Free Bird II: Mastodon macOS clients

This is a brief review of macOS Mastodon clients that I’ve tried. It is unashamedly incomplete/non-exhaustive, but since the ones I found online from computing magazines literally look at one app, I am ahead of the pack here!

tl;dr I prefer Ivory on macOS and prior to that, Mastonaut was OK.

For clarity: I have not been asked or received payment to promote any software.

Why use an app on desktop/laptop?

Using the web interface in a browser is the most straightforward way to read and post to Mastodon. However, you might find that this interface doesn’t suit your needs:

  1. If you have multiple Mastodon accounts, especially more than one account on one instance/server because AFAIK it is only possible to log into a single session per instance.
  2. It means having the browser open if you want to get notifications, or having tabs open in a browser.

Both apply to me, particularly the second. I really prefer to have a dedicated app for things: slack, trello, Mastodon and so on. I’m just not a “lots of tabs open” kind of person and just prefer to close software including my web browser when I am done with it.

What are the options?

For macOS there are a few options available (some are cross-platform, but otherwise I don’t know what the Linux and Windows provision is like).

  1. Mastonaut
  2. Whalebird
  3. Ivory
  4. Others…

This is not an exhaustive list nor an in-depth review, just some pointers for anyone looking for a client.


Mastonaut by Bruno Philipe was the first app I tried. It’s basic, but incredibly easy to use. Login works via browser verification. It has some nice features such as expanding more columns to show, say Notifications alongside a timeline. Multiple accounts are possible, and you can switch between them in the Toolbar.

It’s missing a few things. Favourites can be seen choosing Account > View Favourites but I don’t think it is possible to see bookmarked toots. There isn’t a way to view Lists. Otherwise it’s a way to display the account timeline and have a neat way of looking at additional views.

Composing toots is straightforward. It’s easy to set CW and add ALT descriptions. Unfortunately, a few times, posting failed for me. Possibly the result of character limits being exceeded. This is probably just a bug but nonetheless frustrating.

Filtering is done using the filters entered on the web interface. In Settings… you can add additional filters (i.e. interact with the web interface, rather than filter on the client). I’m not certain how well this works. I have seen words that I have filtered appearing in people’s boosted posts, which I would prefer not to see. This might be a problem with my settings. There’s a few options to be able to e.g. see a little warning that the filter has removed a toot.

One bugbear with Mastonaut is that it doesn’t remember my setup from session to session. In Settings… I could specify an account to open first (rather than being met with a choice of which account everytime). But then I just saw one-column Home, rather than Home plus notifications column. It would be nice if that was remembered.


I was excited to try Whalebird, developed by Akira Fukushima. It has a slack-style UI and support for multiple accounts. This app is not solely Mastodon client and can be used with other Fediverse entities e.g. misskey. I like the Slack app and could see this working for me.

I downloaded Whalebird and signed in (this is done via a secret key). The interface is nice and the timestamps in the corner are infromative (rather than “16 h ago” or whatever). It has many of the features you’d expect: choice of timelines, notifications, DMs and so on.

A second column can open to view a toot or a profile.

Ultimately I found the interface a bit clunky. It loads batches of toots and if there has been a lot of activity, there’s a “tap to load more” which I found a little hit-and-miss. Scrolling back through the timeline can take a while to populate with old toots. I felt it wasn’t a big enough improvement over Mastonaut to keep going with it.


When I read that Ivory by Tapbots (the people that developed Tweetbot) was launching, I wanted to try it out. Many people in my timeline had been beta-testing the iOS app. I was happy with Toot! as my iOS Mastadon client so, I hadn’t paid too much attention. However, when Ivory launched it was announced there would also be a macOS client (I had missed that detail) and I realised it would be worth a try.

So, first thing to say is that this is a pro app. It is paid and the subscription bundles the iOS app and the macOS client. The big deal here is syncing across both using iCloud. It works really well. The app remembers where you were in the timeline and displays a little number showing how many new posts there are to read (a la Twitter).

It’s fully featured (at least, compared to the other two apps), with some fun additions. It is possible to drag & drop toots into other apps. And there’s a browser extension to help interact between the client and your web browser. There’s also a statistics panel to see how many posts and interactions the account has had.

Multiple accounts are easy to add, using browser authentication. For some reason you have to add them to each client/app, rather than it “remembering” the credentials using iCloud and syncing across devices.

The app is expandable to add up to six columns. A wonderful thing is that timelines from different accounts can be displayed and mixed and matched. Just like Tweetdeck or Tweeten, if you are familiar with those clients for Twitter. In fact, I really enjoyed many columns in the past (using Tweetdeck) and thought I would quickly max out 6. In the end, I guess using Mastonaut for several months has made me prefer a two-column view and to switch between account using the sidebar in Ivory. It’s also simple to boost from the account you’re using OR from another account (something which is not easy in the other clients). There’s an option to disable that, if you want to just do one-click boosting.

Notifications work well. They are fine-grained (and per account). Tapbots are currently working on badges etc. for the dock. I’m optimistic about future developments on Ivory.

Besides it not being free, what are the downsides?

The design is to minimise ALT descriptions. The other clients display the descriptions readily, whereas in Ivory, you have to click on the image, click on ALT to read the description. I feel this is not very inclusive and it would be nice to see a mouse-over option for descriptions (Mastonaut and Whalebird have this). There is an option in Ivory to remind you to add a description. By default it is off. Again, I think that this is a nicer aspect of Mastodon over other social networks and it would be good to encourage descriptions, rather than bury them.


At the time of writing, in the App Store there is Mona for Mastodon, Manny for Mastodon, Mast for Mastodon and others that are listed on the joinmastodon page.


Ebou caught my eye as I was writing this post. It looks nice (see screenshot showing Messages-style timeline) and the author has decided to open source it in the hope of crowd-sourcing further development.


I am happy with Ivory partly due to iCloud syncing and the pro feel of it. I am happy to pay the subscription for it, but if that puts you off, I can recommend Mastonaut. Even though it is missing some features, it is pretty good as free apps go.

The post title comes from “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd from their album “pronounced’lĕh-‘nérd’skin-‘nérd)”.