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One of the most common tasks for any computer user at the moment seems to be the act of updating a social networking account.
Facebook and Twitter are both hugely popular (as is LinkedIn) and there are many more services doing the rounds that would love to be as successful. We should also remember that there are several social tools that are hugely successful that you probably haven’t heard of (they might be dedicated to a specific language such as Spanish or one of the Chinese dialects), which just goes to show how popular the whole concept is.
On most computer platforms - desktop and mobile - there are plenty of apps to choose from that can bring these services out of the browser and into always-open desktop widgets and apps that can offer a better user experience. Despite this however, there aren’t too many social network tools for open source platforms such as Linux. For instance, a quick check on the Ubuntu Software Center reveals just five tools for accessing Twitter.
Fortunately, there are also tools for accessing Facebook and some of the more obscure networking services.
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Why Tools and Widgets are Better than Websites
So many people logon to Facebook each day that it has become the most visited website in the world, with 750 million active users spending 700 billion minutes on the site each month!
The website is tailored specifically for easy use and access to the many satellite services that Facebook offers in a way that some other services are not, something that can partly explain why there aren’t too many desktop Facebook apps.
This is a shame, as widgets and desktop apps provide a much better experience than a browser-based interface. You only have to look at Twitter and the performance issues their servers have had over the years to see that the desktop apps such as TweetDeck offer a much better, more reliable interface.
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Probably the most successful social networking service on the planet, Facebook can of course be accessed via your web browser, where it has become one of the most-visited websites around. However, there aren’t too many useful apps that can be used to access Facebook on Twitter.
One catch-all solution is Gwibber, the all-in-one social status update tool that ships with some versions of Ubuntu and other distros. This isn’t an app for simply checking the feeds and statuses of Facebook friends; rather, Gwibber allows you to easily access the feeds of and interact with friends and contacts, view photos and video clips and also send and receive messages.
Gwibber supports updating of status updates on Facebook as well as Twitter, Ping.fm and many others (not LinkedIn, however), and will also allow you to reply to posts made on any of the services it supports. It’s a pretty useful tool and if you don’t fancy the idea of a specific app for a particular social network or just prefer to keep all of your social tools in one place, Gwibber is a great choice.
You should find Gwibber in Ubuntu via Applications > Internet, or by visiting gwibber.com.
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One specifically useful Twitter application available for Linux is Choqok, a more than adequate open source social networking tool that offers the added functionality of StatusNet and Open Collaboration Services integration.
With all of the usual 140 character status updates, retweets, direct messages, etc. that you would expect to find in a Twitter app, there are few desktop Twitter apps across all major platforms that are more accomplished than Choqok, which can be installed via your usual sources or in Ubuntu via the Software Center.
Your preference might be for something a little more comprehensive however, which will require something with a little bit extra. That extra is Adobe Air, and the tool concerned should be TweetDeck, a Twitter client that will display multiple accounts (as well as accounts from Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Google Buzz) making it very easy for you to stay on top of your various networks and statuses.
To use TweetDeck, begin by installing Adobe Air (Ubuntu users can find this in the Software Center) and then visit www.tweetdeck.com to download and install!
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Limited Options for Big Guns
Despite the common Facebook and Twitter tools for Linux however, there is little to speak of if you’re a Google+ or LinkedIn user. These two services are becoming increasingly popular, and while neither is currently a popular choice for developing a desktop Linux app, it can only be a matter of time before it is possible to check statuses and interact with contacts via these two methods.
Until suitable apps are released for these alternatives, the best option is to access them the traditional way via the web browser.
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Author's own experience.
Screenshots provided by author.
Facebook Statistics, http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics