Scott Hanselman

You probably don't need a Twitter client, just learn the hotkeys in New Twitter

December 09, 2011 Comment on this post [12] Posted in Blogging | Tools
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It's probably not unfair to call me a Twitter Power User. I use it a lot, it's my favorite Social Networking site and I've written a number of reasonably popular articles on the topic.

I've used literally dozens of Twitter clients across almost every platform. Mac, iOS, Windows Phone, Android, and Windows. My current favorite is MetroTwit for Windows.

However, even though I've got a dozen Twitter clients installed, I keep coming back to the Twitter website itself. And for one reason: HotKeys. There aren't enough sites that use hotkeys in their web applications. Gmail and Remember the Milk come to mind as the best examples.

In Twitter you can press ? to get a Keyboard shortcuts popup. Take a few minutes and just try to learn four or five of them. I realize it's hard to hold all these in your head at once. These hotkeys have always been available since the first "New Twitter" but since "New New Twitter came out today, I though I share these little known features.

All the Twitter Keyboard Shortcuts, unfortunately as a picture. Press ? in Twitter to pop these up.

Some are easy, like F for Favorite and R for reply. These are context-aware hotkeys, though. That means they apply to the currently selected Tweet.

Replying to a Tweet with Web Hotkeys

Open up your Twitter and hit J or K. See how J and K move you up and down and select tweets? In this picture, you can see that Ken Jeong's tweet is currently selected.

Navigating the timeline in NewTwitter

I can reply to it at this point by pressing R at this point.

Replying to a Tweet

I can then hit Tab and Space to move to the Tweet button and press it. This is similar to Gmail.

So the process is, J and K to move up and down, R to reply, type your reply, then Tab, then Space. You'll be surprised at how fast you can get at this with a little practice.

Refreshing your Timeline

After replying to a few tweets, I might want to refresh my timeline and get new tweets. That's just the . (period) key to refresh and move to the top of the timeline.

Now the fun stuff.

Moving to other views, like Mentions

Some of the hotkeys are "chords" that are two keystrokes. They are really intuitive, though. G then H takes you home. That's pressing G, then pressing H. Don't press them at the same time.

My favorite three are:

  • G H - Go to home
  • G R - Go to replies (Mentions)
  • G M - Go to DMs (Direct Messages)

Another great one is G U. That's Go To User, then start typing their name, then hit Enter.

More Advanced Hotkeys

A few more advanced ones now that you've got these down solid are:

  • / for search

That's the same as ? for the hotkeys help, except without the Shift. Just / and your search time, along with Enter.

  • Enter to open a Tweet Details

This one took me a second to understand. If I have a Tweet selected, like after using J or K to move around my timeline, I can hit Enter to see the current Tweet's details, like Ken's here:

A tweet with expanded details

Now I can see the Retweets, when it happened, who Retweeted it, etc.

A tweet's conversation view

The confusing part is that this tweet details will stay open in my timeline. I can have many Tweets "open" at once, and then use the L hotkey to collapse them all. It's a similar metaphor to Gmail's Expand/Collapse except it's all done on one screen.

When you are looking at a Tweet that is part of a larger conversation and you expand it with Enter, you'll be able to see Replies to that tweet in both directions, past and feature. For example, note this exchange with @VitaminJeff. You read top to bottom. Selected one of his tweets with the keyboard and hit Enter.

Above it shows the "reply chain" that started when he asked if I got my new laptop yet.

A tweet's conversation view

Twitter also found newer tweets than the original one I selected when we were being silly about our new words of the day.

What's nice about this is that Twitter is assembling the conversation neatly, again both past and future tweets, making it feel more like a conversation and less like a mess of tweets.

Spend a little time with the Twitter Website and really learn the hotkeys and I think you'll find it harder to move back to your 3rd party Twitter client. Even better, perhaps this will put pressure on the 3rd party Twitter client ecosystem to standardize on these same hotkeys. It would certainly lower the barrier to entry when trying out a new client.

See you on Twitter! @shanselman

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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December 09, 2011 4:23
I believe the key press thing would be soon in all websites/blogs where we see repeated instance of an object. May be Facebook posts, Blog Posts. I have been following a website that is using J & K to scroll up/down from almost over an year (might be more) and it provides a great way for lazy people like me to scroll through start till end/
December 09, 2011 10:20
True, the ? Help shortcut popup is an interesting UI Pattern that other web apps should start using as well. Google Reader is one other site that shows a similar popup.

The idea for the "/" shortcut for search that also works in GMail & Google Reader probably originated from the Quick Find shortcut in Firefox.

Just as browsers have almost standardized on keyboard shortcuts, it will be good for users if web sites standardize helpful features like the keyboard shortcuts Help popup and maintain similar mappings.
December 09, 2011 11:25
'/' to search was in the vi editor long before Firefox. Not sure if it was in ed before that.
December 09, 2011 12:21
But what if one wants to have his most important timelines in one place (Twitter, Facebook, G+)? I guess a lot of people would like to centralize this things. And still, no app solves this problem. And still you **do** need a client for that. However, I like the New New Twitter, I'm using TweetDeck (any decent alternative out there?).
December 09, 2011 13:46
It's funny that in a world obsessed by touch and gestures, the good old keyboards are still the most productive input device.
December 09, 2011 14:07
Please add this site watermark in the screenshots. Coz I and many others would like to share the image only to others.
December 09, 2011 19:41
I agree with @mvark above. This would be great if there would be a set of standard hot keys, instead of having to learn new hot keys for every site you visit. That would get out of hand, quickly! But, yes, if there is a site you use often, hot keys seems like a great option.
December 09, 2011 19:50
Strange that they don't mention that shift+space = Page up.
December 21, 2011 10:00
There's only one thing still missing on the web version. "Quote tweet".
January 02, 2012 18:48
The main reason I use a client like TweetDeck is to view my lists as columns. Otherwise, my main Twitter feed is just a noise machine.
January 05, 2012 18:23
Very nice post, didn't knew this thanks a lot!
July 09, 2012 11:08
Pretty useful for a keyboard ninja. But my favourite 3rd party twitter client of all time is MetroTwit.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.