Using Your Twitter Homepage: Step by Step Guide

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Using Twitter Homepage: Step-by-Step Guide

Twitter home page
Your Twitter homepage has five small tabs beneath the "What's Happening" box at left.

Twitter has repeatedly remodeled its Twitter homepage on the Web, creating various ways to use the short-messaging service beyond just sending out 280-character messages in the "What's Happening" box.

Although free Twitter clients or dashboards are available, most people still use Twitter's homepage on the Web as their primary interface for reading and sending tweets.

If you use the Twitter homepage as your dashboard, it's important to understand what the five horizontal menu tabs directly below the "What's Happening" box do. You should use them all to get the most out of Twitter.

The five tabs on your Twitter homepage, appearing in the image above, are Timeline, @YourUserName, Activity, Searches, and Lists. Let's start with the default Timeline view.

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Twitter Homepage Timeline Is Default View

twitter timeline
Timeline of tweets appears in column at left; highlighted tweet appears in sidebar at right. © Twitter

The default view when you sign into Twitter is the tab at the far left, the Timeline tab. Notice that it's highlighted whenever you click "home" from anywhere in the Twitter website and return to your Twitter homepage. That's why Twitter calls this your "home Timeline."

By default, the Twitter timeline view shows all the tweets sent by the people you've chosen to follow in reverse chronological order in a long vertical column, with the most recent appearing at the top of the page. That's why it's called a timeline, of course, because it's chronological. The tweets are even time-stamped, based on how long ago they were sent.

Your tweet timeline is highly interactive. Hover over any tweet with your mouse and you'll see optional actions you can take, including favorite, retweet and reply. These menu options appeared below each tweet for years, but in late 2011, Twitter began testing a new interface that put the tweet interact buttons on top of the message to make them more prominent

Click on any tweet and it will appear enlarged in the right sidebar, with any replies or accompanying pictures shown below it. Twitter also began experimenting with new expanded views of tweets in late 2011, showing more information about them directly in the timeline when you click an "open" button, for example.

Other Timeline Views

You can always change what appears in your timeline or tweet stream by using the other tabs on your Twitter home page to create alternate tweet streams.

The two tabs on the far right, for Twitter Searches and Twitter Lists, are the two most prominent ways to call up other message streams besides just those of the people you follow.

The small search box on top of the "What's Happening" tweet box is another way to call up a different tweet timeline. Just enter a keyword or #hashtag like "Obama" or "#obama2012" and you'll see a collection of tweets containing those words.

Next, let's take a look at what the middle tabs on the Twitter homepage do, starting with your @username tab.

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@YourTab on Twitter Homepage: All About You

twitter user tab
The @Username tab on Twitter shows activity involving you on Twitter.

The tab appearing second from the left on your Twitter homepage contains your @UserName. Clicking on it calls up any activity occurring on Twitter that involves you or your user name.

When you click that tab, in the middle column (where your home timeline normally appears) you will now see other stuff about you. For example, any recent retweets of your messages may appear, along with a list of who's followed you recently.

You should also see any messages sent to you directly, such as mentions of your user name or @replies. And if anyone has favorited your messages ("favorite" on Twitter it's similar to "like" on Facebook) that should show up, too.

Once you get a lot of Twitter followers and conversations going, you may want to cut through the clutter and simply see who has mentioned you on Twitter, which is the equivalent of someone sending you a direct message. To do that, check the small "show mentions only" box at the top of your message stream. Then the timeline of stuff about you will change; it shows what used to be the @Mention tab on your Twitter homepage, namely, just your @mentions.

The next tab, Activity, is a tad more complicated.

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Twitter Homepage Activity Stream Shows What People Are Doing

twitter activity tab
Twitter Activity tab shows a news feed about what people you follow are up to on Twitter.

The Activity tab on your Twitter homepage is a lot like the news feed in Facebook. It contains a list of recent activity by the people you follow on Twitter.

Click "Activity" and your Twitter homepage should fill up with a list of what your tweeps have been up to--who they've chosen to follow lately, what they are retweeting.

The Activity tab won't show nearly as much about people who have chosen to protect their tweets, but that's a minority of Twitter users. Most Twitter users opt to have their tweets public, and in late 2011 Twitter converted all this public activity into a new kind of timeline that more closely resembles the Facebook approach of broadcasting what everyone is doing to their friends or, in the case of Twitter, followers.

Basically, the Activity tab shows everything people are doing except tweeting. If you create a list, that will show up in the Activity tab of the people who follow you. And every time you add someone to a list, that also will show up in your followers' Activity tabs.

Twitter's help page says not all retweets show up in your Activity timeline, only those retweeted by at least two people you follow.

The Activity timeline was a new feature Twitter rolled out in 2011, and it fundamentally made Twitter even more of a social network than a simple messaging service.