The Best Twitter WordPress Widgets – the good, the bad, the ugly

twitter WP logoThis morning I spent a good amount of time attempting to get a decent twitter widget set up on this site to simply put my Twitter status into the widget sidebar. Fun part is I can actually justify this pursuit as work – we have been asked to integrate Twitter into a website we are currently working on that will be powered by WordPress.

For a while now I have had Twitter integrated here – both directions. I use WP to Twitter to do Twitter notifications of new blog posts – it works quite well sofar – it integrates with the cli.gs URL shortening service automatically – which works great although requires signup for an API key. My only real gripe with this plugin is that it does not allow you to move the “WP to Twitter” field, which is shown when creating a post. I wish I could place it directly below the content area of a post, as I am editing, so that I would not forget to customize the Twitter message.

The other function I want to have (and our client wants) is a widget in my sidebar with recent Tweets.

My requirements for this are the following:

  • Define number of tweets shown
  • Light weight
  • SOMEWHAT intelligent handling of URLs, including @usernames, and others
  • Somewhat Customizable (CSS style wise)
  • More or less plug and play (it should work when I install it)
  • Available from the central WordPress plugin directory

And now… on to the reviews…

NOTE: I am running WordPress 2.7.1 on my blog now (why not? it auto upgrades) – many of these plugins do not claim to be tested for / compatible with this latest release. Also should be noted is that I initially tried out these plugins with Safari 4 (Beta)- many if not all of the widgets have segnificant display errors in Safari – you have been warned.


MyTwitter – Nice on paper, fails to work

MyTwitter

MyTwitter(link) – This plugin had a lot of potential. When I first installed it and found the control panel I was extremely hopeful.

Cool Features: The control panel for MyTwitter is very robust, showing how feature rich this plugin is. It supports caching tweets (twitter is know to go down…), setting cache life, custom number of tweets, custom title for the widget, optional twitter avatars, and also one of the most advanced features I have seen – inserting custom html before, after, and between tweet elements (Sweet!).

The _big_ drawback: I could not get the widget to work! On config you must set the cache location – the widget will not accept any variation of the path I could throw at it. I went as far as chmod’ing the directory to be read/writable via SSH and still no luck. On top of that – when the widget is active and not working properly, it displays an annoying error message “Cache location must be writable”.

Bottom Line: Not usable, at least with WP 2.7.1


TwitBar – a frontrunner!

twitbar wordpress widget plugin for twitterTwitbar – This plugin is surprisingly good! After installing it and viewing with Safari I was underwhelmed, however after a closer look in Firefox, I have come to appreciate some of its more advance features

Cool Features:

  • Simple interface – configured totally from the Widgets menu with 4 simple options.
  • Intelligent URL handling, including twitter @names (showin in pic) – this is a somewhat rare feature.
  • Links back to original Twitter posts, and ‘follow me on twitter’ link – because getting people on Twitter is always a good thing!
  • Light weight.
  • # of tweets configurable

The drawbacks:

  • Little configuration options
  • No customization support described
  • is a bit ‘simple’

Bottom line:

I will probably be using this widget. I hope to customize it a bit using CSS, and throw in a Twitter logo or something like that.


WP My Twitter – nice display, not enough options!

WP my twitter wordpress widget

WP My Twitter- I had little confidence in this plugin after I installed it. Its configuration asks only for Twitter username and password (why does it even need the password?!?) – none the less it has a couple of features I like.

Cool Features:

  • Nice display
  • Each tweet is a link back to the twitter post (at twitter), where URLs and @names are shown properly (this could be good or bad depending on your view, I think that this is almost as good as the TwitBar solution)
  • Simple setup?

The drawbacks:

  • Displays max # of tweets possible (20, limited by twitter) and can not be configured to show fewer
  • No ‘time published’ text for the tweets
  • Each tweet links back to twitter (again, good or bad depending…)
  • What is it doing with my password?!??

Bottom Line: Not usable in current state – I don’t want 20 tweets in my widget bar.


Twitter Widget Pro – Nice features, works, but display needs refinement

Twitter Widget Pro wordpress widget image

Twitter Widget Pro
I’m a pro, right? This plugin sounds great!

Cool Features:

  • Plugin configuration is great – works from the widgets menu.
  • Configure number of tweets
  • Configure error message for when twitter is down ::rolls eyes::
  • Avatar from Twitter
  • Link to twitter RSS feed
  • Intelligent URL handling on par with TwitBar

The drawbacks:

  • Display is a bit confused looking – Potentially could be fixed with CSS / HTML modifications

Bottom Line: Nice, but I think I can get what I want for less work by going with TwitBar


Twitter VJCK – Nice options, horrible display

twitter vjck wordpress plugin widget

Twitter VJCK
Installed this one because the configuration interface looks super nice.

Cool Features:

  • Nice back-end configuration interface
  • Lots of options, avatar, etc.
  • Somewhat smart URL detection (no @names though)

The drawbacks:

  • Front end display is just BAD. Could be a browser issue, but I can not put it on my site looking like this. It is probably possible to fix it.

Bottom Line: Nice configuration, bad display. May be fixable, but I am not doing it…


Last but… well not quite least… Twitter For WordPress

Twitter for WordPress WP widget

Twitter for WordPress
The first one I installed, had it running for a week or two before deciding to look for greener pastures

Cool Features:

  • Easy to install / configure

The drawbacks:

  • Has ability to select number of tweets, however not configurable from the back end! Same for many other options
  • Not pretty
  • No URL handling

Bottom Line: This is what motivated me to seek something better – for whatever its worth…


Conclusion:

TwitBar is really the ONLY usable solution that meets my criteria “out of the box”. That said, it is not the prettiest, or feature rich. Sometime if I get some time / or am bored, I may try to tweak Twitter Widget Pro to better suit my needs, it shows a lot of promise but is not there yet.

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2 Responses to “The Best Twitter WordPress Widgets – the good, the bad, the ugly”

  1. lukerumley July 6, 2009 at 11:41 am #

    Wow – too hard to register to write a comment, man. Anyway…here goes:

    Thanks for this post, I will be going over it in more detail as I analyze WordPress / Twitter integration on upcoming sites.

    A couple I wondered about, if you are getting paid to do the research anyway ;), would be Twitter Tools by Alex King (seems to be bi-directional in terms of updates), and Tweetboard (http://www.tweetboard.com). TweetBoard is completely different, but may exceed your clients expectations – who knows?

    Still thinking through the WP / Twitter strategy…good stuff.

    • jafoca July 6, 2009 at 11:54 am #

      Heh – had the comments locked down as I was previously using my own site to test WP’s user / Credentials system.

      Anyhow, I will look into Twitter Tools – TweetBoard wasn’t quite out yet when I was looking into this, and looks a bit heavyweight for what I am looking at doing (for clients, at least).

      I have also been pretty impressed recently to see some new WP themes with built in Twitter widgets – I think I will be upgrading this site to one of those sometime soon.

      Didn’t know that you were a web dev – should have figured somebody was, as I was always pretty impressed with FHBCGR.org!

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