning" (somehow related to some actor from Ferris Bueller's Day Off), "Justin & Selena" and so on.
Frankly, like a lot of Twitter users, I couldn't really care less about the trending crap on Twitter. What I want to see is what my friends are doing. I don't care what some idiot actor is or isn't doing, and I most assuredly don't want to see an advertisement for a TV show in the Quick Bar. That's what made TweetCaster Pro such a welcome respite from the official Twitter app.
TweetCaster Pro has a feature that makes me very happy: the Zip It! mode. You can temporarily mute any person, trend or keyword that shows up on Twitter. Don't want to hear any more about the dude from Hot Shots and Hot Shots! Part Deux? The Zip It! mode makes it so simple to shut those people or trends down. You can enter a specific Twitter name, a hashtag or a keyword, and when mention is made of that person or trend, you see a zipper on your timeline instead of the tweet. If you're feeling particularly masochistic and want to view the tweet, you can "unzip" the zipper to see what was said.
That feature alone is worth the $4.99 price tag for TweetCaster Pro, but I found a lot of other things to like. There's no Quick Bar, which in itself is worth five bucks. There's a customizable menu bar, which lets you change from the usual menu bar items of looking at Twitter users you follow and who follow you, mentions of your Twitter handle and direct messages to you. You can add lists, a profile button, a search button, contacts, a one-tap button for settings or drafts, a trending feed (if you miss the dickbar) and a retweet button.
TweetCaster is filled with humorous little animated touches as well. Use the standard "pull down and release" gesture to update the timeline, and you see the big-eyed TweetCaster bluebird peering at you. Likewise, if there's a gap in the timeline, you see him (her?) peering at you from that gap.
Tapping and holding on any tweet brings up a context-sensitive menu, which can be used to do all of the usual Twitter actions -- replying, retweeting, favoriting and emailing -- as well as navigating directly to a embedded URL or putting the tweet into your Zip It! list so that you see nothing from that person or trend for a while.
As with most other modern Twitter clients, you can add a number of Twitter accounts. You can also link with a Facebook account so that any of your tweets made with TweetCaster Pro can be posted to your Facebook wall as well.
The start screen for TweetCaster Pro displays a prominent sign in button that takes you to your Twitter accounts, as well as a Top Tweets section. This, unfortunately, is about as obnoxious as the Twitter app's Quick Bar, although you can get it out of the way, and it doesn't show up at the top of your timeline. It still features a lot of tweets from people or sites that I don't care to follow, from Kim Kardashian to the Huffington Post. Not a problem, though; I can just bypass the start screen and jump right into my personal Twitter timeline.
TweetCaster Pro is an excellent 1.0 version of a new Twitter client, and it will be fun to see how this client evolves over the next few months.