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Using Mastodon on MacOS? This is the way

Mastonaut is a fantastic and easy-to-use client for posting, viewing, and interacting on Mastodon via MacOS.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Min Shin
Hands typing on Mac
NurPhoto/Contributor/Getty Images

Social media is both a bane and a boon. It's one of those things people really want to quit but can't. And even when a particular service is bought by a particular billionaire, and the service takes a nosedive in quality, people claim they want to leave but don't.

Also: What is Lemon8 and why is everyone talking about it on TikTok?

All the while, Mastodon keeps on chugging along, picking up strays from both Twitter and Facebook. I recently joined Fosstodon, a Mastodon server dedicated to open source. Of course, it's not just about open source, but at least that's the primary focus. My experience on Fosstodon has been a vast improvement over my time on Twitter (more than ten years). Everyone is pleasant and supportive, and even when they have an opinion that differs from mine, the back and forth has been polite.

What a concept. 

For some, Mastodon might be a bit of a challenge. You have to find a server that suits your interest (or just a general topic server), apply for a free account, wait to get accepted, and then learn the ins and outs of the interface (which should be fairly familiar to most). 

Also: How to find your followers and friends on Mastodon 

But, if you're like me, you already have enough tabs open in your browser and that can get a bit much at times. Because of that, whenever possible, I opt to use a client-based application to separate the interaction from my too-busy web browser. On Linux, I use Tuba. On MacOS, I use Mastonaut

Mastonaut is a free Mastodon client that offers a user interface that makes interacting with Mastodon a real treat. With this free Mastodon client, you can browse, follow, interact, and contribute to whichever community you choose without having to open yet another browser tab. The Mastonaut feature set includes:

  • Easy-to-use interface.
  • A concise status composer with drag-and-drop image and video attachment support.
  • Keyboard Navigation.
  • Polls support.
  • Instance emoji support.
  • Column-based layout.
  • Multi-Account Support.
  • Full support for media and content warnings.
  • Annotated media support.
  • Search.
  • Delete & Redraft.
  • Notifications.
  • Share from other MacOS apps.
  • Bookmarks.
  • Account editing.

Mastonaut is free to use and can be easily installed from the Apple App Store with a click of the mouse. One of my favorite features of Mastonaut is the ability to quickly switch what each column displays. On the left pane, you can switch between Home, Local Timeline, or Public Timeline, and on the right pane you can select from Local Timeline, Public Timeline, or Notifications. It's also possible to add extra panes. I generally keep Home on the left pane and Notifications on the right. That layout makes it very easy to see both as they automatically refresh.

Also: How to bookmark a Mastodon post (and why you should) 

Let me show you how easy it is to use Mastonaut.

How to use Mastonaut

What you'll need: The only thing you'll need is Mastonaut installed on a supported device, which is limited to MacOS. As I mentioned earlier, you can install Mastonaut from the Apple App Store.

1. Add a Mastodon Server to Mastonaut

Once Mastonaut is installed, you'll need to add a server. Before you do that, you'll have had to apply for a free account on your server of choice and be approved (if your server of choice requires account approval). After approval, open Mastonaut. 

Also: I'm running my own Mastodon server on a Raspberry Pi. Here's what I've learned 

In the initial window, you'll be prompted to log in. After clicking Login, a popup will appear, where you can either type the address of the Mastodon server you joined or select from one of the popular instances. Type the address of the Mastodon server for which you have an account and click Next. Your default web browser will open requiring you to sign in to your Mastodon account and then authorize access to the app.

The Mastonaut account setup window.

Adding a new account to Mastonaut.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

2. Add panes

When Mastonaut first opens, you'll only see a single pane set to Home. You will probably want to add a second pane. To do this, click the far right icon in the upper right corner of the window and select Local Timeline, Public Timeline, or Notifications. Once you've added the second pane, everything just falls into place. You can view the Home pane to see, view, and interact with the latest "toots."

The Mastonaut main window.

Adding a new pane to Mastonaut.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. How to "toot"

Unlike Twitter, on Mastodon you "toot." To do so, click the left icon in the upper right corner of the Mastonaut window to open the compose window, where you can type up to 500 characters, add attachments, add content warnings (by clicking CW), add polls, and open the emoji picker. You can also set the toot to be Public, Unlisted, Followers only, or a Direct Message. Once you've composed your post, click "Send toot!" and you're done.

The Mastonaut "toot" window.

Tooting with Mastonaut is quite simple.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

And that's pretty much the basics for using Mastonaut. This outstanding MacOS client will have you interacting with your Mastodon server(s) of choice (you can add more than one account). 

Also: The best Twitter alternatives

If you're like me and weening yourself from Twitter and Facebook, Mastodon is a great option and Mastonaut is a fantastic client.

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