Twitter Timeline Tutorial

 ​A Twitter timeline, as most Twitter users quickly realize, is simply a stream of incoming tweets arranged with the most recent at the top. Since the Twitter timeline is the heart of the popular social networking and messaging service, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the various types of timelines and learn all you can about how each Twitter timeline works.

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Twitter Timeline Tutorial: Get the Most out of Twitter Timeline Views

Twitter timeline
© Twitter

One important thing to know, especially if you're just starting out on Twitter, is that there are different types of Twitter timelines. The default one that users see whenever they sign into Twitter on the Web is the home timeline, which shows the latest tweets from all the people they follow.

Other timeline views show tweets that match a particular search you run on Twitter, or tweets from all the users on a particular Twitter list. The Twitter list could be one you compiled yourself or one that someone else created and made public.

What does a Twitter timeline look like?

Visually, a Twitter timeline resembles the news feed on Facebook, with a long vertical column of messages along with tiny profile pictures of the people who sent them.

Since it launched in 2006, Twitter has revamped the home timeline a few times in an attempt to make it more powerful and show more information about incoming tweets and additional ways to interact with them.

If you mouse over particular tweets, a time-stamp appears for when it was sent, along with a menu of actions you can take. Expanded views of each tweet also are available; Twitter is often tinkering with ways to change the expanded views of tweets.

For years, Twitter relegated your expanded view of each tweet to the right sidebar of your homepage. When you clicked on a specific tweet, related information about it appeared in the right sidebar. In late 2011, Twitter began testing a new timeline view that expanded your view of tweets directly in the timeline.

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Twitter Timeline: Alternative Views and Power Tools

Twitter Saved Searches menu
© Twitter

Running a search on Twitter automatically creates a timeline of matching results. Twitter offers a "Saved Searches" tool that lets you save particular searches for keywords or usernames so you can run them again with one click, and thereby create a timeline of matching tweets.

To create a saved search, just click "save this search" after you run a search. The search will then appear in a drop-down list under the "SEARCHES" button below your "What's Happening" tweet box, as shown in the picture above. This guide to Twitter saved searches explains more about how to use these valuable timeline views.

Searching the Tweet Archives

Searching your own Twitter timeline can be challenging because Twitter doesn't archive your tweets very far back in a searchable format.

That's why most people who use Twitter regularly wind up using third-party search tools, such as Topsy and Snapbird. These search tools typically let you search not only your own Twitter timeline but those of other Twitter users, too.

Other Twitter Timeline Tools

Many independent developers have created tools that interact with your Twitter timeline and let you do different things with tweet streams, both the ones you create and those of the people you follow.

An example of a simple one is Twit Cleaner, a tool that analyzes your tweet stream and the actions of people you follow and presents you with a summary report. The idea is to help you decide who you should continue to follow. It makes it easy to see who's following you back, who are providing original content, who's mostly retweeting others, and so forth.

Tweetbot is another specialty timeline tool. It has a lot of common features in most Twitter dashboard, analyzing your tweet stream and telling you information about who's doing what. But one nifty feature that lets you basically use a Twitter list as your primary tweet timeline; basically you opt to make a particular list your default timeline view in Tweetbot.

Twitter List Timelines

Twitter lists--basically a collection of usernames that you compile and can keep private or make public--are a powerful tool for creating interesting timelines focused on a niche or special topics that you can follow apart from your master home timeline.

There are other kinds of timeline tools, too. Stwutter for Mac, for example, will read your timeline tweets to you out loud and invite you to interact with spoken replies.